Bioidentical Hormones as an Alternative to Hormone Therapy

Women have been trying to find what they consider to be safer alternatives for relief of hot flashes and other symptoms of the change of life (menopause). This is understandable hence the search for natural products. Some women for their convenience prefer products applied to the skin. For some skin products estrogen is not readily available. It seems like absorption is unreliable.

What are bioidentical hormones

Bioidentical hormones are hormone products identical to hormones produced by our bodies. Compounding pharmacies supply these hormones. Low hormone levels found in saliva is a way of assessing the necessity for these products. Women and their healthcare providers can therefore decide if this is the right alternative to treat their menopausal symptoms. During menopause estrogen level gets low. Low levels of estrogen are responsible for the many symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, poor concentration and vaginal dryness.

Many products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are identical to hormones produced by the body. They are available in different doses to meet the needs of women seeking treatment.

Are bioidentical hormones safe?

Hormones made in compounding pharmacies are not necessarily safer. They may not work better than the ones approved by the FDA. There is no guarantee that the hormone dose is always the same. Progesterone, a natural hormone produced by the ovaries protects the lining of the womb by preventing it from getting too thick which is not a good thing to happen. If there is too little progesterone, the protection is not as good. Too much estrogen is also not good. There should be the right balance of both hormones. Women who have no womb do not need progesterone as part of their treatment of bothersome menopause symptoms.

There are different ways that women can use these hormones (under the skin, tablets, skin creams, gels, sprayed into the nose). These products help women who have allergies to other products. Women should exercise caution when taking them as the method used to prepare these hormones may not be the same for different pharmacies. Some insurance companies do not cover the cost.

There are not enough scientific studies done to find out if the products work as well. Changes in the law have allowed the FDA to do testing on a number of these compounds. I encourage you to talk with your doctor to explain risks and benefits of hormone treatment. Your doctor will be able to monitor you.

Non-Hormonal Treatment

Not every woman can take hormone therapy for treatment of menopausal symptoms. If you have a high risk of getting a stroke, blood clot, breast or womb cancer and if you already have these conditions you can try using products that do not contain hormones. Mind-body treatment (Cognitive-Behavioral treatment) to increase happiness and hypnosis (to a lesser extent) can help to reduce hot flashes. Paroxetine Mesylate 7.5mg once daily is FDA approved for the treatment of moderate to severe hot flashes.

Obese women can suffer great discomfort (estrogen stored in fat). Losing some weight is helpful. Try dressing in layers, wear clothes made out of cotton and try to avoid synthetic material. Reduce caffeine intake. having cold drinks, air conditioning or a fan to cool you down during the hot months of summer is very helpful to quench that internal fire that seems to burn inside of you. You can also try taking deep breaths (paced respiration), yoga, and meditation. Scientific studies on hot flashes using these methods, however, show no improvement.

I have found that women have different ways to manage their hot flashes and other menopause symptoms to get symptom relief. Some women are bothered by it to the point where it is affecting their quality of life. Some women are not. This process of the change-of-life requires patience and understanding especially from spouses who tell me that they do not understand what is happening. Rest assured women do not have to go through this process alone. Help is available. If you prefer to have your hormones compounded for you it is important that you visit your health provider regularly.

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate – Oprah Winfrey

About Dr. Verna Brooks McKenzie

Dr. Verna Brooks McKenzie is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist, is Certified by The North American Menopause Society as a Menopause Expert and is a Weight Management Coach. She has over 30 years of experience in training, lecturing and public speaking and is an advocate for women’s health.