Menopause is something that eventually happens to all women, when they stop menstruating and their ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing hormones. Side effects of menopause may include vasomotor symptoms (such as night sweats and hot flashes), insomnia, decreased sex drive, depression, increased risk of heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis, and many, many more.
Not all women react badly when they reach menopause, but a lot of them do. In the past, their symptoms were often treated by Hormone Replacement Therapy, which involved administering them synthetic hormones. These treatments were found to have critical side effects, such as increased risks of breast cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke, and after those findings their use has diminished significantly.
In this article, I will review bioidentical hormones side effects, but these hormones are a recent alternative to conventional hormone replacement therapy.
What are Bioidentical Hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are usually synthesized from plants, and processed in order to make them resemble, or be completely identical to the hormones in our bodies. Bioidentical hormone formulations are usually compounded by pharmacists, depending on the amount prescribed by the doctor.
They may be ingested by injection, orally, vaginally or through skin creams.
There is a conflict of interest here with the drug companies, since they are unable to patent hormones that are molecularly identical to real substances in the human body. So everything that you hear about bioidentical hormones must be viewed with a skeptic eye, given the pharmaceutical companies massive influence over the health industry.
What are they used for?
They are mainly used in women, to relieve the symptoms of menopause. One study compared the use of bioidentical progesterone cream to placebo, and discovered that the women taking the cream experienced a massive reduction in symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats). The cream didn’t have any effect on bone density though (1).
Bioidentical hormones are generally prescribed as a safer alternative to standard hormone replacement therapy, which has been shown to have serious adverse effects. A lot of people have voiced their criticism on this sort of treatment since it hasn’t been studied thoroughly enough in clinical trials (2).
However, some studies have shown that these hormones are indeed safer and carry less risk of adverse effects than the synthetic versions. This includes less risk of blood clots and cancer, the two main concerns regarding conventional hormone replacement therapy (3).
Bioidentical Hormones Side Effects
It’s important to realize that these types of hormones haven’t been researched as thoroughly as the conventional, synthetic ones. This is very understandable since the major sources of research funds are the drug companies, and they have no interest in researching a substance that can not be patented or sold for massive prices.
Unfortunately, since research is lacking, it is difficult to find information about the side effects of bioidentical hormones in the literature, but it seems clear that the side effects are much less severe than with standard hormone replacement therapy.
I’m not particularly fond of people messing around with the hormones in their bodies, as this can have unpredictable consequences, however if menopause symptoms are causing big problems then bioidentical hormones may be a safe alternative to standard treatment.
I would also recommend using as little as possible, for as short a time as possible. Menopause is a natural phenomenon that occurs with aging, and even though treatment is possible, doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to do.
Make sure if you are undergoing any sort of hormonal therapy, to do it under supervision by your doctor who has knowledge of these things, hormones are nothing to play around with.