Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is a type of therapy that uses hormones that are identical to and compatible with those produced by the human body. Many people think that using hormone therapies like BHRT can produce unpleasant side effects, however, experts and doctors trained in BHRT can help you effectively manage and/or eliminate these side effects.
Here’s the truth behind the side effects of bioidentical hormones and where to find safe, effective hormone replacement therapies in Miami.
Are Bioidentical Hormones Safe?
Yes, bioidentical hormones are completely safe, as long as they are being administered or prescribed to you by a board-certified, licensed medical doctor—preferably one who specializes in hormone therapy.
Bioidentical hormones are derived from natural, plant-based sources and found to mimic the hormones naturally produced by the human body. Bioidentical hormones are more compatible with the human body, unlike many conventional forms of HRT that are derived from equine hormones and made in labs using a range of synthetic ingredients. When used as prescribed by your doctor, bioidentical hormones are safe and highly effective at raising and balancing your body’s hormone levels as needed.
Some prescription forms of bioidentical hormones are manufactured by drug companies and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA-approved forms of bioidentical hormones are available in standardized doses, which means that everyone who uses these forms of BHRT receives the same amount of hormones. Other forms of BHRT are custom-made for each individual patient by pharmacists who receive orders from doctors—a method known as compounding.
The compounded forms of BHRT are not approved by the FDA, but only because they are customized for each patient and not standardized like conventional forms of HRT. Since compounding is individualized, the FDA is unable to evaluate each individual formulation of BHRT, which is why compounded BHRT isn’t FDA-approved. This has led many patients and healthcare consumers to falsely believe that BHRT may not be their safest option.
What are Common Side Effects of Bioidentical Hormones?
Any side effects reported with BHRT can be avoided and prevented as long as you work closely with a hormone expert. They can discuss with you any concerns about BHRT, evaluate your symptoms, and change your BHRT formula as needed to prevent you from experiencing side effects.
In a study published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding, researchers conducted a 6-week survey that determined whether compounded BHRT was well-tolerated and effective at relieving menopause symptoms. Researchers also compared the symptom relief and tolerability of BHRT compared to that of conventional HRT. Nearly 58% of women in the study reported fewer side effects with BHRT than with conventional HRT, while nearly 72% reported experiencing better relief from menopausal symptoms with BHRT than with conventional HRT.
Before starting BHRT, between 52% and 70% of women in the study who had used conventional HRT reported suffering moderate to severe symptoms of vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, mood swings, foggy thinking, and low sexual libido. After starting BHRT, the women reported that their symptoms decreased in severity and frequency. By the end of the study, side effects were reported by only 4% to 20% of these women.
The most common side effects of weight gain, breast tenderness, and bloating were found more prevalent with conventional HRT than with BHRT. Weight gain affected 56.2% of women using conventional HRT—a percentage that fell to only 37.2% after women began BHRT. Breast tenderness was reported in 54.5% of women using conventional HRT, which decreased to 19.2% after starting BHRT. Lastly, bloating affected 40% of women using conventional HRT, which decreased to 23.1% after starting BHRT.
Does Conventional Hormone Replacement Therapy Produce Side Effects?
Conventional forms of HRT have been linked to a wide range of side effects—some of which are symptomatic in nature and others that are serious chronic diseases. Stroke, heart attack, and cancers of the breast, endometrium, and ovaries are some of the more serious side effects that have been linked to the use of conventional HRT in women. Blood clots, gallbladder disease, liver disease, and an increased risk for dementia are also proven side effects of conventional HRT.
Other side effects linked to the use of conventional HRT include:
- Breast tenderness or pain
- Vaginal spotting
- Hair loss
- High blood pressure
- Fluid retention
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle spasms
- Neck pain
- Throat pain
- Changes to weight and appetite
- Reduced sex drive
- Vaginal yeast infection
- Severe allergic reactions
- Vision loss
- Severe depression
That said, using HRT doesn’t guarantee that you will experience negative side effects—many people are able to benefit from HRT and BHRT with little to no consequences. Additionally, if you do experience side effects, working closely with a hormone expert can help to prevent and minimize these effects.
Conventional HRT continues to be widely used today and is still a viable option for men and women who need higher levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Before choosing conventional HRT, consult with your doctor about the pros and cons of this hormone therapy to determine whether this treatment is right for you.
What are Bioidentical Estrogen Side Effects?
Several medical studies show that bioidentical hormones containing estrogen, or estriol, produce fewer, milder side effects than those produced by conventional estrogen HRT. Compounded estrogen BHRT may produce fewer side effects than FDA-approved BHRT because compounded BHRT formulations are customized to deliver the exact needed amount of estrogen.
In comparison, FDA-approved BHRT is standardized and may deliver higher amounts of estrogen that can increase the risk for breast cancer, mood swings, bloating and weight gain, and many of the same side effects produced by conventional HRT.
What are Bioidentical Progesterone Side Effects?
Progesterone is commonly combined with estrogen in most forms of BHRT and conventional HRT for women. Bioidentical progesterone won’t produce any side effects as long as you receive BHRT from a hormone specialist.
If you experience weight gain, breast tenderness, or bloating when using bioidentical progesterone, inform your hormone doctor immediately. Your hormone doctor can perform an evaluation and change your BHRT progesterone formula so you can stop experiencing these side effects.
What are Bioidentical Testosterone Side Effects?
Just like BHRT for women, compounded bioidentical testosterone replacement therapy for men may produce fewer side effects than conventional HRT and standardized forms of BHRT approved by the FDA. Common side effects of conventional testosterone therapy include prostate cancer, liver toxicity, and tumors, development of breast tissue, infertility, skin diseases, and worsening symptoms of sleep apnea and congestive heart failure. Additional side effects may include acne, depression, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and other lesser side effects.
Does Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy Help with Weight Loss?
Yes, BHRT can regulate your hormones to help you lose excess weight—including that in your abdominal region. Working closely with your doctor and scheduling regular appointments will allow your doctor to modify your BHRT prescription or treatment as needed to help with weight loss. Practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors such as exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of quality sleep can also enhance the effects of BHRT and promote weight loss.
How Can I Prevent and Minimize Side Effects of BHRT?
The best way to avoid any side effects of BHRT is to work with a hormone expert who specializes in BHRT. A hormone doctor can work with you one-on-one to make sure your hormone therapy is producing positive results; these results will help you feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally. HealthGAINS only uses BHRT to avoid the risks and side effects associated with the use of conventional HRT. Our hormone experts are ready to customize your BHRT so you can benefit from a greater quality of life and fewer health problems associated with hormone imbalances.
HealthGAINS is located in beautiful, sunny Aventura just outside the heart of Miami. Many of our patients fly in from around the world to benefit from our many hormone treatments, including bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Request a free consultation with a Wellness Advisor at HealthGAINS or call us at (305) 912-8828 to learn more about BHRT or potential bioidentical hormone replacement therapy side effects.