Hormonal Balance
Bioidentical Hormones:  Myths and Realities

There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about
bioidentical hormones.  Bioidentical hormones have the same
chemical structure as hormones produced in the body and are
promoted as “natural” because they are often derived from
plants.   Bioidentical hormones can also be made synthetically
in a laboratory.  Any hormone can be called bioidentical, as
long as its molecular structure is the same as what occurs
naturally in the body.  

The term “bioidentical” has been misused by the popular press
and public to describe natural hormones, especially estrogen,
progesterone and testosterone that are formulated by
compounding pharmacies.  Even these “natural” products are
manipulated in a laboratory to produce the final hormone
product.  The processes used by compounding pharmacies can
alter the structure of hormones, which change the ability to be
absorbed, purity, chemical activity and even the shelf life.  
Bioidentical products that are tested, regulated and approved
by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are available but
aren’t usually promoted in this way.  

In recent statements, the Endocrine Society and American
Medical Association (AMA) have called for FDA oversight of all
hormonal therapies, regardless of chemical structure or their
source.  Experts note that bioidentical hormones have no
supporting evidence that they are safer or more effective than
traditional hormones.  There has never been a comprehensive
study to establish the safety and effectiveness of bioidentical
hormones compared to traditional hormones.  Most experts
believe that bioidentical hormone therapy carries all the same
risks as traditional hormone therapy.  Women who use
bioidentical hormones deserve accurate, scientific information
about the hormones they take.  Medical advice from celebrities
and others who are not endocrine experts should be treated
with skepticism.

In 2002, The Women’s Health Initiative hormone therapy study
was halted because of an increased risk for cardiovascular
disease and breast cancer in women that took estrogen
replacement therapy.  Almost overnight, millions of women
stopped taking estrogen replacement of all types.  Four years
later, we have seen a dramatic reduction in the incidence of
breast cancer—directly related to the decreased use of
estrogen in menopausal women.  The bottom line is that
menopause is a natural process and taking hormones, whether
bioidentical, synthetic or natural, is unnatural for menopausal
women, thus increasing the risk of other problems.  Experts
agree that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause
is indicated for the treatment of the symptoms of menopause
and is not for long term use.  If you are currently taking HRT,
you should consider reducing the dose, or you may want to  
slowly taper off with the help of your physician.  Either way,
estrogen use in menopause will not make you younger or live
longer, but may cause a serious problem like a heart attack,
stroke, blood clot or breast cancer.
Books by Dr Isaacs:

Hormonal Balance:  Understanding Hormones, Weight and
your Metabolism

The Leptin Boost Diet:  Unleash Your Fat-Controlling
Hormones for Maximum Weight Loss

Overcoming Metabolic Syndrome

A Simple Guide to Thyroid Disorders:  From Diagnosis to
Treatment