Are Bioidentical Hormones Safe Right Now?
Are bioidentical hormones safe is a common question that people ask for several reasons. First, these natural hormone treatments are not yet the norm, and some people, almost paradoxically, trust a hormone replacement process that seems more scientific and standardized such as a synthetic approach. The second reason that people ask are bioidentical hormones safe is because they had an uneven history at thebeginning due to formulas that had not been perfected, practitioners who overreached as far as their use at the start, and mistakes made when these treatments were newer. And finally, some people worry about safety and BHRT because of hesitation by their primary physician or various authors on-line. We go over the complicated answer to the question “are bioidentical hormones safe?” below, but of course all with the caveat that with any medical treatment your own safety and side effect profile may be unique and that your doctor is the one who can map out your own unique potential BHRT side effects and reactions.
Are bioidentical hormones safe: General
Bioidentical hormones replacement therapy has been around a long time and a lot of data has been gathered about their use, including the formulas that work, the approaches that seem to be most effective for particular presentations, and the ways the active ingredients work. Most people consider them effective and safe if used by an experienced practitioner for a presentation that is more common. As long as the BHRT practitioner stays within his or her capacity and experience, and uses a well-established compounding center to get the formulas, BHRT is considered safe. Even when there is a formula that is “custom compounded” for your unique use, bioidentical hormones are considered safe if this formula still retains the same ingredients that have generally worked even if in different amounts. Of course you also want to be very sure that your assessment is thorough and that reliable methods are used to determine what you need.
This determination is much easier if you will be on a standard bioidentical hormone replacement formula, and a little more challenging if you will have your natural hormones custom compounded. Custom compounding leads to a difficulty comparing your potential reaction with that of others who have had BHRT before you since by definition you will be getting a unique formula. In theory this means that a compounder can remove some of the risk by lowering problematic ingredients, but this is not always the case.
Are bioidentical hormones safe: Specific Hormones
While it may be a relief to many who are reading this that the answer to the question “Are bioidentical hormones safe?” is generally yes, but the follow-up is naturally a question about whether the specific course of natural hormone replacement is safe. Of course the short answer is that every natural hormone and every mixture used in BHRT has its own unique side effect and interaction effect profile, and it is important to gather all that information beforehand. Here are some of the questions you may want to ask, both of your BHRT doctor and your regular doctor in order to piece together the answer to the question “Are bioidentical hormones safe?”
- Could there be any interactions with my (fill in any pre-existing medical condition or medication or propensity for sensitivity to certain medications)?
- What side effects have other reported from these ingredients, and how long did they last?
- What percentage of people you have treated with this particular formula have decided not to use it after experiencing problems?
- What is the worst case scenario with each ingredient in this BHRT formula?
- If your bioidentical hormones are being custom compounded: How long have you used that compounding center and have there ever been problems
It is almost impossible to get a clear answer to the general questions “Are bioidentical hormones safe” without specifically mentioning the course you will be taking and the active ingredients that will be used. This can actually mean that you have to ask the question several times as your course is planned out.
How to Increase the Safety Profile of BHRT
There are specific things you can do and choices you can make to ensure that you have the maximum safety profile as far as your BHRT. In some cases these choices are easy and will not affect your course of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, while in others you may have to sacrifice a little efficacy in order to get the best results. Here are some examples:
1. You may want to go with well established formulas of bioidentical hormones in order to maximize the chances for safety. Standardized formulas will have more testing and research behind them, and their safety and side effect profiles may be more clear. In addition, your doctor will likely have more experience with the specific formula and can therefore more effectively answer the question about whetherbioidentical hormones are safe with regard to that standard mix. Of course in this case you may not be getting the benefits you would if a BHRT formula was crafted uniquely for you.
2. Start slowly with your bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to maximise safety. Do not rush with more intense formulas or a greater amount of ingredients. Take things slow and not only will you lower your overall side effects profile, but you will also more likely know what causes a side effect if you have one. The problem with starting off with too many ingredients is that you may have to completely back off all of them if you have a side effect, as opposed to being able to quickly replace one ingredient with another.
3. Make sure your initial hormone testing is done thoroughly and if possible through more than one method and/or on more than one day or time of day. For example, having just saliva testing done on one day may lead to results that are not truly representative of your needs. This is a step that is often overlooked – perhaps in people’s rush to get started on treatment for symptoms that are bothering them they tend to want to get answers too quickly. One way or another, however, you do need to take your time with this phase.
4. Make sure your choose a bioidentical hormones doctor who is well established in the field yet at the same time has kept up with recent advances. Both of these qualities are important – this is a field that is constantly changing and both ingredients and techniques are being updated and improved, so you want to know that your doctor has kept pace with the very latest information. At the same time you also want to know that she or he has been practicing long enough to be skilled at knowing what methods and ingredients will work for you.
5. Stay in close contact with your bioidentical hormone replacement therapy doctor during treatment. Report any positive results and also any frustrations you have right away so that your doctor can make a science out of reacting to your progress. In other words, you want to make sure that your doctor can be both reactive and proactive in your treatment, and you may not always want to wait until your next scheduled appointment to do so. This also means that you may want to choose a doctor or clinic that has a good method of communication, such as an online portal.
Are bioidentical hormones safe: Conclusions
Your practitioner and your regular doctor are the best ones to ask the initial question “are bioidentical hormones safe?” Your unique makeup, medical history, and other factors must be kept in mind if you are going to get an accurate answer to this question. We or any other internet site cannot possibly give you an answer that accurately assesses things for you. That said, the goal here is to give you the information and guidance you need to ask the right questions and know when you’ve done all the homework you need to.
Everyday Health provides a very well rounded article about the safety of different types of bioidenticals.
The summary of what you need to do when talking to a bioidentical hormones doctor and your own primary care physician or nurse is the following:
- Make sure you know not only the name or type of Bioidentical hormone replacement formula they are going to use but also the individual ingredients that are part of it.
- Ask questions based on those active ingredients not just the idea of bioidentical hormone replacement in general
- Know how the hormones will be administered and at what doses
- Make sure you disclose all medical issues you have now or have ever had, all medications and supplements you are on, and any interactions or reactions you’ve had in the past
Even after all of that you may want to get a third opinion from another doctor, especially if you sense or hear hesitation from either practitioner when you generally ask “are bioidentical hormones safe?” or if you ask more specific questions about your own course. In the end you want to make sure you get an affirmative answer you can trust to the question “Are bioidentical hormones safe?”