Your body’s hormones control most of your basic bodily functions. They serve as an internal communication system between cells throughout the body. They coordinate everything from digestion and growth to your appetite, immune function, mood, and libido. So, when your hormones are out of balance, even slightly, it can have a big impact on your health and well-being.
Often, when people’s hormones drop or become unbalanced, they turn to hormone replacement therapies to ease symptoms. One such therapy, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. It promises a “natural” solution to hormone issues. But what exactly is BHRT, and how’s it different from other hormone replacement therapies?
Read on to learn all you need to know about BHRT, its benefits and risks, and whether it may be right for you.
What is BHRT?
BHRT can be used to treat men and women when their hormone levels drop or become unbalanced. It’s most frequently used to ease symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. It may also be used to improve symptoms of cancer treatment or to treat conditions such as:
- insulin resistance
- adrenal and thyroid disorders
Bioidentical hormones are manmade hormones derived from plant estrogens that are chemically identical to those the human body produces. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are among those most commonly replicated and used in treatment. Bioidentical hormones come in various forms, including:
Components of BHRT
Some bioidentical hormones are made by drug companies. Others, known as compounded bioidentical hormones, are custom made by a pharmacy, according to a doctor’s orders. This process is known as compounding. Compounding typically involves ingredients being combined or altered to meet the needs of an individual.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some forms of manufactured bioidentical hormones, including bioidentical estriol (a weak form of estrogen) and progesterone. However, the FDA hasn’t approved any custom-compounded bioidentical hormones.
Most bioidentical hormones are manufactured and sold without controls for safety, quality, or purity. Many medical organizations have taken a stand against the marketing and use of unapproved bioidentical hormones.
Compounded bioidentical hormones are often touted as being safer and more effective than synthetic hormones. But the FDA and most doctors will caution that those claims haven’t been proven in reputable studies, and that these hormones may even be potentially dangerous in some cases.