Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is a powerful therapy made from plant-based hormones that are chemically identical to those produced by the body. BHRT is prescribed to treat a wide variety of hormone-related symptoms in both men and women, including those going through menopause or andropause and who have thyroid disorders or adrenal fatigue. Whether you need support due to natural hormonal transitions or a medical condition, BHRT can be a life-changing therapy that has helped people take control of their health and find a comfortable balance for over 30 years.
The Surprising History of BHRT
Doctors and scientists first started experimenting with hormone-based medications when Edward A. Doisy discovered estrogen in 1929. After Doisy isolated estrogen through urine and blood analysis, scientists went on to discover dozens of other hormones that exist in the human body and began exploring the possibility of using these hormones to address a broad range of hormone-related symptoms. The first of many commercially available hormone medications, Emmenin, was created only five years later to alleviate menstrual cramps and, in time, hormone replacement therapy emerged as the most effective treatment for symptoms of menopause. These initial medications (which we now refer to as conventional hormones) were synthesized chemically or from animal sources.
In 1982, after decades of progress in the hormone medication field, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy emerged when Dr. Jonathan Wright met with a patient to discuss treatment for menopause. She experienced all the uncomfortable signs of reduced estrogen—hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes—and was interested in hormone replacement therapy. However, this patient asked for something unique: she challenged Wright to prescribe hormones that were identical to those produced by her own body and not those of an animal.
Intrigued, Wright partnered with one of the few compounding pharmacists in North America at that time to craft a custom medication. The finished tablet included the three main types of estrogen (estrone, estradiol, and estriol) in a ratio identical to healthy hormone levels of premenopausal women. Since that day, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy has changed the future of hormone health, helping countless individuals overcome hormone-related conditions and symptoms.
The Benefits of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Bioidentical hormone medications are as diverse as the patients who take them—which means that the benefits change depending on which hormones are prescribed. Your personal BHRT medication may include any number of hormones in combination, including estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, progesterone, or thyroid hormones. The ratio of hormones prescribed will be determined by a health practitioner after extensive testing of your hormone levels and a thorough evaluation of your symptoms.
Whether you’re taking hormones orally, absorbing them through the skin, or have them implanted subdermally, these hormones are exactly identical to those that are produced naturally by your body.. This means that whether you’re struggling with uncomfortable symptoms of menopause or dealing with hypothyroidism, BHRT can help your body adjust and find balance.
BHRT is often prescribed to provide relief for symptoms such as:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Reduced libido
- Fatigue and low energy
- Thyroid imbalance
- Sleep problems
- Decreased bone density or muscle strength
- Mood swings
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
Since its introduction, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy has risen dramatically in popularity because it is typically both effective and well-tolerated by patients. Many patients have found that they finally feel like themselves again when their hormone-related symptoms are lessened. Their chronic symptoms are alleviated, they get restful sleep, have plenty of energy, and feel more in control of their health. Indeed, patients often report that BHRT improves overall quality of life and it is widely recognized as a powerful treatment option for those who struggle with hormonal issues.
Deciding Whether BHRT Is Right For You
Conventional hormone medications and BHRT are prescribed to address the same concerns, but these treatment options are not identical. Many patients choose to take bioidentical hormones because they come from plants, unlike conventional medications, which can be derived from synthetic or animal sources. Premarin, for instance, is a commonly-prescribed estrogen medication made from pregnant mare’s urine, which creates an ethical dilemma for many women. Furthermore, conventional may be similar to human hormones, but they are not an exact match, which means your body may not react to them as they would your own hormones. In contrast, bioidentical hormones come directly from soy, yams, and other natural plant sources and are chemically and structurally identical to human hormones.
It’s also worth noting that some bioidentical hormone drugs are mass-produced and FDA approved, but BHRT in general is not yet FDA approved due to the fully customizable nature of compounded hormones. So far, no double-blind clinical trials exist comparing BHRT with conventional medications, but bioidentical hormones are believed to be safer and more effective. However, it’s important to remember that, like any pharmaceutical, both conventional hormones and bioidentical hormones come with health risks and side effects. Discuss these matters closely with your doctor to determine if BHRT is right for you.
How to Start Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
If you’re interested in pursuing bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, the first step is partnering with an expert practitioner who has significant education and experience in hormone health. This practitioner will design a treatment plan for you and act as a coordinator between you and the compounding pharmacy that creates your custom hormone medication. It’s incredibly important that you trust this person and can rely on their expertise to help you achieve optimal wellness.
To begin, your practitioner will thoroughly evaluate your physical health and the symptoms you experience. They will then take a snapshot assessment of your hormone levels through extensive blood, urine, and/or saliva testing. With all of this information in hand, your practitioner will create a custom hormone prescription that fits your needs and preferences. With close monitoring, you’ll continue taking and adjusting the medication until the perfect hormones and dosage are solidified.
Finding an Expert BHRT Practitioner
The general consensus within the medical community is that, just like with other medications, you should take bioidentical hormones at the lowest dose and the shortest duration possible to achieve symptom relief. As such, the best hormone health practitioners also provide holistic counsel on nutrition and lifestyle changes that can help shape wellness in the long term. We recommend selecting a highly experienced practitioner in integrative medicine and hormone health, such as those within the BodyLogicMD network. With their guidance, you will have the support you need to confidently address your symptoms and move toward better health.
BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioners are experts in integrative medicine and hormone health. Our certified practitioners specialize in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and are among the top medical professionals in the country offering this unique and innovative treatment. If you’re ready to take control of your health, our network of practitioners can help you set meaningful wellness goals and create a treatment plan that’s customized to your individual needs. Contact a local practitioner in your area to start your journey toward optimal health, or take our Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about how hormones are impacting your everyday life and dive deeper into the benefits that BHRT has to offer.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.