Should You Pursue Traditional Or Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy?

If you're suffering some of the unpleasant effects of menopause — hot flashes, sleepless nights, and mood swings — you may be researching hormone replacement therapy to see if it can help alleviate these issues. However, with the number of different hormone-replacement products (and the huge variety of clinical research on these hormones' effectiveness) how can you know where to begin?

What is hormone replacement therapy and why is it needed?

The general term "hormone replacement therapy" refers to the ingestion or injection of a hormone in which you are deficient. Everyone has different balances of hormones in their body during different stages of life — significant hormonal shifts occur for every woman during puberty, early adulthood, and menopause. However, sometimes a hormonal imbalance can cause unpleasant physical and mental symptoms, or even health problems. When this happens, many doctors will prescribe hormones to help your body regain its natural balance.

Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is a specific type of hormone replacement therapy that uses "bio-identical" hormones, rather than traditional synthetic hormones. Bio-identical hormones are molecularly identical to the estrogen and progesterone produced by your own body, compared to synthetic hormones, which may be processed differently by your body and which can be synthesized from a variety of sources — including horse urine.

What are the advantages of BHRT over traditional hormone replacement therapy?

By providing hormones that are easily processed by your body, BHRT is a natural way to alleviate unpleasant symptoms of menopause, as well as provide protective effects against future ailments. Patients receiving BHRT therapy have reported reduced side effects compared to patients receiving traditional hormone therapy.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you also have the peace of mind of knowing that your hormone replacements are naturally sourced, and do not contain any animal byproducts. By contrast, most synthetic estrogen and progesterone is derived from pregnant mammals.

In clinical studies, hormone replacement therapy (including BHRT) has been shown to reduce the risk of a number of serious or potentially fatal diseases, including breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, uterine, ovarian, and cervical cancer, and osteoporosis.

How can you begin a BHRT regimen?

Because replacement hormones can have significant side effects if taken improperly or when not needed, these hormones are available only by prescription. You'll need to make an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss how to pursue BHRT and to determine whether you are a good candidate for this type of hormone therapy.