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Bioidentical hormones are made in
a laboratory. They are based on compounds found in plants (usually soybeans or
After the plant-based hormone is
processed, its structure is said to be identical to the
androgen hormone your body makes. (Well-designed
studies have yet to prove this theory.footnote 1) A compounding
pharmacist can offer you a custom-made formulation in one of many forms. You might get a capsule, a skin cream or gel, a tablet to dissolve under your tongue,
a suppository, or a nose spray. Some commonly prescribed estrogens and
progesterones are bioidenticals, such as Estrace (estradiol). There's a major difference between custom-made formulations and commercial products. Commercial products are
regulated and tested for purity and potency, but compounding pharmacies are not.footnote 2
Just like synthetic hormone therapy, bioidentical hormones
are prescribed to increase or stabilize a woman's hormone levels.
This is most often done during perimenopause, when hormone levels change
unpredictably. It's also done after menopause, when the hormones drop to low levels.
The most important fact to remember about taking bioidentical hormones is that the risks are not yet well understood. They may have the same breast cancer, stroke, blood clot, heart disease, and dementia risks that synthetic hormone therapy has.footnote 1
North American Menopause Society (2010). Estrogen and progestogen use in postmenopausal women: 2010 position statement of the North American Menopause Society. Menopause, 17(2): 242–255. Also available online: http://www.menopause.org/PSht10.pdf.
Fritz MA, Speroff L (2011). Postmenopausal hormone therapy. In Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 8th ed., pp. 749–857. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerCarla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
Current as ofFebruary 25, 2016
Current as of:
February 25, 2016
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
& Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
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