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Bioidentical hormones are made in
the laboratory and are based on compounds found in plants (usually soybeans or
After the plant-based hormone is
processed, its structure is said to be identical to the
androgen hormone your body produces. (Well-designed
studies have yet to prove this theory.1) A compounding
pharmacist can offer you a custom-made formulation in one of many forms, such
as a capsule, skin cream or gel, tablet to dissolve under your tongue,
suppository, or nose spray. Some commonly prescribed estrogens and
progesterones are bioidenticals, such as Estrace (estradiol). A major difference between custom-made formulations and commercial products is that commercial products are
regulated and tested for purity and potency and compounding pharmacies are not.2
Just like synthetic hormone therapy, bioidentical hormones
are prescribed to increase or stabilize a woman's hormone levels.
This is generally done during perimenopause, when hormone levels change
unpredictably, and after menopause, when the hormones drop to low levels.
The most important fact to remember about taking bioidentical HT
is that its risks are not yet well understood. It may have the same breast cancer, stroke, blood clot, heart disease, and dementia risks that synthetic HT has.1
North American Menopause Society (2010). Estrogen and
progestogen use in postmenopausal women: 2010 position statement of the
North American Menopause Society. Menopause, 17(2):
242–255. Also available online: http://www.menopause.org/PSht10.pdf.
Fritz MA, Speroff L (2011). Postmenopausal hormone therapy. In Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 8th ed., pp. 749–857. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
April 26, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
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