Why More Women than Ever Are Turning to Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
More and more women today are choosing compounded bioidentical hormone therapy (CBHT) over regular hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Here, we’ll discuss the results of one study which incorporated interviews and focus group feedback from a group of 21 women who have used CBHT to ease menopause-related symptoms.
What is compounded bioidentical hormone therapy?
Bioidentical hormones have the same makeup of endogenous hormones, and behave the same way in the body, but are derived from diosgenin, a molecule found in yam and soy.
Bioidentical hormones are prescribed through regular pharmacies or compounding pharmacies. Compounding pharmacies create customized prescriptions based on the unique needs of patients.
Since each compound is different, the resulting prescription cannot be FDA-approved, but all hormones stem from FDA-approved sources.
Compounding pharmacies must remain in compliance with the State Board of Pharmacy in that region.
Compounded bioidentical hormone therapy (CBHT) refers to hormone prescriptions that are created in compounding pharmacies.
It is offered to women in various formats including creams, capsules, and lozenges. Many use estriol or a combination of bioidentical estrogens.
When prescribed properly, BHRT offers improved well-being, relief from disruptive menopausal symptoms, and may even offer anti-aging benefits.
Why Women Choose CBHT
Here are a few reasons that the women in the study opted for compounded bioidentical hormone therapy.
Fears About the Safety of Regular Hormone Replacement Therapy
The Women’s Health Initiative Trial (2002) was what started making people fearful of HRT as the hormones used in that study were linked to breast cancer and heart attacks. Since then, the study has been denounced as misleading.
Part of the problem with this is that the study used an estrogen-progestin combination which was not bioidentical, and that it was the progestin that was the problem.
(Read more about the safety of BHRT here.)
Still, women have legitimate concerns regarding the possible risk of cancer, especially if they are aware that they may be in a high-risk category for developing the disease already, as one person in the study claimed.
Warnings on FDA-approved hormone products which also would serve to make people fearful. Notably, most instances of breast cancer occur in women that have not taken HRT in any form.
They Feel that a Natural (Plant-Derived) Product is a Safer Alternative, but Had Little Success with Herbal Supplements
Some of the women in the study explained that they felt better taking something that was naturally sourced from plants, rather than from animals (traditional HRT sometimes uses molecules from horse urine, amongst other animal sources) or synthetic hormones.
Several of the women in the study also mentioned that they had tried herbal supplements (eg: soy, red clover, and/or black cohosh), but did feel that they were effective in relieving their symptoms.
Women Had Grown to Distrust Conventional Medicine
Women in this study reported feeling “misled” by the pharmaceutical industry, in part because it has advertised these kinds of therapies in the name of youth and health, rather than a need to relieve physical and emotional symptoms of menopause.
This in combination with the mixed messages of safety has led to a general distaste, if not outright avoidance, of most conventional medical approaches to menopause treatment.
Some also claimed that the system is too “interventionist,” relying too much on quick fixes, as well as dismissive of women.
Overall the women didn’t feel that doctors were able to give them the time and attention needed to focus on finding solutions to meet their unique health goals.
They Feel That Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Therapy Is More Effective than Other Options
Many of the women surveyed expressed their satisfaction that CBHT worked quickly and effectively for menopause-related symptoms such as:
- Hot flashes
- Bladder control
- Night sweats
More than 75% of the women in this study claimed that this treatment is effective where “…lifestyle approaches, herbal remedies, and sometimes other pharmaceuticals fell short.” (Thompson et al)
One participant claimed that both the soy and regular HT caused her to feel ill and that they had trouble finding alternatives until a naturopath was able to create a compounded option for her.
“Without [the compounded bioidentical hormone therapy], I think I’d be dead. I mean, I’m not kidding. I really don’t think I’d be alive. I think I’ve become so psycho from not sleeping, my brain might’ve exploded, or I might have thrown myself in front of a truck, I don’t know.” (Thompson et al)
Another participant was feeling anxiety and depression, as well as other symptoms, and claims that she felt better immediately after getting CBHT from a naturopath.
Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Therapy Necessitates Individualized Treatment
CBHT is prescribed in accordance with each person’s preferences, needs, and health goals. To understand what each patient needs, detailed discussions are required.
This focus on tailored prescriptions offers each woman a more precisely matched solution than standardized prescriptions would.
This individualized treatment approach is more fine-tuned to women’s needs and preferences than the alternatives. It also provided a more positive experience overall with healthcare professionals, and compounding pharmacists.
The women felt that medical staff were more willing to listen to them, ask the right questions, and work together to identify treatment goals, leading to a greater feeling of trust. They felt that the doctors were “personally invested in their well-being.”
Learn More About the Benefits of BHRT
The results of the study above are promising, and this is just one small subset of women who have reaped the benefits of compounded bioidentical hormone therapy.
It’s clear that women appreciate having alternatives to traditional (regular) HRT.
And perhaps the most important conclusion of the study is that it highlights the importance of shared decision-making which is necessary to ensure that women are able to meet their own unique health and wellness goals.
Physicians and other health providers should keep the topic on the table, and learn how to prescribe compounded bioidentical hormone therapy as an option to patients who may be experiencing similar concerns as the women in this study.
To learn more about prescribing BHRT, schedule a free strategy call.
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