Bioidentical hormones are hormones that are structurally identical to the ones the body produces. They are made in a lab from natural substances, such as wild yam. Names of these hormones include estradiol, estriol, USP progesterone and USP testosterone. There are only a few manufactures that produce bioidentical hormones. Pharmaceutical companies then purchase and package these hormones into standardized specific-dose drugs, such as Estrace and Prometrium, to retail. Compounding pharmacists prepare individualized bioidentical hormone prescriptions in virtually any dose. They mix up the exact amount of hormone that the doctor prescribes. Since hormones do present certain health risks, the rule of thumb to prescribing is to use the lowest dose of hormone possible for the shortest amount of time. Compounding is one way to be able to get the dose as low as possible, lower than what is commercially available through pharmaceutical companies.
Bioidentical hormones do carry similar risks to synthetic hormones. Primary health risks include breast cancer, blood clots, heart disease and stroke. However, using bioidentical hormones which are more similar the body’s own natural hormones and weaker than synthetic, and because we can more easily prescribe in the lowest dose possible, we are able to reduce these potential risks. Careful monitoring of hormone levels in the body to ensure proper dosing is another way our Naturopaths prevent over-medicating patients, thereby further minimizing potential adverse effects.
Hormones, even bioidentical, are not our first go-to but there are times when our physicians need to use hormones to correct hormone imbalances and help a patient feel better. We feel strongly that bioidentical hormones are safer and more ethical than “natural” ones from horse urine or synthetic and are thus preferred in our practice. However, we are always trying to use the least invasive approach first, and more often than not herbs & vitamins, nutrition, and lifestyle modification do the job great. We generally start with these gentler therapies first but work with our patient to find the right solution to their hormonal issues.