BIO-IDENTICAL HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY FOR WOMEN
Today’s women prefer natural hormones. In a survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,009 women aged 40 and older, 83% said they would prefer to use hormones that are similar to their own body’s hormones. Bio-identical hormones include estrone (El), estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), progesterone, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and pregnenolone.
WHAT ARE BIO-IDENTICAL HORMONES?
Bio-identical hormones have the same chemical structure as hormones that are made by the human body. The key to natural or bio-identical versus synthetic is the molecular structure of the hormone. In order for a replacement hormone to fully replicate the function of hormones which were originally naturally produced and present in the human body, the chemical structure must exactly match the original. Researchers have long held that there are significant differences between hormones that are natural to humans (bio-identical) and synthetic (including horse) preparations. Structural differences that exist between human, synthetic, and animal hormones can be responsible for side effects that are experienced when non-bio-identical hormones are used for replacement therapy. It is the structure of the hormone, not the source, that is key. The term “bio-identical” does not indicate the source of the hormone, but rather indicates that the chemical structure of the replacement hormone is identical to that of the hormone naturally found in the human body. These hormones are able to follow normal metabolic pathways so that essential active metabolites are formed in response to hormone replacement therapy. Synthetic—”patented,” “conventional,” “artificial,” or “horse”—hormones have been chemically altered, and are not identical in structure or activity to the naturally occurring hormones they are intended to replace.
The three types of hormones typically prescribed for BHRT are estrogens, progesterone, and androgens. The precise components of each woman’s therapy need to be determined after physical examination, medical history, and laboratory testing are considered. Close monitoring is essential to ensure that appropriate dosage adjustments are made.
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