Bioidentical hormones are hormones extracted from some plants, such as soybeans and yams, that are used during menopause to reduce its effects: insomnia, hot flashes, sadness, fluid retention, memory loss… Everything that happens at this point is due to the same, to the state your body is in, because the ovaries have started to stop working and therefore the levels of the hormones they secrete have dropped sharply: estrogens and progesterone.
Before the advent of bioidentical hormones, so-called hormone replacement therapy, which consists of supplying the body with estrogen and progesterone, was and is still used today. The point is that this hormone replacement therapy comes with risks; They are not high, but women who use it are more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, a blood clot in the lower limbs that can lead to lung or breast cancer.
To avoid these risks, the production of bioidentical hormones began. They are said by the companies that market them to be natural. The problem, however, is that this is not entirely true, since the compound, which is extracted from the plant, from soybeans or yams, has to be chemically modified in order to have a therapeutic effect. But it is true that they have been used as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy. They are administered orally, in tablets, in a gel that is applied to the skin, or in subcutaneous implants that release the dose prescribed by the patient’s doctor.
But bioidentical hormones have critics. For example the Mayo Clinic, one of the most reputable medical research centers in the United States, has conducted various researches ensuring that there is no scientific evidence that they are any better than hormone replacement therapy. Moreover, according to the center, the fact that they are manufactured as master formulas in pharmacies means that their quality standards do not match those that hormones marketed as estrogen or progesterone tablets have to pass. Their reports also cast doubt on the effectiveness of so-called personalization of bioidentical hormone treatment. This is done using a test that measures the amount of estrogen in the patient’s saliva, and from there it is decided how much to give the patient. But the determination of estrogens in saliva is not conclusive nor does it reflect actual circulating estrogens. Also, a middle-aged woman’s estrogen levels are very volatile during menopause, so this amount can change each day and at different times.
There is one more thing you should know, and this also applies to hormone replacement therapy: when it is used, there are patients who develop side effects. It’s not very common and usually only occurs once you start taking the drug, but facial hair, swelling in the hands and abdomen, fatigue, and even mood swings can occur. It is also true that this usually only lasts for a few days and then disappears.
Carmen Calatayud Lliso She is a Medical Expert in Assisted Reproduction, Co-Director of the CREA Center for Assisted Reproduction.
Question emailed by Inma Sanz
Coordination and editing: victory bull
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The advice in this office is of a general nature and does not replace medical advice. If you have any questions about your specific problem, ask your doctor or pharmacist.