With the release of Suzanne Somers’s new book, I’m Too Young for This!: The Natural Hormone Solution to Enjoy Perimenopause, the subject of bioidentical hormone therapy replacement is once again back in the news.
Somers has been a leading voice for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) for women for more than a decade, authoring more than 15 books on the subject, founding Forever Health (www.foreverhealth.com), and doing countless media appearances. Her visibility has brought the issue to the forefront of the national consciousness, but there’s still widespread misunderstanding about the benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and how it differs from traditional hormone replacement therapy, or HRT.
There are several important differences between bioidentical hormone replacement and HRT, beginning with the hormones themselves. Bioidentical hormones are exact molecular duplicates of the hormones made by the human body. In contrast, traditional HRT uses analogues, or hormones that are biologically active but not exact duplicates. Often referred to as “synthetic” hormones, the most common of these is estrogen derived from the urine of a pregnant mare. Bioidentical hormones are indistinguishable from your own natural hormones.
Bioidentical hormones are also typically administered in a more precise, more personalized way. A properly designed bioidentical hormone replacement program begins with careful blood and saliva testing to determine the levels of all your hormones, including the three forms of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, and others. Based on these test results, a qualified BHRT doctor will prescribe exact doses of bioidentical hormones to rebalance and replenish your hormone levels. The goal is to restore your hormone levels to those of your twenties and thirties.
The benefits of bioidentical hormone therapy can be profound and include:
- Increased energy levels
- Increased muscle tone and mass
- Increased libido and sex drive
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes
- Improved memory and cognitive function
- For women, reduced symptoms of perimenopause and menopause
- Improved mood
- Better sleep
It’s important to understand, however, that bioidentical hormones are not a magic cure-all. If given at inappropriate levels, they can have side effects, just as any medication. Also, their benefits only last as long as you’re on the therapy—when you quit a hormone-balancing program, your hormone levels will gradually drift back out of balance again and symptoms of hormone balance can reappear.