The Skinny on Bio Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Bio identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) is a marketed as an alternative to traditional hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) most commonly applies to women being treated for post menopausal symptoms. In addition, HRT can be used to treat women who, through surgery, have caused their bodies to stop producing hormones normally. These treatments are sometimes used in conjunction with vaginal rejuvenation and other surgeries in order to alleviate symptoms of menopause. The difference between HRT and BHRT lies in the types of hormones used.
Traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy relies on hormones or chemical approximations of the hormones to address fluctuations in hormone levels. These fluctuations are associated with common symptoms of menopause like depression, hot flashes, etc. However, HRT prescriptions dropped off sharply after a Woman’s Health Initiative (WHI) study found that it increased the risk of stroke, heart disease and breast cancer in women. While BHRT had been used even before the WHI study, interest in it has increased after the drop off in Hormone Replacement Therapy’s popularity.
Bio identical Hormone Therapy uses three forms of estrogen: estradiol, estrone, and estriol; they also happen to be the three most common types of estrogen in the body. While in BHRT these chemicals are identical to their naturally produced counterparts, there is concern over delivery methods. Options include (but are not limited too) oral pills and topical gels or creams. Pills used in HRT/BHRT have been shown to increase the risk of blood clotting. Perhaps for this reason some advocates of BHRT employ gels and creams in order to avoid both an increase in clotting risk, but also to avoid the risk of damaging the liver. Another concern with Bio identical Hormone Replacement Therapy is the fact that the body produces 25 different types of estrogen, and while the body has limited ability to convert one estrogen type into another, it’s impossible to claim that BHRT perfectly replicates what the body naturally produces.
The major issue surrounding Bio identical Hormone Replacement Therapy is the lack of large, statistically and clinically sound studies to evaluate its claims. This is a problem because individual pharmacies have taken the liberty of proclaiming the vast benefits of BHRT without scientific evidence to corroborate those claims. Until a study like that performed by the WHI about regular Hormone Replacement Therapy, patients should educate themselves about the risks involved with HRT in general before they allow themselves to be treated with either HRT or BHRT. While the desire to increase the quality of life through health is good, patients need to be fully aware of the risks involved, lest in the pursuit of an increased quality of life, they end up permanently crippling their own health.