Bioidentical Hormones: Risks vs Benefits

In the quest to deliver more “natural” hormone therapies, bioidentical hormones were created as an alternative to traditional hormone therapy. These synthetic hormones are created from a plant chemical extract. Yams and soy are the plants used, and the molecular structure is identical to the hormones naturally made in women’s bodies. Even though many women have stopped traditional hormone therapy due to risks of heart disease, stroke and breast cancer, hormone therapy is still looked upon as the most effective treatment for the discomforting symptoms many women suffer during menopausal changes.

The Benefits of Bioidentical Hormones

Hormone therapy in general has the major benefit of alleviating the symptoms many women deal with as they go through menopause. If you’ve had the experience of walking into a meeting with dry clothes and coming out drenched in your own sweat, you know how humiliating hot flashes can be. Of course, not every woman has such drastic symptoms with the change of life.

Hot flashes can be as extreme as sweat pouring from pores or as mild an occasional warm glow. For those experiencing the more inconvenient form of this symptom, hormone therapy can be very beneficial. Some women choose bioidentical hormones replacement therapy (BHRT) as a way to manage their symptoms of menopause. Others are concerned about the possible side effects.

Hot flashes are not the only symptom for which women seek treatment. Unwelcome weight gain, trouble sleeping, dry skin, loss of sex drive, bloating, thinning hair and constant fatigue are all possible symptoms of menopause. When these conditions become very worrisome, BHRT is sometimes chosen as a method to alleviate the problems, when other means to combat the problems fail.

Calculating the Risks

Many women are encouraged to use other measures before resorting to hormone therapy. Not all bioidentical hormones have been tested or reviewed by the FDA. Those products that have been approved have been subjected to extreme testing and review. Extensive quality control is also a part of the process.

Products not approved by the FDA are still on the market. Some of these products failed to get FDA approval and others never sought approval. The risks of such products are unknown. Unfortunately, the risks of long-term bioidentical hormones have not been studied. Without long term studies, it is impossible to know all the disadvantages involved in using bioidentical hormones. Prolonged use, or even minimal use risks, can only be detected through well-designed clinical studies.

Traditional hormone therapies have certain known risks associated with them, and use of these treatments for menopausal symptoms has decreased. Cardiovascular problems, stroke and other serious conditions have caused many women and health professionals to think twice before starting hormone replacement therapy.

It has been surmised there may be such risks associated with bioidentical hormones as well. Reported side effects include those listed above along with gallbladder disease, changes in the skin, vision changes, an increased risk for blood clots and mood swings. As with any medical treatment, the side effects vary from person to person.

Bioidentical Hormones as a Second Choice

Since there has not been any conclusive evidence supporting the safety of this therapy, many doctors recommend other treatments and lifestyle changes before BHRT. There have been women who find a change in diet and adding an exercise routine work wonders in calming the symptoms of menopause.

The health professionals at Cypress Women’s Center are here to help you make wise decisions about your health. Menopause does not have to be an ordeal. Make an appointment to speak with one of our doctors about your symptoms. Let us help you make the transition safely and comfortably.