Synthetic vs. Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) uses bioidentical hormones derived from natural sources and compounded to be an exact structural match to the hormones inside the human body.
Synthetic hormones are often derived from animals and combined with chemicals to create a hormone therapy that is similar, but not exactly like human hormones.
The natural ingredients combined with the molecular match allows bioidentical hormones to fit into human hormone receptors exactly as naturally-occurring hormones. This feature ensures the safety and efficacy of the treatment. With synthetic hormones, the molecular structure is merely similar, causing the body to struggle with recognition of the substance and, therefore, causing side effects and poor outcomes.
In the past, most research into hormone therapy focused on synthetic hormones, but as the effectiveness of bioidentical hormone therapy has become renowned, researchers are turning their attention to BHRT. Bioidentical hormones have been heralded as a natural hormone therapy option and are effective for disease prevention as well as eliminating uncomfortable symptoms that often occur as part of the aging process.
Most famously, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) suggested that hormone therapy was dangerous. At the time, this was the largest-ever study on hormone therapy. It was designed to compare the efficacy of estrogen-only therapy and a combination of progesterone and estrogen therapies. For the study, researchers used synthetic hormones and many of the participants were of advanced age and higher risk of disease before the study began. These factors led many experts to review the study and uncover flaws in the methodologies used. These reviews have led large medical organizations, experts, and communities to revise previous policies against the use of hormone therapy. Today, the known benefits of hormone replacement therapy are numerous and it is believed to be the best treatment option for hormone imbalance and prevention of disease.
New research has also linked the use of bioidentical hormone therapy to better outcomes, finding that patients have fewer side effects along with enhanced benefits.