The myths and facts behind Bioidentical Hormones| Natural alternatives to BHRT and HRT

There has recently been a lot of talk about Bioidentical hormones. There have been many books written recently that tell of the medical uses for them and how these “natural form” of hormones can affect our lives in a good way. Many women have been turning to Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to help relieve them of the symptoms of menopause and help to reduce and perhaps cure osteoporosis. Similarly many men also seem interested in this kind of hormone replacement therapy to treat low testosterone symptoms and improve their overall well being and quality of life.

Amidst all the hype surrounding BHRT, there has also been a lot of criticism about these books that have been written and the medical procedures involved in BHRT.

Here, I’ll try to present some facts on what is the controversy all about in layman style. In a nutshell, here are few things that trouble the proponents and opposers of Bioidentical hormones :-

i). Arguments and Counter arguments on real benefits of BHRT over traditional HRT
ii). The claim of “naturalness” of BHRT and the claim of them being without side effects
iii). Lack of clear standards in “Bioidenitcal hormones” industry
iv). Availability of much safer herbal “natural HRT” options, safer than conventional HRT and BHRT

Let’s understand these points one by one.

i). Arguments and Counter arguments on real benefits of BHRT over traditional HRT

What really are Bioidentical hormones ? Bioidentical hormones are supposed to be the MOST natural form of hormones present outside the human body, which when adminstered (or applied) to the human body are supposed to ACT in the MOST natural way possible for any hormonal adminstration, so the receiver is supposed to not get any side effects from this hormone therapy.

You see, HRT or hormone replacement therapy has had quite the history in the medical field. They were first used for a way to relieve menopause in older women in the 1930s. When a Canadian researcher, James Collip, devised a method where he extracted active estrogen from the urine of pregnant women and put it on the market. It was called Emmenin. Women began to use this as an oral pill for the relief of menopause symptoms.

Later, around the 1940s, a pharmaceutical company found a way to extract estrogen hormones from equine urine. The company began to make and distribute this product and it was called Premarin. By 1992, Premarin became the most prescribed drug on the market for women to help with their hormone loss as they began to age.

Similarly, synthetic testosterone was also developed for men to beat low testosterone symptoms that come with age like low energy, fatigue, low libido, mood swings in men and more. Interestingly, some scientists now confirm that female menopause has a counterpart in men called male menopause or andropause due to the declining levels of youth hormones.

With time, several hormonal drugs came into existence for various anti aging benefits they had on men and women, which were actually synthetic versions of the bodily hormones and could improve quality of life.

BHRT is a form of alternative medicine in HRT which does not involve synthetic hormones, rather Bioidenitcal hormones, which became popular when it was observed that synthetic versions of the hormones also led to various side effects in men and women besides the benefits.

It was discovered that BHRT could help women find relief from the symptoms of menopause WITHOUT side effects. BHRT has been in the medical news recently because of the scientific claims that side effects that the synthetic hormones can have later in life for a lot of women could be averted.

Some tests were done in the early 2000s that showed women who had used traditional or synthetic hormones had a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease, blood clots, and stroke. In fact, according to lef.org –

“In 2002, the results of the Women’s Health Initiative were released early. This landmark study followed more than 16,000 women………..the estrogen/progestin arm of the study was terminated early because the non-bioidentical or conventional hormone therapy not only failed to protect against heart disease, but was shown to increase the risk of heart attack and breast cancer”

Many women sought to find other, more natural ways to relieve them of the hot flashes and aggressive tiredness that comes from menopause.

Many doctors are firm advocates of BHRT because of the use of hormones that are identical to ones in the body already. These hormones have the same molecular setup already and the body can metabolize them in many of the same ways that it does with other hormones. These hormones can be utilized just like others and properly excreted throughout the body.

Actually, the synthetic versions of the hormones are usually “esterified” in injections so that after injecting they remain in the body for long time and slowly get converted to the “natural form” from “esterified form”. While bioidenitcal hormones are already in “natural form” and usually administered via creams, gels, skin patches, troches, injections and pellets.

Are Bioidentical hormones really beneficial?

While some studies on the health benefits were done by the journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment and some of the results that they have found offer interesting and positive results, other studies have not shown any remarkable advantage of Bioidentical hormones over conventional hormones.

According to www.mayoclinic.org

“the hormones marketed as “bioidentical” and “natural” aren’t safer than hormones used in traditional hormone therapy, and there’s no evidence they’re any more effective. “Natural” means the hormones in the product come from plant or animal sources; they’re not synthesized in a lab. However, many of these products still need to be commercially processed to become bioidentical.”

Another interesting fact is that “Traditional hormone therapies don’t necessarily exclude natural hormones. Some FDA-approved products — such as Estrace, Climara and Vivelle-Dot, which contain estrogens, and Prometrium, a natural progesterone — also are derived from plants.”

Another body of mainstream medicine confirms that any hormone replacement therapy, whether conventional (or synthetic) or bioidentical, will have side effects with prolonged use. According to lef.org

“Mainstream medical practitioners (many of whom prescribed unnatural hormone drugs for decades) and the FDA (which still allows these dangerous unnatural hormones to be sold) are now at the forefront urging aging women to avoid their prolonged use.”

There is a growing concern among medical experts that any hormonal adminstration over a longer period of time is going to have side effect, at times as deadly as cancer, because hormones are not supposed to be consumed from outside, rather they are supposed to be built and created within the body.

This raises the questions on any HRT technique (synthetic or bioidentical) that relies on direct application of the hormones themselves and brings focus on other safer versions of HRT where the endocrine system of the body is enhanced and strengthened so it modulates (or normalizes) the balance of hormones by itself, from the inside. This is possible using some herbal formulations, ayurvedic medicines and other compounds that don’t apply the hormones to the body from outside but “encourage” the body to produce more of the required hormones naturally. This is the latest perspective on natural hormone restoration and supported by medical experts like Dr. Steven Lamm.

This herbal and safer version of “truly natural” hormone replacement is explained below in part iv of this article.

Countering other benefits proposed of BHRT

a). Non-bioidentical hormones are not identical to the hormones naturally produced within the body while Bioidentical are and thus they are much safer

Some studies have shown the Bioidentical hormones like progesterone, does not induce breast cell proliferation. One study has even shown that the Bioidentical hormones may help decrease the risk of breast cancer. That study was done on 1,150 women that had used Bioidentical hormones. However, these studies are not supported or funded by mainstream medicine groups or the government and that is why not many mainstream experts are of the opinion that Bioidentical hormones are more safe.

In fact, in 2003 the FDA reviewed 29 otherwise unregulated compounded bioidentical pharmaceutical products and discovered that nearly 30% did not pass a standard quality test. Nine of those had active ingredients that did not match the claimed quantities posted on the label. In 2012, nearly 1,000 people contracted fungal meningitis from compounded bioidentical corticosteroids, and 64 died, according to the CDC.

“The logical mistake that many smart women make is that they assume a lack of evidence of harm is the same thing as proof of safety — not so,” said Dr. Nanette Santoro on the safety of BHRT, a professor of ob/gyn and medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver and also an expert on female menopause.

“The biggest issue is the lack of evidence for safety or efficacy,” Santoro added. The available evidence suggests that overdosage and underdosage can be common because of lack of standards in the bioidentical industry.

More information

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bioidenticals-no-safer-than-other-hormone-replacement-therapy/

b). Bioidentical hormones have the same molecular structure as the hormones produced “naturally” within the body

As everyone knows, the words “natural” and “organic” can be debated. Many people assume that because these words are used in the medical field, clearly, these types of treatments are safer. That is not always the case however. There have been many drugs that have been made with plant and animal extracts. These are what scientists call natural drugs. They are not always safer when taken and some can have just as many side effects and other drugs. Some of these drugs contain soy which has been shown to grow tumors in breasts.

Most doctors and scientists and even celebrities are trying to persuade women to choose Bioidentical hormones because of their “naturalness”, however it might all be a BIG marketing gimmick.

Many celebrities have also been talking about these hormones. There was an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show in which she had doctors explain what they are and what they do. Many feel that the doctors that Oprah had on her show gave only the opinion of how great these Bioidentical hormones are and they failed to mention the down side to them. The doctors on Oprah’s show made it a point to talk about the dosage levels that should be given to women to relieve them of the symptoms of menopause.

These doctors shared that women should be taking much higher doses than studies and researchers have advised. This was because the topical gels and creams of these bioidentical products usually have a lower absorption rate. However, everyone’s skin is different and thus it is very difficult to estimate the absorption rate of any individual and thus overdosage and undersdosage is quite common in bioidentical industry.

Researchers feel as if the doctors that shared this information on her show all work for the big pharmaceutical companies, hence the reason that they were very pro-hormone treatments.

Another celebrity who has talked about “natural” Bioidentical hormones is Suzanne Somers. Somers, who is 67 years old and joined forces with Oprah to promote Bioidentical hormones. Many say that she is giving a lot of the wrong advice to her fans and readers. She is now a self-proclaimed anti-aging expert and says that her sex life is better than it ever has been and she is claiming that she knows how to keep the body healthy and away from aging.

Many people are curious how Somers went from an actress to a doctor suddenly. Where are her credentials? Many wonder how much scientific knowledge Suzanne Somers have. Has she taken any classes in medicine? Is she a doctor? No would be the answer to these questions. So why do people trust her?

Somers has been on many talk shows to promote her book “Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones” and “Sexy Forever” and it became a best seller because of her large number of fans. The information that she gives in the book is quite controversial however. She claims that evolution tries to kill off women after the reproductive years.

She said in her book, “When the brain perceives you are no longer reproductive because your hormones are out of balance, it tries to get rid of you, and it usually activates the cancers in perimenopause.” There is technically no evidence that this statement is even remotely true!

Somers is a survivor of breast cancer and she knows the pain and agony that goes along with it. Her breast cancer was treated by a lumpectomy that was followed by radiation, but she declined going back to the doctors for her post-cancer follow ups. She has claimed for years that she was healed by “all -natural” foods and vitamins.

In 2007, she received a letter from a group of doctors telling her that the Bioidentical hormones that she pushes in her book were still new, unproven, and very dangerous. The ironic thing is, some of the doctors that she cited in her book also signed this letter.

Things sound awfully fishy coming from Somers who looks as if she is still in her late 30s. How does she look so young? She uses hair dye, Botox, and collagen fillers to keep her stunning looks. Many think that she has also had a face lift. So much for keeping it all natural!

c). Bioidentical progesterone may be superior to non-bioidentical progesterone in treating menopausal symptoms

There are many cases pleading for the use of Bioidentical hormones, but there still needs to be a lot more research done to make sure that these hormones have the proclaimed benefits and that they do not cause side effects like breast cancer or stroke in women after they have stopped taking them.

Most of these Bioidentical hormones are made for the users whose saliva is tested and the amount of hormones or lack of hormones, will show up on the results. Then, these hormones are made to help them with their needs. However, several doctors now confirm the fact that saliva testing is not an accurate method of estimating hormone levels.

ii). The claim of “naturalness” of BHRT and the claim of them being without side effects
iii). Lack of clear standards in “Bioidenitcal hormones” industry

As stated above, the “naturalness” of BHRT is based on hype and marketing. The claim that they are without side effects is also quite controversial and there is definitely lack of clear standards.

Here are again , some facts that demonstrate the two points.

“the hormones marketed as “bioidentical” and “natural” aren’t safer than hormones used in traditional hormone therapy, and there’s no evidence they’re any more effective. “Natural” means the hormones in the product come from plant or animal sources; they’re not synthesized in a lab. However, many of these products still need to be commercially processed to become bioidentical.”

In 2003 the FDA reviewed 29 otherwise unregulated compounded bioidentical pharmaceutical products and discovered that nearly 30% did not pass a standard quality test. Nine of those had active ingredients that did not match the claimed quantities posted on the label. In 2012, nearly 1,000 people contracted fungal meningitis from compounded bioidentical corticosteroids, and 64 died, according to the CDC.

“The logical mistake that many smart women make is that they assume a lack of evidence of harm is the same thing as proof of safety — not so,” said Dr. Nanette Santoro on the safety of BHRT, a professor of ob/gyn and medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver and also an expert on female menopause.

“The biggest issue is the lack of evidence for safety or efficacy,” Santoro added. The available evidence suggests that overdosage and underdosage can be common because of lack of standards in the bioidentical industry.

The BHRT doctors recommend that women should be taking much higher doses than studies and researchers have advised. This was because the topical gels and creams of these bioidentical products usually have a lower absorption rate. However, everyone’s skin is different and thus it is very diffcult to estimate the absorption rate of any individual and thus overdosage and undersdosage is quite common in bioidentical industry.

For patients insterested in bioidentical therapy, their saliva is tested and the amount of hormones or lack of hormones, will show up on the results. Then, these hormones are made to help them with their needs. However, several doctors now confirm the fact that saliva testing is not an accurate method of estimating hormone levels.

iv). Availability of much safer herbal “natural HRT” options, safer than conventional HRT and BHRT

Several doctors are saying that there may be better, more natural and alternative ways to combat menopause symptoms in women or low testosterone levels in men. There are quite a few options that focus on restoring hormonal levels from the inside, rather than outside.

In my opinion, the MOST effective and NATURAL therapy is one which causes your body’s endocrine system to heal itself, restore and normalize by itself so that it produces more of the hormones that have begun declining.

In my opinion, the MOST natural hormones are those that are produced by the body itself, from the inside.

Do the research necessary and seek a holistic doctor’s advice.

There are many many different companies selling the best “all-natural” menopause remedies or low testosterone treatments. There are supplements all over the web that tell women that they will help to fight the symptoms of menopause. However, there is little science behind most of these products and the intention is to make quick money out of people’s health conditions.

Most of these remedies are herbal supplements, however not all herbal supplements or remedies are truly effective for the long term and even some herbs can have side effects.

So, how to encourage your endocrine system to heal itself?

First off, there are some natural remedies that men and women can add to their diet to help fight off the aging symptoms.

Female patients that suffer from menopause symptoms or men who are going through andropause like conditions should begin by changing their diets. Drinks that have higher amounts of caffeine can cause bone loss. Add more grain, oats, wheat, brown rice, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. This will help women to keep them healthier and also help fight the symptoms of menopause and aging.

Red clover supplements are also a great way to get your diet on track and help with bone loss and cardiovascular health. A lot of the bacteria found in most yogurts is good for the body as well.

Doctors suggest increasing your intake of Vitamin E. Vitamin E helps to decrease the hot flashes that come from menopause.

If you have tried all of these natural remedies, there is one quite effective form of herbal therapy that you can use. This kind of therapy increases your “growth hormone”, the MASTER hormone in your body. This is the MASTER hormone because it kind of “governs” the levels of other hormones in the body. There is a growing consensus among anti aging specialists that ONE reason why any hormone therapy is bound to have side effect is because it usually focuses on one or two hormones.

Hormones are like recipes, you can’t alter one hormone in the body without altering others.

However, the MASTER hormone has the potential to restore the hormonal balance comprehensively. Medical experts are now beginning to understand its dramatic impact on restoring other hormones like estrogen in women and testosterone in men. For example, it’s now scientifically proven that hGH can increase leydig cells in male testicles (that become less in number or less efficient with aging), leading to more testosterone production.

hGH therapy may be a perfect comprehensive solution for natural estrogen replacement or natural testosterone replacement.

There is a new supplement that brags about the ways its herbal therapy can help you from aging so quickly. It can be used by both men and women and is made of all natural ingredients and clinically proven herbs that act as HGH boosters or precursors, which means these ingredients act in synergy to enhance body’s hGH levels from the inside causing your endocrine balance to restore without side effects.

The results of this supplement can vary from wrinkles and laugh lines fading away, firmer and softer skin, increased stamina, weight loss and loss of body fat as a whole, increase in your lean muscle mass, a much faster metabolism, greater memory and focus, higher sex drive and performance, better sleep, elimination of menopausal and andropausal symptoms, reduction of hot flashes and so much more.

Bioidentical hormones or conventional synthetic hormones therapy, whatever therapy that uses outside administration is definitely NOT the safest route to restore your hormones.

References

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bioidenticals-no-safer-than-other-hormone-replacement-therapy/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/staness-jonekos/10-hormone-therapy-facts_b_615199.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioidentical_hormone_replacement_therapy

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