Updated: Dec 21, 2022
“The only thing constant is change.” – Heraclitus
Since the day you were born, your body is constantly making changes. Blood cells die and are reborn. Nerve pathways are being created and destroyed. Hormones are being produced, distributed, and utilized.
Your hormones are chemical messengers that tell your body what to do. And throughout periods of your life, there can be fluctuations in these hormones. Puberty, pregnancy, and menopause are good examples.
Other times the roller coaster doesn’t stop, leaving you with a chronic condition. Factors such as illness, age, diet, and lifestyle can cause hormonal imbalances (1).
If you’re ready to feel relief and balanced once again, there are several different treatments available. One safe and natural option is something called bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
What is Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Also known as natural hormone therapy, bioidentical hormone therapy (BHRT) is made from synthetic hormones that are chemically identical to the hormones your body produces naturally.
The most common types are:
HRT vs BHRT
What’s the difference between hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT)?
Bioidentical hormones come from plant sources, while other hormone replacement therapies tend to be made in one of two ways: artificially, or from the urine of pregnant horses (2).
BHRT can be used to address a variety of hormonal imbalances. The most common way it’s used is with women experiencing symptoms of perimenopause or menopause, but both men and women can benefit from this particular kind of therapy.
BHRT has also been used to support (10) people diagnosed with:
Ways to Test
Hormone testing can be done through a blood draw, urine, or saliva test.
While blood tests claim to be the most accurate, Dr. Barbara Rush, ND (3) offers insight into why salivary testing can be a better option.
Convenient and the least invasive, saliva testing picks up hormone levels that are considered free or “unbound”. That means this type of hormone is the most usable by your tissues.
On the flip side, other hormones are “bound” to proteins and can’t be readily used by tissue. These hormones are too big to pass through your salivary glands, which leaves the free hormones to actively get to the tissue it needs to (4).
In the case of menopause, blood tests often overlook the other two estrogens, estrone, and estriol, that are typically needed by these women experiencing this hormonal shift.
“Most times women don’t need estradiol – they need the other two estrogens.” – Dr. Rush, ND.
It’s also important to note that many peri and post-menopausal women are highly sensitive to estrogen therapies, which is why looking at all three could make the difference.
Ways to take BHRT
When it comes to wellness, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can come in several different forms, or preparations (5), to fit your individual needs and preferences.
Some of the ways you can take BHRT include:
Some preparations are better tolerated than others, so it may take some trial-and-error before you find a form that works for you. It’s always recommended to start with a lower dose first and keep the timeframe as short as possible.
Hormones are so important that even the smallest imbalance can have noticeable effects. Those that receive BHRT can experience relief in the improvement (6) in areas like:
Fewer night sweats or hot flashes
Less anxiety and depression
Increased mental clarity
Cancer patients that undergo estrogen-lowering treatments can also experience symptom relief in similar areas.
Studies also show BHRT can support skin health by increasing hydration, elasticity, and reducing wrinkles (9).
Safety & Risks
While bioidentical hormone replacement therapy has been approved by the FDA, there are risks you need to be aware of.
Hormone replacement therapies in general can increase your risk (7) of developing conditions such as:
Other side effects can include mood swings, weight gain, acne, facial hair, bloating, and increased facial hair in women.
While the risks are small, they are there. And because everyone responds to things differently, it’s important to discuss any concerns you have with your healthcare provider.
Another potential risk is that of infection from the surgical insertions of hormone pellets. Proper care is advised before, during, and after the procedure.
So you’ve decided you’d like to invest in hormone replacement therapy. What does the process look like?
After an initial consultation with a certified naturopathic physician, tests are performed to analyze your current hormone levels.
Once the test results are in, you and your physical address any questions you have and discuss next steps. In addition to possible diet or lifestyle changes, a custom hormone replacement therapy will be prescribed.
Depending on your preferred method, administration can look a few different ways. In-house procedures might include a sterilized injection in an area of fatty tissue, such as the thigh, buttocks, or belly. Hormone pellets can also be placed under the skin with the assistance of local anesthesia. This is a surgical procedure (8).
Other methods, such as prescribed pills, patches, gels, or creams, are called into a nearby pharmacy to be compounded.
Wrapping It Up
Your hormones play an important role in everything you do. Eating, sleeping, thinking, and digesting all depend on the ebb and flow of these chemical messengers.
Our world today throws a lot at you, and sometimes your hormones get thrown off too. Bioidentical hormone therapy can be a safe and natural way for you to feel better, especially if you’re a woman going through menopause.
There are many ways to receive this kind of treatment, and the best place to start is by scheduling an appointment with a naturopathic physician. Not only can they help you get to the root cause of your symptoms, but they can also help you take the next steps towards a healthier, happier you.
Do you know someone who might benefit from this information? Be sure to share with friends and family today!