Hormone replacement therapy, bioidentical hormones, synthetic hormones, and other similar terms have become buzzwords in the news in recent years. These terms and more have fed a media storm covering the benefits and risks of supplementing or replacing the body’s natural hormones. In the process a widespread amount of confusion has been created among the general populous. It can seem that unless you’re a doctor you can’t know the facts on all of this. That’s not true, however. Here’s the straight talk on hormones, bioidentical hormones, and hormone replacement therapy.
What’s a Hormone?
Hormones of many types are produced by our bodies. These hormones perform a wide array of jobs from affecting mood and controlling the fight or flight response, to spurring our growth and development and affecting our sexual and reproductive cycles. According to Freedom Healthcare, a hormone can be described as a messenger sent out by our brain to another part of the body to perform a certain way.
As we age the brain produces different levels of certain hormones, causing certain symptoms. The most notable of these symptoms are characterized by low Testosterone in men and Menopause in women. This gives rise to the bioidentical hormone. This hormone is produced in a lab, unlike our natural hormones. However it is designed just like a natural hormone chemically, with the purpose of behaving in the body just the way the natural hormone was intended to.
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Is it Safe?
This is the burning question when it comes to hormone replacement therapy. The outcry against hormone replacement therapy began in 2002 when a large study known as the Women’s Health Initiative found that women taking part in such therapy were at a higher risk for such things as heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer. This spurred great concern among many women, and resulted in many of them discontinuing the practice in favor of other options.
There is a catch, however. The hormones cited by the study were not bioidentical, rather they were derived from animal hormones and had some intrinsic differences from natural human hormones. To this day although none have been tested and approved by the FDA, bioidentical hormones are generally regarded as safe for use.
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Right For Me?
As mentioned above hormone replacement therapy is employed primarily with menopausal women. Generally it is regarded as the most effective treatment of menopausal symptoms, and women who have frequent moderate to severe hot flashes, have lost bone mass, or are experiencing premature menopausal symptoms are encouraged to speak with their doctor about options. As with many things medical, hormone replacement therapy isn’t for everyone and is complex enough that a health professional must be consulted before embarking on a hormone regimen.