What are Bio-Identical Hormones?
The term “bio-identical hormones” has been bantered about by alternative medicine physicians for years. Suzanne Sommers brought the concept to millions of women through her multiple publications. It can be quite confusing, however. You do not have to be 50ish to be symptomatic. Many people begin to have symptoms such as insomnia, mood swings, decreased sex drive, apathy, and foggy thinking as early as 35. Women make estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Progesterone and estrogen are the primary female hormones. They are made in the ovaries and are the reason that women have a monthly cycle, become pregnant (well, not the reason, but they allow it to happen), and feel like a woman. The decrease in these hormones marks the onset of menopause.
For women, progesterone is the first hormone to start to decline in concentration. The reason for this is because progesterone is only produced in the ovaries, whereas estrogen and testosterone are also made in the adrenal glands and fat cells. The production of hormone from the ovaries begins to decline after the age of 30. This is why peak bone mass occurs at age 31 and then declines. Since progesterone is only made in the ovaries, women may begin to feel the effects of this decline well before they actually go through menopause.
For women, there are 3 basic categories to hormone replacement. The first, is over-the-counter plant based formulas. These are comprised of phytoestrogens derived from plants such as soy, wild yam, or black cohosh. These molecules will weakly bind to hormone receptors. The second category is comprised of pharmaceutical hormones. Examples of these would be Premarin and Provera. Premarin is derived from Pregnant Mare Urine and is therefore conjugated equine estrogens (currently all the estrogens have not been identified). Provera is a completely synthetic molecule, not found in nature. These molecules will bind to the receptor, but have excess atoms that can be detrimental. This was shown in The Women’s Health Initiative Trial which proved that Premarin and Provera increased the risk of breast cancer and heart disease. The third category is bio-identical hormones. These are compounds that are the exact molecular makeup of the hormones produced by the ovaries. They fit the hormone receptors perfectly and do not cause cancer.
It should be noted that cancer is caused by free radicals. Free radicals are caused by radiation, pollutants, heavy metals, cigarette smoke, etc…not hormones produced naturally by your body. Now, do not mistake, there are some cancers that are estrogen and/or progesterone receptor positive. Your own natural hormones or bio-identical to your own natural hormones will cause these cancers to grow. But they do not cause the cancer.
In short, bio-Identical hormones can be compounded to fit your exact needs. Testing should be done to determine the concentration of hormone in your body and then a specific combination of hormone can be compounded to improve your quality of life and promote healthy aging.