Bioidentical Hormones Side Effects and Risks
Is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy safe?
There is a lot of controversy and confusion about the bioidentical hormones side effects are and whether natural hormone replacement therapy is safe . The problems with trying to answer this question stem from two points:
1. The term “Bioidentical” is not recognized by the FDA and therefore there is no standardization of the products involved that would allow for scientific testing. Without this type of standardization bioidentical hormones side effects cannot be accurately studied and measured.
2. Natural hormones are often handmade, customized for each individual. The lack of standardization also opens up the potential for mistakes and reduces the possibility of scientific study. Thus your own specific formula may carry bioidentical hormones side effects but since it is individually formulated you may not know.
Anecdotal reports, including some very enthusiastic celebrity pitches, suggest that natural hormone replacement therapy with estrogen reduces symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, mood swings, and a decreased sex drive. Men who take estrogen related natural hormones seem to have a reduction in similar symptoms as they age as well. And something about the fact that bioidenticals are natural, using chemicals derived from plants including soybeans and yams suggests that there should be some measure of safety and few bioidentical hormones side effects. As yet, however, no one has really proven this to be true.
Bioidentical Hornones Side Effects
The likely answer to this question of what are the most likely bioidentical hormones side effects is that BHRT is as safe or even safer than traditional synthetic hormone replacement if and only if the exact amount of the hormone and the length of time it remains in the body are similar to what is being lost. Too little new hormone, and the BHRT will not work, and too much and bioidentical hormones side effects may occur. But how can this be measured accurately in a large study when conceivably each participant is receiving a different amount of each hormone?
Part of the problem may also be that BHRT as a treatment is relatively new, and thus there is a lack of information about their safety. Many doctors, then, are reluctant to prescribe this type of hormone replacement and may even respond in an exaggerated way to anecdotal reports of problems. Conversely, some people who have been frightened away from conventional hormone replacement with synthetics feel relieved to not see any warnings – this is merely because of the lack of FDA recognition and not necessarily a statement about their safety. In summary, there is no clear evidence for or against the fact that there may be bioidentical hormones side effects, but you can mitigate your chances by going to a highly experienced practitioner and choosing a more conservative path of BHRT.
Practitioners will quickly report that BHRT has been used successfully for years in Europe, with a large number of satisfied patients. They will also point to the (in their estimation) more severe risks and side effects of traditional hormone replacement with synthetics. And they will also quickly describe how conventional hormone replacement has its faults as far as safety as well, and an apples to apples comparison would need to compare the two forms of treatment as far as safety. But it may be hard to know how much these practitioners are responding mostly because of their own self-interest.
Who is at Greatest risk for Bioidentical Hormones Side Effects
As you can see above, natural hormones are not without risks and side effects. Also as you can see, we do not provide a specific listing of the potential side effects because this kind of reaction can be quite unique to the person – we do not want to list the potential bioidentical hormones side effects only to have people experience something else and decide that it must not be from the BHRT. When it coms to bioidentical hormones side effects you need to keep in close contact with both your BHRT provider and your primary care physician along the way and report any changes that are not wanted.
The above is particularly important if you are on any other medication or have any current or historical medical problems. If you are one of those categories you need to be very sure that your BHRT practitioner is fully aware and that your PCP who is prescribing those medications or treated/treated you for those issues knows about your new treatment in order to fully assess any reactions you might have.
Bioidentical Hormones Side Effects: The bottom line
We strongly suggest the following steps to reduce your chances of having bioidentical hormones side effects that mean that you have to give up.
1. Consult with your healthcare professional first to see whether you might have any unique susceptibility to problems with this kind of hormone replacement therapy. Make sure you’ve already done your homework as far as the type of BHRT you will pursue and that you know as much as possible which “ingredients” will be used.
2. Choose your doctor and compounder carefully since the need to use safe and effective combinations and amounts of hormones is imperative. Go by reputation and experience, and try to find someone who will let you talk to previous BHRT clients is possible. Ask as many questions as you want specifically about bioidentical hormones side effects.
3. To be most conservative, start with a BHRT formula that is standardized and has been used on others in the same formula. Starting with custom compounded natural hormones is more risky, at least as far as knowing what side effects there may be.
4. Start slow – do not pursue an aggressive course of treatment with bioidenticals, especially in the beginning. Most problems that are treated with BHRT are gradual and longstanding – there is usually no need to rush into things.
5. Be honest with yourself about whether the BHRT is working, and report all potential bioidentical hormones side effects you are having to both your practitioner and your regular doctor. That latter point is important – while your BHRT doctor may have all the best intentions, you want to make sure your real symptoms are not minimized due to his or her bias.
Natural hormone replacement therapy is natural and has been successfully used on thousands of people worldwide. Whether it is the best solution for you, and whether you will experience side effects, are questions that cannot be answered with certainty, but you can minimize the chances of difficulty by choosing both your BHRT provider and the formula they will use carefully.
Once again, our main piece of advice is to see your regular primary care physician or health care provider first, before pursuing BHRT. And wait to make sure that any symptoms are not transient, perhaps not needing any intervention. And finally, stay in close contact with your practitioner during treatment, and use your regular primary care physician as a back-up and second opinion during this time. Many people have pursued BHRT and have felt it was successful and have not reported bioidentical hormones side effects, but you still need to be conservative.
We are a big fan of BHRT and natural hormone treatments. Yet just because these treatments are natural and generally considered safe that does not mean that you are guaranteed to not have any problems. As with any tretament, whether synthetic or natural, there are bioidentical hormones side effects you need to be aware of. And even if we were able to list a very specific set of usual bioidentical hormones side effects, that does not mean that you might not experience something completely different, something idiosyncratic due to your own make-up and tendencies. In addition, just because we are here to promote the benefits of BHRT, that does not mean that everyone will have fewer problems with natural hormones; some people will actually have fewer side effects from synthetics.
The bottom line is that this type of treatment needs to be closely followed by a doctor who is knowledgeable not only about the potential bioidentical hormones side effects, but also which ones can be treated, tolerated, or will just go away, and which ones necessitate stopping the treatment. Having a doctor that has the skill and experience to change course and use a different formula and different approach is also helpful. Many problems that are the presenting concern that led to BHRT in the first place will respond to varying approaches and you should be able to choose one that leads to the fewest problems and the most comfortable course of treatment.
As always, we welcome the input and feedback from anyone who has had BHRT, and on this page in particular anyone who has had bioidentical hormones side effects, whether they led to a complete switch to a different form of treatment, a change in the BHRT ingredients used, or just went away. As an unbiased and independent website we will not hesitate to publish this information on all ends of the spectrum of severity.
Harvard Health has an article that describes the safety of custom compounded bioidenticals.
If you do have bioidentical hormones side effects, here are some natural alternatives
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