The latest buzzword in the medical arena is bio-identical hormones. Patients are reading and learning about “natural” vs. synthetic hormone replacement therapy. Suzanne Somers, in her books, “Ageless”, “The Sexy Years”, and “Breakthrough” has raised public awareness to a new level. Whether for symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and decreased libido, women all over the country are bombarding their physicians with questions. Men too, are learning about testosterone and DHEA to retain or find their lost sex drive. How to separate hype from fact? How to know whether these therapies are for you? And does one attempt to put off aging, if that is indeed possible?
What Exactly Are Bioidentical Hormones?
They are hormones that have the exact same structure as the hormones made by the human body. Premarin, Provera, and Prempro are synthetic hormones made by a pharmaceutical company. These are NOT exactly identical to the hormones made by the body because a drug company, by law, is not allowed to patent a bioidentical substance. Therefore, in order to get a patent and sell a substance, they must change its structure.
Many people question “why to replace hormones that are supposed to decrease with age?” That is like saying why to take care of our teeth. As we age, without proper dental hygiene, most people would lose their teeth. Modern medicine has allowed the aged to keep their teeth. So why not take hormones to offset some of the signs and symptoms of aging? Modern medicine has prolonged human life. It makes sense to improve the QUALITY of that life.
As a result of patient demand, pharmaceutical companies have developed topical hormone replacement therapy. Most patients equate topical creams to being bioidentical. That is not true. These hormone replacement therapies are not individualized and the key to successfully using hormones is to treat the individual. Before taking any hormone replacement, it is important to take a series of blood tests that include estrogens, progesterone, testosterone (yes women need some!!), DHEA and pregnenolone. Once starting therapy, careful monitoring of blood and symptoms allows the patient to be on the lowest dose required to alleviate symptoms.
The question most people ask is: are bioidentical hormones better than synthetic? Bioidentical hormones are better but they are still drugs. As we know, no drug is one hundred percent safe. However, bioidentical hormones are natural and mimic the body’s own rhythm. Synthetic hormones are much more potent and can have many more side effects.
Stay tuned: Part II- Bioidentical Hormones and Cancer
Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island