Bioidentical Hormones: Possible Benefits and Risks

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy or treatment is presented as a more natural, safer and individualized alternative. Read on and find out how true this is and what its risks are.

Last update: November 01, 2021

Bioidentical hormones are man-made compounds. Some are derived from plants, although they are claimed to be similar to those produced by the human body. They are used in the treatment of both patients whose hormonal production is below the normal range.

On the other hand, they are said to provide various benefits and are more effective as a natural solution. However, studies do not support these supposed advantages.

In this article we will review all these implications related to bioidentical hormone treatment, explaining what they are, how they work, what are their benefits, risks and possible effects.

Hormonal changes and imbalances

Hormones are chemicals produced by different glands in the body.. They act in a way as emissaries, since they tell the other organs how and when to act. Thus, there are hormones for almost every function, from growth and digestion to sex.

Hormonal changes due to pathologies or natural stages of life are common. For example, in menopause. When the production of estrogens and progesterone is affected in women, various symptoms can appear.

Although this is not exclusive to women, since in men there is the so-called testosterone deficiency syndrome. And this does not happen only at a certain age, since it is also registered in the youngest.

In both sexes, treatment consists of making up for what has been lost, through what is known as hormone replacement therapy. And in some of these cases bioidentical hormones are used.

What are bioidentical hormones?

Bioidentical hormones are so named due to the fact that are chemically similar to those produced by the human body. The most widely replicated and used in hormonal treatment are estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone, although pregnenolone or dehydroepiandrosterone may also be included.

These compounds are largely artificial or synthetic. And even when they are derived from plant products, specifically plants such as soybeans and yams, they undergo a process of modification in the laboratory.

These bioidentical hormones They are acquired ready to consume, although others are prepared by the pharmacist, following the specifications of the treating physician. There is a difference between the two, since some of the products from brands or laboratories have received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration, while the compounds made on demand do not usually go through any type of control.

Regarding the forms of presentation and routes of administration, bioidentical hormones come in pills or tablets, creams or gels, sprays, patches, injections, pellets (subcutaneous implant) and even vaginal inserts.

Many of the bioidentical hormones on the market are extracted from soybeans; especially those similar to estrogens.

Benefits of bioidentical hormones

Hormone levels in the body tend to decline as people age. This is particularly true in perimenopausal women. Although the decline may also be due to imbalances due to other factors.

So, as the case may be, bioidentical hormones are used in replacement therapy. To the same extent, such compounds can help cope with the various symptoms related to menopause.

They are also credited with being effective in treating insulin resistance, adrenal and thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and cataracts. Although none of these purported benefits have been proven.

Among the advantages attributed to bioidentical hormones, compared to other approaches, mention is made of their lower cost and greater safety, due to the fact that they are natural. But these claims are also not backed by clinical studies.

However, an investigation found that People with cancer who underwent bioidentical hormone replacement therapy reported relief of symptoms. Among them, relief from migraines and insomnia.

Risks when using bioidentical hormones

According to studies, bioidentical hormones not only have not been shown to have any advantage, but they lack the supervision of the respective health entities regarding the manufacturing process and the compounds that are used.

But there are also no studies that specifically claim that they are potentially more dangerous. They have not been shown to be safe or unsafe. Caution is simply urged when using them.

The researchers consider that this type of replacement treatment carries the same risks as other forms of hormone therapy. Such potential side effects include the following:

  • Headaches.
  • Irritability.
  • Weight gain.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Acne.
  • Tenderness in the nipples.
  • Increased facial hair in women.
The consumption of these compounds would be equivalent to adverse reactions to the usual products manufactured by laboratories.

All hormone replacement has risks

The Women’s Health Program (WHI) conducted a large study involving more than 16,000 women ages 50 to 79. Among the findings, it was found that the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke increased slightly when estrogen and progesterone therapy were received.

Subsequent analyzes and interpretations of the WHI study and other similar works nuanced the findings somewhat. However, the consequence was that many people began looking for alternative treatments. For example, with bioidentical hormones.

These hormones, while they may be an option, are not without risk either. It is recommended that the products to be consumed are endorsed by a health entity. Likewise, everything concerning the treatment should be discussed with the doctor.

In general, it is recommended to avoid resorting to hormone replacement. But if the person decides to use it, you should take the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.

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