BOSTON, MA — The growing interest in a more natural approach to
hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms has focused attention on
bioidentical hormones. Bioidentical hormones are identical in molecular
structure to the hormones women make in their bodies. Are these
"natural" hormones safer or more effective than traditional hormone
medications? The August issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch explains.
hormone therapy is often called "natural hormone therapy" because
bioidentical hormones act in the body just like the hormones women
produce. However, they're not found in nature in this form, but are
synthesized from a plant chemical extracted from yams and soy. Many
non-bioidentical hormones also come from "natural" plant or animal
Another source of confusion
comes from the mistaken notion that bioidentical hormones must be
custom-mixed at a compounding pharmacy. That's not the case. These
hormones come in a range of products, including many FDA-approved
prescription pills, patches, creams, and other preparations. Custom
compounding is necessary only when a clinician wants to prescribe
hormones in combinations, doses, or preparations not routinely
available—or to order hormones not approved for women, such as
testosterone and DHEA. Compounding pharmacies use some of the same
ingredients that are made into FDA-approved products, but their
products are not FDA-approved or regulated.
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