Bio-identical Hormones: Natural Treatment or Dangerous Celebrity Hype?

“Bioidentical” is a term used in several ways, but usually refers to plant-derived substances that have a natural estrogen or progesterone effect in the female body. Bioidentical treatments are compounded in special pharmacies, often as creams. This is supposedly done in an individualized formula determined by blood or saliva hormone levels. These treatments are used for relief of menopausal symptoms, to slow down (or stop) aging changes, and to maintain vitality.

That may sound great……but I still remember in third grade learning about the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon who searched Florida for the “Fountain of Youth.” We learned, of course, that he never found it.

Here is the truth about Bioidenticals:

1. Compounded medications can be useful in certain circumstances, but are not monitored or approved by the FDA. The major drawback is that there is no quality control.

2. There is no evidence that Bioidenticals are safer than commercially available hormones in the sense of fewer potential side effects or long-term dangers, and there is more potential for harm due to the higher variability of the preparations.

3.Plant-derived chemicals are not more “natural” to the human body than chemicals derived from animals or manufactured from scratch.

4.Saliva testing has no medical value. Saliva hormone levels are unrelated to biologically available hormones in the bloodstream, and the levels vary depending on diet, time of day, and other variables. Even if salivary levels did reflect actual hormone activity, it isn’t useful information. Hormonal treatment is based on RELIEF OF SYMPTOMS, not levels of hormones in the body. And not only are these tests unnecessary, but they are expensive and not covered by insurance.

5. I just wrote that hormonal therapy is used for relief of symptoms. It can do a very good job at this, but it cannot be used to stop the aging process. We will all eventually get wrinkles and gray hair, and we will slow down as our muscles, bones, and joints get weaker. But these changes don’t occur suddenly at the time of menopause and are not related to the absence of estrogen. And getting older doesn’t have to decrease our “vitality.”

So what are you to think when you search the internet, or look at the shelves in the bookstore, and find so much information about the benefits of “bioidenticals,” complete with dramatic testimonials? First of all, there is no truth-monitoring on the internet. And a celebrity such as Suzanne Somers can publish a book with no consequences for presenting misinformation. Second of all, you may notice that many of these websites are in the business of selling women something (and subsequently profiting from these women.) And finally, remember that old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The good news is that for most women, menopausal symptoms can be treated relatively safely and very effectively with FDA approved hormonal medications. Some of these are even “bioidentical” in the sense that they are the exact same chemical compounds as the hormones made in the female human body. You can feel better even if you can’t prevent yourself from “changing” due to menopause or the eventual aging process.

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kaykins says:
There is a dearth of information available for the post-menopausal older woman who has vaginal atrophy and who -- due to side effects -- is unable to take vaginal estrogen preparations. Any thoughts on using your blog to assist these women?
posted on Sep 1, 2014 at 5:26pm

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