As everyone ages, our hormones like testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, will decrease. When these levels drop, women can experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. But did you know that a drop in hormones can contribute to fatigue, depression, insomnia, low sex drive, poor memory and even weight gain? Men as well can suffer when testosterone drops and experience low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, fatigue and low mood. Women, and now men (I’m sure you’ve heard those testosterone commercials), are “getting their life back” by going on hormones.
What are Bioidentical and Synthetic Hormones? A big difference between bioidentical and synthetic hormones are where they come from. Synthetic hormones are made from the urine from a pregnant horse while bioidentical hormones come from plant sources – soy and wild yam. Bioidentical hormones are an exact chemical match to hormones that naturally occur in the body.
Are Hormones Safe? Not all hormones are created equal. A large study called The Women’s Health Initiative was done to see if hormone replacement therapy prevented breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and heart disease in postmenopausal women. Unfortunately, the study was ended early because researchers found that taking synthetic versions of estrogen plus progesterone actually increased a woman’s risk of heart disease and breast cancer.
Whereas studies have shown that bioidentical hormones are actually safer and more effective than synthetic hormones. But I feel that bioidentical hormones must be used in appropriate amounts and monitored regularly by an experienced health care provider. Anything in excess, can cause harm. Remember, the key is hormonal balancing, not “the more the better.”
The Bottom Line. Bioidentical hormones have a safer track record compared to synthetic hormones. However, there are no adequate long-term studies yet. So if you do elect to balance your hormones – because I do feel there’s definitely a need for these treatments – just remember to have your levels checked regularly. And keep in mind that there are multiple factors that could also contribute to low sex drive, fatigue and low mood – not simply hormones. The best treatment is a holistic approach by also focusing on stress reduction and a healthy diet and exercise routine.