What’s the difference between synthetic and bioidentical hormone therapy?
My practice focus is helping women understand changes to their bodies that often appear as part of the aging process. If you are suffering from symptoms like inability to lose weight, unexpected weight gain, menopausal mood swings, insomnia, or decreased libido, make an appointment. Often the cause is an imbalance of hormones of the endocrine system. This can be identified through testing and can be treated with bioidentical hormone therapy.
There are two kinds of hormone therapy – synthetic and bioidentical hormones.
Women who have been treated by a traditional doctor, versus a naturopathic doctor, are sometimes placed on synthetic hormone therapy. While they may have a reduction of the initial symptoms, the treatment may not resolve all the hormone issues. This is because of how synthetic hormones are processed in the body.
Bioidentical hormones have the full range of biological activity as opposed to synthetic which not only don’t work efficiently, often cause more side effects than treated symptoms. Synthetic progestins (progesterone) may cause abnormal menstrual flow, nausea, depression, weight fluctuations, fluid retention, insomnia, allergic reactions, jaundice, and fever. Many are the exact symptoms patients are trying to treat! It’s no wonder they are not feeling relief.
Estrogen should always be prescribed with progesterone because the combination can minimize adverse side effects. However, only treating symptoms with just estrogen in the form of estradiol has its own side effects. These include decreased libido, increased likelihood of breast fibroid cysts, uterine fibroids, uterine cancer, and breast cancer. It is unclear if synthetic estrogen increases cancer risk any more than bioidentical hormone therapy, but we do know bioidentical minimizes both the risks and the benefits. It’s a win-win for patients.
Testosterone is the third major hormone of the endocrine system. This is an important hormone to consider for all women going through menopause. Testosterone can help improve energy, motivation, libido, vaginal lubrication, cognition and help women maintain their muscle mass. Many women than experience hot flashes, may also feel better once testosterone is addressed!
Patients on bioidentical hormones report feeling less anxious and depressed, increased sleep quality, decreased mood swings, and overall improved function.