Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) seems to remedy many symptoms linked to perimenopause and menopause. Menopause is the ceasing of menstruation and perimenopause is the period just before menopause. This is when the female body stops producing as much estrogen and progesterone resulting in annoying and sometimes painful symptoms including: night sweats, vaginal dryness, hot flashes/flushes, mood swings, and depression. These could worsen throughout the month because of differing levels of hormones being produced, especially while a woman is in perimenopause. BHRT is not only useful in treating women going through menopause, but can also help with aging men as his testosterone levels drop causing a loss of sex drive or his estrogen levels rise causing infertility and other symptoms.
This topic has been studied and it appears that the largest window of benefit for a woman receiving BHRT is within 10 years of when menopause first began. So it is important that wise counsel from a trusted health practitioner is sought regardless of course of treatment.
A doctor can test for hormone levels using a saliva. urine, or blood samples; however, this will only provide one data point and can fluctuate on a daily basis. A doctor who treats men or women having symptoms related to low or high hormone levels including progesterone, estrogen, or testosterone can normally use both the history along with hormone testing to determine what is going on in a specific person. Either an obstetrician/gynecologist or endocrinologist are the medical doctors who most prescribe hormone therapy. either HRT or BHRT.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is different from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in that bioidentical hormones are plant-based only some are approved by the FDA. Because of this they are also not always covered by standard insurance providers. BHRT products are either manufactured by pharmaceutical companies or compounding pharmacists. It is usually the ones done by the compounding pharmacist that are not FDA approved. Part of the FDA approving treatment strategies like HRT or BHRT are based on clinical studies proving their effectiveness. The BHRT products made by the compounding pharmacist do not have the same studies and are more custom-made. Forms of BHRT include creams, patches, pills, gel, shots, and implanted pellets. It is important to note that use of HRT for longer than a 5 year span has shown to increase other health issues like incidence of breast cancer, blood clot, or even memory problems. The hormones when finely balanced work great, but imbalances can really wreck havoc on the body causing osteoporosis, depression, and pain. It is important to understand the risks, limits, and benefits of any of these therapies.
People will look toward supplementation for relief from hormone related symptoms if they are wanting a natural approach and less risk. Some supplements like Chasteberry and Black Cohosh are thought to help reduce unpleasant symptoms and other supplements like DHEA are taken as a precursor for the body to replenish hormones on it’s own that have been depleted with age. People who want more information on these alternative therapies will seek out a naturopath, chiropractor, or other functional medicine provider. It is important to find a competent helper as they will be able to order tests and direct a course that is more targeted. Other therapies that have shown signs of improving symptoms in menopause and naturally balancing hormones include eating an organic plant heavy diet, exercising, and even acupuncture. Regardless of what treatment is ultimately decided on, an experienced hormone doctor or naturopath is going to be able to discuss all options available.