The hormones in your body communicate with one another to facilitate your everyday bodily functions, including appetite, mood digestion and libido. When hormone levels in the body are in flux, it can significantly impact your health and well-being. People turn to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to provide the body with the hormones it needs. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is gaining more traction as a natural remedy to treat men and women with a hormone imbalance.
This article covers what bioidentical hormones are, what they’re used to treat, how long it takes for them to take effect and who would make a good candidate for BHRT.
What Are Bioidentical Hormones?
Hormones control various aspects of the body and are essential to proper function. When these hormones exist at lower levels or are out of balance in the body, important functions, such as cognitive performance, growth and digestion, are affected. Hormone therapy is a way to replenish or stabilize hormones in the body.
The difference between traditional hormone therapy and BHRT is that it uses natural ingredients as a base to produce hormones that are identical to the ones found naturally in the body. Traditional hormone replacement therapy is made up of entirely synthetic materials.
Bioidentical hormones are made from the plant roots of wild yams, cacti and soybeans in a lab. In the 1950s, scientists discovered that the chemicals in these plants’ roots could be converted to replicate progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and other various hormones. The pharmaceutical companies that administer bioidentical hormones are under strict regulations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These plant-based hormones are used to treat both men and women who produce fewer hormones than normal or who present a hormone imbalance.
What Are Bioidentical Hormones Used to Treat?
BHRT is used to treat various conditions caused by a hormonal imbalance. Bioidentical hormones, such as bioidentical estrogen and progesterone, can help both men and women treat certain conditions.
Every woman reaches a stage in her life where menopause starts to affect her daily life. As many as one in three women experience a sex-hormone deficiency. As women begin to enter menopause, they experience symptoms such as:
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
BHRT can help treat moderate to severe menopause symptoms by replacing the hormone levels that drop naturally with age. Bioidentical hormone therapy for women going through menopause will usually include estrogen and sometimes progestogen. Hormone replacement is the most effective way to treat menopause symptoms.
As people continue to live longer lives, the number of older people living in the world is expected to increase. One of the most popular reasons people seek out hormone therapy is to treat the symptoms associated with aging. Some of the signs of aging include:
- Wrinkles and fine lines
- Dull and uneven skin
- Decrease in body mass and bone density
- Decrease in cognitive functioning
- Thinning hair and hair loss
- Lower metabolism
Some of these symptoms appear due to a hormonal imbalance and are very common the older you get. This is because our bodies struggle to produce hormones at the same level as when we were younger, which directly impacts the way we look and feel. BHRT can replenish the hormones in our bodies to address the symptoms related to aging and find some release. BHRT can help improve memory, increase hair growth, clear up the skin and regulate metabolism. BHRT may help you look younger and feel younger too.
Anxiety and Depression
Many people experience anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions due to genetic or environmental factors, but a sudden onset of these conditions in the middle of life could indicate a hormonal imbalance. It’s important to talk to your doctor when you first start to notice the signs of anxiety or depression. They can conduct tests to determine if there is an underlying cause or if a hormonal imbalance has caused this sudden shift.
When hormones like testosterone suddenly drop or are off-balance, the body can undergo significant changes. People may experience a lack of motivation to do the things they once enjoyed. BHRT can help you address these signs and rebalance the hormones in the body to treat emerging symptoms of depression or anxiety.
One of the signs and symptoms of aging that many people seek treatment for is sexual dysfunction. Low libido and erectile dysfunction are common among older individuals with a hormonal imbalance. Testosterone, the hormone responsible for our sex drive, naturally lowers the older you get, but when your levels drop even further, your sex drive can take a serious hit. When women reach menopause, they may begin to produce an excess of estrogen, which can lower the effectiveness of testosterone.
A low or lost sex drive can cause tension in some relationships, and many people seek various treatment options to find a solution. BHRT can help you restore your testosterone levels to normal to improve your libido.
Mood and Cognitive Function
Hormones play a big part in our ability to regulate our mood and concentrate on tasks. People who have a hormonal imbalance may experience:
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating
Individuals with a hormonal imbalance cannot adequately produce essential neurotransmitters, such as serotonin or dopamine, which can alter their mood in various ways. One moment, they might feel happy, and the next, frustrated or angry without any direct cause. Replenishing the hormones in the body to normal levels can help improve these symptoms by restoring the body’s ability to produce neurotransmitters. After just a few weeks of treatment, BHRT can improve mood swings, focus and mental clarity.
Fatigue and Insomnia
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of a hormonal imbalance. The body relies on hormones to synchronize our sleep to our circadian rhythm. The hormone responsible for fatigue is progesterone. When the body produces too much of this hormone, you might feel consistently tired and have the urge to rest, even if you’ve gotten enough sleep.
On the other side of things, a hormonal imbalance can also cause insomnia. While too much progesterone causes chronic fatigue, too little of the hormone makes it difficult to feel tired and get to sleep, even after a period of little rest. A lack of sleep can cause additional problems and impact the proper production of necessary hormones.
Our sleep cycle must be well-regulated to prevent chronic fatigue or insomnia from impacting other aspects of our lives. BHRT can help balance progesterone in the body to treat either of these conditions so you can have a good night’s rest and wake up feeling refreshed.
Weight changes can occur for various reasons, such as lifestyle changes, medication or medical conditions. However, weight changes can also indicate that your hormones are in flux. Men or women experiencing weight fluctuations in the middle of their lives may have a hormonal imbalance, especially if the location of the additional weight is frequently changing. BHRT can help balance the hormones in the body to prevent any further weight gain or loss.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
While BHRT is an excellent option for many people, not everyone can take bioidentical hormones. Like any hormone therapy, BHRT comes with some risks, such as an increased chance for blood clots, stroke and breast cancer. People with a predisposition for these conditions might not be suitable candidates for BHRT.
Consult with your primary physician before starting BHRT. They can conduct thorough testing to determine your current hormone levels and rule out any other medical conditions that could be causing some of your symptoms. Testing will look different for everyone, but it’s a vital first step to ensuring you receive the proper care.
Your physician may provide you with a questionnaire or ask you to describe what symptoms you’re experiencing. They may run lab tests, such as blood, urine and saliva test, to measure your body’s hormone levels and look for signs of any other underlying medical conditions.
The next step is administering hormones based on your individual needs. Your dose will vary, as will the delivery method. Some patients choose pills, creams, patches or injections, but what’s right for one person will vary greatly from someone else.
Others opt for pellet therapy, where a pellet is inserted underneath the skin and absorbed into the body over time. This method is popular and often recommended by doctors because it only needs to be administered once, while topical treatments, like creams or patches, must adhere to a strict schedule. The right method for you will be based on your lifestyle choices.
While treatment is ongoing, your doctor will monitor your symptoms for signs of improvement to determine whether BHRT is effective. They may run further tests to monitor your hormone levels or adjust your dose to bring the hormone levels in your body to a healthy balance. The goal is to keep your dose as low as possible while still achieving relief from your symptoms.
How Long Does It Take for Bioidentical Hormones to Work?
Hormone replacement therapy can be incredibly beneficial for many people, but it takes time for your body to absorb the hormones and feel the effects. Once testing has been conducted and you start BHRT, you might notice a difference after two to three weeks. You’ll begin to feel the full effects of BHRT around the two-month mark.
If you haven’t noticed much change in your symptoms, speak to your doctor about your current dose. It could mean that your dosage is off or a different delivery method is better suited to your lifestyle.
More forgetful people would be better suited to pellet therapy instead of a topical treatment since the dose is administered one time under the skin, where it will gradually release over time. You should also see a doctor every few months to determine if any changes need to be made to find the right balance.
As your body becomes adjusted to BHRT, you may find that you can reduce your dosage as time goes by. Ideally, you’ll want to be on the lowest dose possible while still treating your condition, and as your body adjusts to treatment, you may need fewer hormones to achieve the same effect. Treatment will vary for everyone, so it’s always best to consult your doctor before making any changes.
Are Bioidentical Hormones Safe?
The risks of taking BHRT are about the same as traditional HRT, and there’s no consensus as of yet on whether bioidentical hormones are more effective than traditional hormones. Some bioidentical hormones have undergone testing through the FDA to ensure their safety, and pharmaceutical companies that produce bioidentical hormones are under strict FDA regulations. Bioidentical hormones may be the optimal choice for treatment, depending on your condition and symptoms, to achieve the right combination of hormones.
While certain bioidentical hormones have been through strict FDA testing, there are still some potential side effects to be aware of before starting treatment, including:
- Weight gain
- Breast tenderness
These side effects won’t impact everyone on BHRT, but knowing they exist can help your prepare for them if they do occur. The most common bioidentical hormones side effects usually include bloating, weight gain and breast tenderness. Talk with your doctor about your side effects as they appear so they can help you manage your symptoms and alter your dose, if necessary.
In general, bioidentical hormones are as safe as traditional hormones. However, it’s essential to talk with your doctor before starting hormone therapy of any kind. They can inform you of all the risks and determine if BHRT is the right treatment option for you. Some of the risks associated with hormone therapy include an increased chance of cancer, blood clots and stroke. If you have a preexisting condition or a family history of cancer or strokes, your doctor might recommend a different treatment method over BHRT.
Women taking hormones should have regular exams, including PAP smears, to check for endometrial and breast cancer. Both men and women should continue going to the doctor for regular health check-ups and talking with their doctor about their current hormone replacement treatment. Being open and honest with your doctor about your symptoms and whether you see any changes from BHRT will help prevent some of the risks associated with bioidentical hormones.
Schedule a Consultation for Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy in Bakersfield, California
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can help improve your individual quality of life. Age management therapy can help you manage age-related symptoms so you can look and feel young again. BHRT targets the signs and symptoms associated with aging so you can reduce your risk of developing age-related diseases, such as cancer and high blood pressure.
Synergy Wellness Center can help restore your hormone levels so you can get back to enjoying everything life has to offer. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or learn more about our treatment program.