Bioidentical hormone therapy
Do you suspect your hormones are out of balance? Then you may benefit from bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), which uses innovative science to replicate our own hormones. Plant hormones are used to produce bioidenticals, which have the same structural chemistry as the hormones in the body, unlike conventional HRT which uses synthetic types.
Why is it important that our hormones are in balance?
When a woman approaches menopause, in her late 40s or early 50s, her hormone levels change, in particular there is a drop in the female hormone oestrogen. These fluctuating hormones can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, such as night sweats, anxiety and weight-gain, as well as impacting on our health and wellbeing.
Many women find relief from menopausal symptoms by making changes to their diet and lifestyle, and taking specific supplements. There are doctors and nutritionists who can offer advice on this. At women’s clinic Twenty-five Harley Street, consultant gynaecologist, Miss Tania Adib, specialises in menopause care, while resident clinical nutritionist Miss Stephanie Moore can recommend bespoke nutritional medicine to help balance hormones.
However, for some, this isn’t enough. If you’ve made lifestyle and diet adjustments, and tried medication or supplements, but are still finding symptoms impacting on your everyday life, then hormone therapy may help.
What are the benefits of hormone replacement therapy?
The benefits of hormone replacement therapy have been promoted since the 1950s, to replace depleted hormones and treat symptoms of menopause, as well as helping to protect against health risks. This is what hormone replacement therapy can help menopausal women with:
- Protecting against heart disease, as oestrogen and testosterone protect the arteries and heart from damage.
- Strengthening bones, as women can lose up to 20% of their bone density after menopause, making them more at risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Boosting energy levels, as volatile hormones can leave you lacklustre.
- Mood swings, as fluctuating hormones can cause bouts of depression.
- Boosting memory and concentration.
- Younger looking skin, as oestrogen reduces collagen loss.
- Vaginal dryness, as oestrogen can help to keep the vaginal tissues supple and lubricated.
What are bioidentical hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are still made in a laboratory, but they are chemically identical – meaning they have the same chemical structure – to our own hormones. They are derived primarily from plants, such as wild yams and soya beans, and pharmaceutically transformed in a specialised compounding pharmacy to human bioidentical hormones.
Why choose bioidentical hormones?
While conventional HRT works for many people, it doesn’t suit everyone, and they may experience side-effects such as, bloating, nausea, headaches, indigestion, vaginal bleeding and stomach cramps.
This may be because the synthetic and animal hormones used to make them, are similar to our own, but not the same.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), offers an alternative that comes with less chance of side-effects. This is because they are 100% identical in chemical structure to our own hormones, so your body can metabolise them properly, and their effects and benefits closely replicate them.
In addition, bioidentical hormones are leading the way in personalised medicine, in that the dosages can be tailored to meet an individual’s need, unlike conventional HRT where the dosage is more standardised.
A number of clinical studies (1) show that BHRT is a safe form of hormone replacement. A French study looked at over 3,000 women using natural progesterone and oestradiol – with no increased health risks.
What are bioidentical hormones best for?
Bioidentical hormones can be very beneficial to patients who have a hormone imbalance or have previously tried other hormonal medications, including HRT, and experienced unwanted side-effects. BHRT can provide relief from a wide range of hormone related conditions, such as:
- Menstrual problems
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Postnatal depression
When should you start hormone therapy?
You can start taking hormone replacement therapy as soon as menopausal symptoms start to show, and you feel they are impacting on your life.
Symptoms of the menopause include:
- Hot flushes
- Irregular periods
- Heavy periods
- Vagina dryness
- Low mood
- Weight changes
Symptoms usually intensify the nearer you get to menopause (average age 51).
At Twenty-Five Harley Street, one of our GPs will be able to send you for blood test screening which will give a clear picture of your health and any hormonal imbalance. Screening takes the guess work out of a diagnosis, and can fast track you for the right treatment.
Hormone testing will usually include: cortisol, thyroid, insulin, oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and vitamin D.
A personalised treatment plan is drawn up for each individual, and bio-identical hormones can be prescribed as a lozenge or cream.
Hormone replacement therapy tends to be most effective when taken by women under 60 or within 10 years after menopause has begun, in terms of relief of menopause symptoms and also for preventing osteoporosis-related fractures. You can take HRT or BHRT for as long as needed, but most women usually stop after a few years when symptoms ease.
1 Study, A recently published french study following over 3000 women for more than eight years using a bioidentical estradiol and progesterone combination was unable to find any increased risk of breast cancer using these hormones. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12626212
Other research, the EPIC study, found that a combination of natural oestrogen and progesterone showed evidence of a significant lower risk of breast cancer than other types of HRT http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.20710/full