Our hormones maintain the chemical balance in the body. The menstrual cycle in women triggers the production of some important hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. When the ovaries stop functioning, whether due to age (menopause) or due to surgical removal, there is a cessation in the production of these vital hormones. Accompanying physiological changes include osteoporosis, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, insomnia, irregular periods, loss of libido, and possibly cancer. In women who have had their ovaries removed surgically, these changes are drastic and they experience a sudden drop in sex hormone levels. This can lead to severe health problems, especially in younger women. The aging process is not easy on men either. They start to lose energy, vigor, and stamina.
This is where Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) comes in. Through this treatment, the body is supplied enough hormones to make up for the lack of natural hormones. But, synthetic hormones are animal-derived hormone products. They come in a ‘one-size-for-all’ dose.
Synthetic Hormone Replacement Therapy is associated with a number of possible side effects and risks, which include:
-Increased risk of endometrial cancer
-Increased risk of breast cancer
-Increased risk of ovarian cancer
-Increased risk of Gallbladder disease
-Nausea and fluid retention
What is BHRT?
Due to the above-mentioned risks, synthetic HRT is now being replaced by Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy (NHRT) or ‘bio-identical therapy ’(BHRT). The term ‘bio-identical’ means the hormone used is structurally and chemically identical to the hormone produced by the human body. That is why it is called ‘natural,’ as opposed to the synthetic hormone, which has a structure similar but not identical to the hormone produced by the body. Bio-identical hormones are produced from molecules of yam or soy, and undergo a series of chemical processes to make them similar to human hormones. Therefore the side effects and risks are greatly reduced while using BHRT.
In women, replacing the lost hormones can protect their cardiovascular health, prevent mental decline, and relieve menopausal symptoms. It helps to prevent loss of bone mass and occurrence of colon cancer, and may even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Men experience an increase in mood, vigor, sexual function and muscle mass. Hormone replacement is powerful and must be monitored by an experienced practitioner.
Some of these natural hormones are available in brand named products. But, it is easier to procure these hormones from compounding pharmacies. Pharmacies can supply the bio-identical hormones alone or combine them into a single dose. They can also offer these in the desired form whether it is a tablet, cream, or oil cap. In this way, you can individualize these hormones to fit your unique needs. Many times a physician who is not inclined to prescribing BHRTs may not be open to suggesting them to you. In that case, these pharmacists also have doctor referral information.
Nothing can replace what our bodies have been making naturally for many years. But BHRT comes as close to the real thing as possible. It is not a miracle cure. And often you have to go through some amount of trial and error such as dosage adjustments before you regain the hormonal balance. Most of the time, it will take between 3-6 months to see the results of therapy. Since the side effects are almost negligible and the benefits are huge, BHRTs are becoming a popular choice among men and women today.