By Dr Louise Newson
There are a lot of misconceptions about what ‘bioidentical’ hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is and what the difference is between body identical HRT and bioidentical HRT. Many women prefer natural products for treatment of symptoms related to the menopause, believing that natural means safer and healthier; however, this is not always the case.
Body identical hormones are hormones that have the same molecular structure as hormones found naturally in your body that decrease during menopause. Some types of body identical estrogen hormones (such as 17 beta oestradiol) are available on NHS prescriptions in the form of tablets, gels, and patches, and are natural in that they derive from a plant chemical in yams, a tropical root vegetable. Likewise, a body identical progesterone hormones (micronised progesterone), also made from yams, is associated with fewer side effects than other types of progestogens. You may find ‘natural’ progesterone creams online, but these are not recommended as they do not absorb well into the body and are too little of a dosage. In addition, they are not licensed in the UK.
So what are bioidentical hormones then? Similar to body identical hormones, bioidentical hormones have the same structure as hormones found naturally in your body and are also usually made from yams. However, bioidentical hormones are compounded and custom made in order to prescribe them in combination doses or preparations that are not routinely available. Typically distributed by private clinics, bioidentical hormones not regulated or subject to quality control, unlike body identical hormones. Additionally, there is no significant evidence that bioidentical hormones are more effective than body identical HRT.
As always, it is important to speak to your doctor about the different types of HRT and to determine what is right for you.
For more from The Menopause Doctor Louise Newson, visit her website here.