There are debates about the use of bio-identical hormones versus the use of synthetic hormones. Bioidentical hormones appeared in the United States in the early 1960’s in the form of oral contraceptives. However, they were used in many other countries before their debut here.
You may already have an opinion formed about this, but we believe we can offer a simple answer: there is a difference and why you should choose one over the other. Hormones are an essential part of the metabolic process of living: cells, organs, and metabolism. Our hormones decline through aging, menopause, disease, and even trauma; and then accelerate the aging process. It is through the loss of hormones that causes deterioration as we get older, both physically and mentally. Hormones are beneficial at any age, but the best long-term protective benefits are achieved if hormones are replenished.
A Small Difference with a Big Impact
Scientifically, when you compare any two substances, you want to look at the molecular structure. When comparing bio-identical hormones to synthetic hormones, there is a clear difference in the two. Bioidentical hormones are plant-based—derived from either the soybean or the Mexican wild yam. A process isolates a compound called “diosgenin” from the yam. It is then converted through chemical processes in a lab to match the molecular structure of the desired hormone made intrinsically in the body. The final product has only the pure biologically identical hormone, and no trace of the plant. (Wait for it… this is where the differences can be seen)
Bio-identical hormones are modified to have the exact molecular structure as the hormones made by the human body. Whereas synthetic hormones are modified into a drugs as “similar” to a human hormone, but is not identical to the hormones produced by the human body. The difference between appear minor, but even small changes to a molecule create drastic changes.
For example, let’s think to when you sat in a chemistry class. Take the water molecule: h2O. If you add an oxygen atom, it changes from a water molecule to hydrogen peroxide h2O2O. Are water and hydrogen peroxide the same? Of course not. We use this example because this is how drug manufacturers produce hormone therapies.
Difference between Progesterone and Synthetic Progesterone Molecule
Why Don’t Drug Companies Create Bio-identical Hormones?
There is a big reason: you cannot patent what occurs natural in nature. Drug companies cannot get a patent on bio-identical hormones until the molecular structure is altered and does not exist in nature.
Synthetic hormones currently used to treat signs and symptoms of menopause only mimic some of the hormonal functions and contain side chains that could cause undesirable side effects. A manufacturer adds a side chain to a natural product to make that product patentable. Scientific studies and clinical trials are less numerous on bioidentical hormones because they occur natural in the body and therefore cannot be patented.
Are Bio-Identical Hormones Safe?
Human insulin injections for the treatment of diabetes are one well-known example of bioidentical hormone optimization therapy.
Since bio-identical hormones are molecularity identical to the hormones your body produces, they are able to be properly utilized by your body. Bio-identical hormones do not same negative side-effects that synthethic hormones do. In fact, the differences in health effects between bio-identical and synthetic hormones are in many cases polar opposites. Many of the same studies that have shown the negative health effects of synthetic hormones have also shown the beneficial effects that bio-identical hormones can have on your health.
What are the benefits of Bio-Identical Hormone Optimization Therapy?
At BodMD, we call hormone optimization therapies BHOT™. The benefits of BHOT™ is experience as a result of restoring our natural sense of well-being. By keeping the hormone foundation restored, we are supporting out immune system and reducing inflammation which can lead to greater health concerns and diseases. There are benefits to our brains, bones, heart muscle and sleep. For men, as well as women, BHOT™ helps maintain mental and physical wellness.
Where do I get Bio-Identical Hormones?
Bio-identical hormones can only be prescribed by a BodMD provider and are filled by partnered compounding pharmacies. We have worked with experts to formulate different wants to dose therapies. The dose of hormones can also be fully customized to meet the unique needs of each patient.
Natural supplements such as vitamins and hormones are protected by federal regulation and may not be patented. A lot of what physicians learn is from the drug companies who are promoting their products. Therefore, your doctors are primarily taught only about synthetic products. Bio-identical hormones do not come under specific brand names. Your physician must be self-educated and experienced in prescribing and monitoring natural hormones. They probably just don’t know a lot about them or must prescribe within the constraints of your health insurance.
How BodMD Helps
Before any therapies are prescribed, a medical history questionnaire are requested as we review your medical history. Testing is done with blood to determine hormone imbalances and is repeated every 3-6 months, depending upon physician recommendations. Once results are received, patients met a BodMD provider to create a treatment plan to address specific areas that need improvement. Some patients notice results very quickly, within a week, while others may need additional time and monitoring before experiencing remarkable results.
The Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: Principal results from the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2002.
The Writing Group for the PEPI Trial. Effects of estrogen or estrogen/progestin regimens on heart disease risk factors in postmenopausal women: The Postmenopausal Estrogen/Progestin Interventions (PEPI) Trial. JAMA. 1995.
Ruiz A., et.al. Effectiveness of Compounded bioidentical hormone replacement therapy: An observational cohort study. BMC Women’s Health. 11: 27. 2011