Many women assume that “natural” hormones would be better or safer -- but the term “natural” is open to interpretation. Any product whose principal ingredient has an animal, plant, or mineral source is technically natural. It doesn’t matter whether the substance is ground, put into capsules, and sold over the counter -- or extracted in a laboratory, manufactured by a pharmaceutical company, and made available only by prescription.
9 REASONS TO AVOID BIO-IDENTICAL HORMONES
1. Bio-identical Hormone Therapy Causes Cancer
"To say it's bio-identical doesn't mean it's safe," Dr. Richard Boroditsky, a professor at the University of Manitoba's department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences.
To avoid the risk of uterine cancer most women taking estrogen also need to take progesterone, he says. While most bio-identical therapies use progesterone creams, Dr. Boroditsky says women can't be sure of the levels of hormones they're absorbing.
"We've known this for years - that if woman takes un-opposed estrogen, she increases her risk eight to 10 times over the normal chances of developing cancer of the uterus," he says.
2. Bio-identical Hormones Are NOT Bio-Identical At All
The interest in a more natural approach to hormone therapy has focused attention on bioidentical hormones -- hormones that are identical in molecular structure to the hormones women make in their bodies. They’re not found in this form in nature but are made, or synthesized, from a plant chemical extracted from yams and soy. Bioidentical estrogens are 17 beta-estradiol, estrone, and estriol. (Estradiol is the form of estrogen that decreases at menopause.) Bioidentical progesterone is simply progesterone. It’s micronized (finely ground) in the laboratory for better absorption in the body.
3. So-called bio-identical hormones are delivered in ways that are totally unnatural.
Our bodies produce hormones as they are needed, using a complex feedback system that involves the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and other structures that carefully regulate their production, secretion and ultimate destruction.
Hormone replacement therapies attempt to sidestep this delicate balancing system. While this therapy can relieve some symptoms, it is not natural or bio-identical. It is a drug therapy or allopathic, symptomatic approach to healing.
4. Bio-identical hormone replacement seriously upsets the delicate hormone feedback systems in the body.
This is especially true of the steroid hormones (DHEA, pregnenolone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisone, androsterone and testosterone). However, it is true of taking thyroid hormone replacement, insulin replacement and others as well. Testosterone therapy is one of the least harmful in this respect.
In other words, hormone replacement, including bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, may do more harm than good by upsetting the delicate feedback mechanisms of the body that are designed to regulate hormone production.
Giving one hormone always affects others, and may affect many areas of physical functioning. The feedback system is quite complex and not well understood. It is difficult, if not impossible, to adequately monitor the system to know how much one needs on a daily or hourly basis.
5. Hormone therapy rarely addresses the root causes of illness.
Instead, it mainly treats symptoms. Causes of hormone imbalances include nutrient deficiencies, toxic metal excesses, toxic chemicals and the effects of radiation, emotional imbalances and stress from other causes. The only time hormone replacement addresses a root cause is when the gland that produces the hormone has been surgically removed or is so damaged so that it cannot function.
Menopause. In the case of menopause, it is true that the ovaries stop or drastically reduce their hormone secretion. However, in most cases, the body handles this change of life very well. In other words, menopause should not be a disease that requires treatment. This applies to surgically-caused menopause (removal of the ovaries) as well as that which occurs with age.
Millions of women do fine without hormone replacement at menopause. If symptoms arise such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness or others, in all cases her adrenal glands and perhaps thyroid are not functioning well. As health improves on a nutritional balancing program, the symptoms usually vanish without the need for hormone replacement.
6. Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy often masks underlying problems.
As with all symptomatic therapies, natural hormone replacement may give relief from some symptoms. However, underlying problems such as heavy metal toxicity, nutrient deficiencies or chemical toxicity continue unrecognized and unaddressed. This often leads to more serious illness in the future.
7. Even so-called bio-identical hormones are toxic.
This is most evident with insulin. Every physician is familiar with the care that must be used in administering insulin, even though modern insulin is technically a bio-identical hormone. Too much or too little can cause a fatal reaction. Estrogens, cortisol, cortisone, progesterone, DHEA, pregnenelone and the others are all powerful substances that all have toxic effects when not produced inside the body in just the right quantity at just the right time.
8. One cannot provide the correct dosage of replacement hormones.
The body’s natural hormone secretion varies every minute of every day and night. It depends on hundreds of factors such as lifestyle, diet, mental attitude, stressors, illnesses and many others. This is impossible to duplicate with hormone replacement therapy of any kind.
Replacement therapy substitutes a rigid and strict routine for the delicate balancing act the body performs all day with its hormone secretion. This will eventually upset the body severely.
9. A hormone's metabolic effect is what is most important, not its serum, urine or saliva level. However, serum, urine or saliva are how hormone levels are usually measured.
This is particularly a problem with thyroid and adrenal hormone monitoring. The metabolic effects of hormones are extremely complex and hard to measure. They often depends less upon the level of circulating hormone and more on how much enters the cells and is metabolized properly within the cells. For this reason, cellular tests such as hair mineral testing often reveal a very different picture than blood, urine and saliva tests that measure circulating hormone levels.
7 MYTHS OF BIO-IDENTICAL HORMOME THERAPY
1. Bio-identical hormone therapy is a natural or naturopathic therapy. No! It is an allopathic and symptomatic approach. Just because some naturopaths offer hormone replacement therapy does not make it a natural therapy. No hormone replacement therapy is ever natural because hormones are supposed to be produced within the body. The only natural approach to hormone correction is to rebuild the organ or gland that produces the hormones. This can be done in over 90% of the cases using nutritional balancing and exercise science.
2. Hormone replacement is just like taking vitamins, minerals or other substances needed by the body. Absolutely not! Hormones are supposed to be produced inside the body, in complex combinations, and in quantities that vary every minute of the day and night.
In contrast, vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals are supposed to be obtained from outside of the body from our food, water or other supplements. Most can be stored, and they can be ingested in rough quantities at mealtimes, with no harm at all to the body. The body has complex buffering systems that protect one from ingesting too much calcium at a meal, for example. This is not true of hormones and it makes hormone therapy intrinsically far more toxic and dangerous.
This is an extremely important difference between supplements of vitamins and mineral therapy versus hormone therapy.
3. Once a person’s hormone levels have become low due to age, toxicity, disease or for other reasons, one must take replacement hormones to restore normal body functioning.
This is not true. A well-versed naturopathic physician in natural hormone restoration should be able to assist you in this process.
4. Bio-identical hormones are the same as those produced within the body.
This is not true, and the reasons are explained in the section of this article above.
5. Bio-identical hormones are non-toxic.
This has been discussed above. All hormones are toxic substances to a degree.
6. Hormone replacement schedules can mimic the body’s own production of hormones.
This is never true because the body changes the level of its hormones minute by minute, and this can never be duplicated with pills, patches or shots or any other manmade delivery system.
7. Blood, urine and saliva tests are accurate to assess how much replacement hormone is needed at any time.
Simply not true. What matters is the effect of the hormones, rather than the level of circulating hormones.
For example, many patients have normal serum thyroid tests. However, they suffer all the symptoms of hypothyroidism and benefit greatly from a program to improve thyroid activity such as the use of kelp and other products, along with diet and lifestyle correction. This is the most common example of the failure of blood and other tests to assess hormone activity. However, many others could be cited.
There are some situations when hormone replacement therapy is needed to prevent death. For example, as mentioned above, type I and II diabetics in the acute phase will require insulin until health is restored. But relying on insulin in sub-acute and chronic phases of the condition is only further suppressing healing and prolonging illness. Other conditions includes treatment for surgically or removed glands and organs.
Not withstanding these very few exceptions, bio-identical hormone therapy or hormone therapy in general is a very dangerous treatment for the human body to endure and should be avoided whenever possible. Nutritional balancing and the appropriate exercise regimen can restore an extremely high percentage of hormone imbalances and a patient need only do their own research and speak to multiple experts in natural medicine to confirm this assertion.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.