Just what are bioidentical hormones?
Suzanne Somers has brought bioidentical hormones onto center stage. In her books, Ageless and The Sexy Years, and in media appearances to promote them, she describes how bioidentical hormone therapy relieved her menopause symptoms. She also makes it clear that she intends to stay on them for the rest of her life.
Bioidentical hormones are manufactured in the lab to have the same molecular structure as the hormones made by your own body. By contrast, synthetic hormones are intentionally different. Drug companies can’t patent a bioidentical structure, so they invent synthetic hormones that are patentable (Premarin, Prempro and Provera being the most widely used examples).
Though bioidentical hormones have been around for years, most practitioners are unfamiliar with them. There are several branded versions now available for use in the kind of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) typical of synthetic hormones. This is generally a one-size-fits-all dosage regime.
In our practice, we have had the greatest success with an individualized approach. We begin with laboratory tests of hormone levels (a so-called hormone panel). When warranted, we then prescribe a precise dosage of bioidentical hormones; estrogen, testosterone or DHEA are examples; that is made up at a compounding pharmacy. Each patient is then monitored carefully through regular follow-up hormone panels to ensure we get symptom relief at the lowest possible dosage. In the initial stages, we will do a hormone panel every three months. Once balance is restored, we’ll do one panel a year at the time of the annual exam.