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Ask the Expert: Is Hormone Replacement Safe?

Posted By Amber Passini, MD, Thursday, March 05, 2015

Q: My physician says hormone replacement is not safe.  Why does he not feel they are safe? I heard bioidentical hormones are safer than pharmaceutical hormones. What’s the difference?

A:  First of all the human body makes many hormones and we depend on them for virtually every system in the body.  Our sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone help us to feel young, vibrant, energetic, and sexual, among other things, and when they start to fall people generally just don't feel well.  Symptoms can range from poor sleep, foggy thinking, low energy, and irritability, to low sex drive, depression, anxiety or weight gain.  Balancing our hormones can be a challenge and it is important to have a physician who is knowledgeable and experienced with bio-identical hormones.  Bio-identical hormones are just what it sounds like, they are exactly identical to the hormones your body makes, or used to make.   Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone, are the three main sex hormones that most people are talking about these days although there are different forms of each.   Hormones that are patented by drug companies for hormone replacement therapy are not bio-identical and can be harmful. Pharmaceutical, genetically altered or horse derived, hormones are foreign to human bodies and are often more potent and more toxic to the human body.  This is especially true if they are metabolized a certain way.  In fact, the breakdown products of synthetic hormones can be several times more toxic than the original hormone.  They can help alleviate symptoms of hormone deficiency and menopause, but it comes with a price.

The Women’s Health Initiative a large clinical trial, which studied patented pharmaceutical hormone replacement (NOT bioidentical hormones replacement) found increased risks of breast cancer, strokes, blood clots, and heart disease. I do NOT recommend replacing hormones with synthetic estrogen and progesterone.   It is not safe!  Due to the Women’s Health Initiative many physicians do not feel any form of hormone replacement therapy is safe, but what they fail to realize is that the study used a horse estrogen and fake progesterone.  Sadly, most physicians are not educated on bioidentical hormone replacement and do not understand the difference between bioidentical hormone replacement and non-bioidentical hormone replacement.  It is something we are not trained on in medical school and those of us who are well versed in it have had to seek extensive additional training after medical school and residency.  

Human bodies have been making hormones for hundreds of thousands of years. Our bodies are at their best in our youth when our hormone levels are optimal, so having healthy hormone levels in and of itself is not the problem.  When our hormones fall we feel bad, (tired, irritable, depressed, achy, can't sleep, no energy or motivation, etc.).  In order to alleviate the symptoms of hormone deficiency we should be replacing hormones with bioidentical estrogen and progesterone in doses NO higher than what naturally occurs in the human body.  If bio-identical hormones are administered correctly they are as safe as the hormones that exist naturally in our body. Careful monitoring should be done to assure the hormone levels are balanced and are at appropriate levels for each person.  If you suffer from symptoms of hormone deficiency find a physician well versed in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to help you get back on the track to feeling healthy and vibrant again.  

Tags:  bioidentical hormones  hormone replacement 

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