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.

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