What are bioidentical hormones?
Bioidentical hormones are hormones with an identical chemical structure to the hormones your body produces naturally. Derived from plant sterols from soy or diosgenin (wild yam), these hormones mimmic exactly the actions of the body’s own hormones. A prescription from your ND (with prescribing rights) or MD is required, and bioidentical hormones are dispensed from a compounding pharmacy, usually as either a topical cream or oral pill.
Bioidentical hormones differ from synthetic hormone replacement therapy in that synthetic hormones are extracted from horse urine rather than plant sources, and synthetic hormones do not act the same way in the body as the body’s own hormones. Risks associated with synthetic HRT (hormone replacement therapy) are breast cancer, stroke, heart attack, and blood clots.
How do I know if bioidentical hormones can help me?
Estrogen-dominant conditions are a common indication for hormone balancing and bioidentical hormone prescription. Estrogen dominant conditions include: PMS, endometriosis, hormonal acne, fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, non-menopausal hot flashes and painful periods/cramps. Difficulties in perimenopause and menopause, where hormones are fluctuating and levels of estrogen and progesterone are declining can also be helped by bioidentical hormone therapy. This includes insomnia, hot flashes, heavy periods in perimenopause, low libido, low bone density, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, vaginal atrophy, urinary incontinence, abdominal weight gain, and poor memory. Women trying to conceive should also be assessed for hormonal imbalance as a common cause of infertility is a progesterone deficiency causing a ‘luteal phase defect’, where the second half of the menstrual cycle is too short to sustain a pregnancy.
How can I tell if my hormones are out of balance?
Blood and saliva testing are available to assess hormone levels. Testing of the sex hormones as well as the other endocrine organs (thyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas) should be carried out as well to detect concomitant hormonal imbalances.
Signs of Progesterone Deficiency may include: anxiety, headaches, heavy periods, difficulty handling stress, water retention, abdominal weight gain, miscarriage
Signs of Estrogen Excess may include: hormonal acne, estrogen-dominant conditions (fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, ovarian cysts, endometriosis), gallstones, low sex drive, memory loss, PMS, hot flashes/night sweats, weight gain
Signs of Testosterone Excess may include: acne, oily skin, facial hair growth, ovarian cysts, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), weight gain, head hair loss