Bioidentical Hormones vs Traditional HRT: Which is right for you?
As women, we battle against our hormones for most of our lives – starting from our teenage years right through to older age. If you’re going through menopause or perimenopause, you may have experienced hot flushes, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia or other symptoms that can leave you feeling not quite yourself.
Menopause is a big transition in our lives, signalling the end of one era and the beginning of the next. One of the beauties of menopause is that it’s your own, and your experience will be different from everyone else’s. You may experience specific symptoms, issues and sometimes complications. Or you may not. For some women, it takes over their lives, while others simply sail through it.
If hormonal changes are troubling you, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Many women experience disruptive hormonal symptoms at some point in their life. You don’t have to live with the effects; both traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can significantly reduce discomfort and restore well-being. But what is the difference between them, and how can you decide which treatment is right for you? By exploring both treatment avenues, you can gain a better understanding of your options and embrace a healthier, happier menopause.
Bioidentical Hormones vs HRT – What’s the Difference?
The body’s natural hormone production gradually decreases with age and may be affected by a variety of health and lifestyle conditions. Hormone replacement therapy works to counteract these changes by replenishing the supply of critical hormones. However, there are different forms of hormone therapy available, and they do have their differences.
Traditional HRT has been widely available for many years and uses synthetic and animal-derived hormones that closely mimic their human counterparts. Therefore, they can be used by the body in much the same way. On the other hand, the bioidentical hormones used in BHRT are derived from naturally occurring plant molecules, such as yams and soy, and are chemically identical to human hormones. Because they’re an exact match, your body reacts to them as it would your own hormones.
Bioidentical hormone prescriptions are personalised for each patient, and it’s essential for a practitioner to initially assess a patient’s medical history and symptoms as well as action a blood test. They can then prescribe a treatment plan and monitor a patient’s progress, along with regular follow-up tests.
What’s the right treatment for me?
Many women initially delay discussing their treatment options with a doctor as they feel that they’re wasting their time and should wait until their symptoms are overwhelming. This isn’t the case as hormone therapy, whichever option you choose, will help even if you have only mild symptoms. As well, there is increasing evidence that the earlier hormone therapy is started, the more protection you’ll gain from osteoporosis and heart disease.
The decision of which type of hormone therapy to use is a very personal choice, and one that you should thoughtfully consider and discuss in depth with your doctor before initiating treatment. Currently, most women take traditional HRT, which is widely available on the NHS and has been proven to effectively address a broad range of hormonal symptoms by mimicking natural hormone effects. Traditional HRT does not provide complete symptom relief for all patients and may carry unwanted side effects, including bloating, stomach cramps, nausea and headaches.
Evidence suggests that bioidentical hormones may be less likely to cause side effects compared to their traditional counterparts while providing similar or superior symptom relief. The reason for this isn’t fully understood, but some consider that it may be due to improved biocompatibility owing to the exact chemical match between bioidentical hormones and the body’s natural hormones.
As well, traditional hormones are typically available only in a limited range of standardised doses. BHRT, on the other hand, is fully customised to the needs of each patient based on their symptoms and blood test results. Due to this, BHRT provides precisely the amount of hormones each person requires, which may lead to better symptom relief without excess side effects.
Taking the next step
Many women feel confused about the different types of hormone therapy and also about the associated benefits and risks. HRT is much safer than most people realise, but your practitioner must consider your individual health when discussing your options. There is no set time for taking HRT. Some women take it for a few years to improve their symptoms, while other women decide to take it for much longer. The length of time you choose to undergo treatment is usually an individual decision between you and your doctor.
If you’re keen to find out more about bioidentical hormones vs HRT or would like to initiate treatment, it’s crucial to find the right practitioner. A doctor with in-depth knowledge of both traditional HRT and BHRT will be able to answer any questions you may have and give you insights into your options based on your individual symptoms and concerns so you can determine a course of action which is right for you.
Hormonal changes are inevitable with time, but these days there are so many options available to address unwanted symptoms. With the right hormone replacement therapy and the support of a caring practitioner, you can take control and recapture the balance in your life to positively thrive once again.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.