What Is A Bioidentical Hormone?
Bioidentical hormones are exogenous hormones that are chemically and molecularly identical to the endogenous human hormone. Exogenous hormones are produced outside the body, and endogenous hormones are produced by our bodies. If you take a hormone pill, you are taking an exogenous hormone; it comes from outside your body.
Bioidentical hormones come from outside sources. So do synthetic hormones. Both are manufactured so that our bodies can use them. The difference is that bioidentical hormones are identical to our hormones, and synthetic hormones are slightly different.
The Patent Issue
The FDA has ruled that naturally occurring substances cannot be patented. That means that a drug company cannot patent a bioidentical hormone. They can manufacture, market and sell a bioidentical hormone, but they cannot patent it and obtain exclusive sales rights to it.
That means that there is a profit motive involved. Most prescription hormones are synthetics simply because changing the chemical formula slightly allows the drug company to patent it. Many prescription hormones are effective, but they are not identical to our endogenous hormones, and our bodies do not use them in exactly the same way.
The Natural Issue
When people talk about "natural" hormones, most of the time they are talking about bioidentical hormones. Bioidentical hormones are not actually natural. They are derived from plant hormones in soy or yams, and are chemically altered to be identical to human hormones. They are manufactured and processed, so they are not actually "natural."
The Safety Issue
Bioidentical hormones have increased in popularity since the Women's Health Initiative report came out that indicated hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause had more risks than benefits, especially for women at risk for heart disease. Women who have had breast cancer are also more at risk from hormone replacement therapy.
Celebrities, notably Suzanne Sommers, championed the use of hormones instead. Traditional HRT uses synthetic hormones, which are not identical to human hormones. Bioidentical hormones, on the other hand, should be more compatible with our biochemistry and more easily used by our bodies.
To date, there have not been any studies that compare the safety of bioidentical hormones with synthetic hormones.
Bioidentical hormones for the treatment of menopause are widely available. Because they are not patentable, they can be manufactured by anybody. If you take hormones, make sure you get them from a reputable source and that the quality of the product is good. There are some risks involved in taking hormones, so educate yourself thoroughly and make sure you understand the risks and benefits of any product you decide to take.
How Safe Is It Really?
However, bio-identical hormone therapies are not approved by the FDA. The idea is that bio-identical hormone therapy can be individually tailored to the person requiring it, generally a woman requiring post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy. According to manufacturers of these products, they are safer than standard therapies.
Again, none of the bio-identical hormone therapies are FDA-approved, so use practice caution if you're considering using one. For shopping purposes however, there are many websites that provide bio-identical hormone gels and so forth. For example, supersavermeds.com has a number of different gels and products like Progest Gel, which is a bio-identical form of progesterone according to the website.
It's supposed to help with symptoms of hormonal imbalances such as dry skin, mood swing, hot flashes, and so forth. They also have various items for males as well, like the DHEA Pro (M) Gel. This item is supposed to naturally increase testosterone levels and reduce DHT levels to prevent hair loss and promote hair growth.
Although this is certainly intriguing, the directions are somewhat vague except for the hormones and supplements taken in pill form. It seems to require a great deal of experimentation in achieving the proper levels for females. There is a section for first-time users of these products that provides general guidelines apparently.
Using their instructions for the Triest Gel, Progest Gel, and DHEA gel products in tandem, it says that you should apply it once in the morning after a bath. It also says that if there's no effect to either try increasing the amount or applying it a second time in the afternoon. Then it goes on to provide instructions for when to apply the other products and how to taper off from standard prescribed hormone therapies.
Considering the fact that you're apparently supposed to use all three products together, and that a bit of a caveat is included saying that you may have to experiment with the products for three to five days to determine the right amounts, it seems like a bit more trouble than it's worth.
As is pointed out, it does take time for hormones to be stored in body fat (which is correct) and that it may take two to three months for effects to be noticeable, a person might be better off sticking to their standard therapy. However, for those still interested in this course of action may want to pursue it.