Many pharmacies and menopause centres claim to be using ‘natural’ or ‘bio-identical’ hormone replacement therapy. But is it any better, safer or even a good option to begin with?
The first claim that these hormones are natural is not correct. They are made from natural herbal substances - but this does not make them natural. Women are misled by the claim, thinking that it's like taking a herbal remedy... This is not true.
They are still synthesised in a laboratory and do not resemble the original herb in any way. They do not miraculously turn into hormones. They have now become hormones that have been synthesised. So they are not natural.
The second claim that they are bio-identical can be disputed as well, due to the fact that the body has not made these hormones. Hormones are complex structures. Often when a substance is synthesised, it may look identical, but it's the inverse form; and it has inverse properties. Therefore it may not have the same action in the body since it's recognised as different.
Many women are sold this form of HRT, thinking that it’s a natural option for their body and that it's personally prescribed for their needs. The issue with this is that hormones constantly change. It's impossible to have a personalised prescription unless the saliva is tested daily, and the correct dose is administered hourly. So it may have been the right prescription at the time of testing, but not necessarily at the time of use.
As soon as you administer the hormones, the body adjusts its own production downwards, making the dose incorrect. Hormones and the endocrine system are extremely dynamic and change hourly. Providing the body with any hormone from an external source causes the body to stop producing this hormone itself.
This means the actual deficiency is only compounded in the body; and eventually, if you look to come off these hormones, your body is in a worse state than it began.
That's hardly a reaction of a natural substance! Natural substances cause the body to regulate itself. Herbal medicines are adaptogenic - which means they signal the body to make the adjustments itself. It's a very different way of treating the problem. 'Natural' or bio-identical hormones force the body to react in a certain way, which is the effect of a drug.
Are bio-identical hormones any better than normal HRT?
Not really. There is no evidence to suggest these forms of hormone therapy are any safer or more effective in managing symptoms than normal HRT.
In fact, expensive Bio-identical hormones have become big business; with medical centres specialising in this form of treatment. They are advertising for miraculous benefits when the realities are not so dramatic, and the long-term effects are rarely being discussed with patients.
The real issue lies in the fact that you cannot balance a hormonal imbalance with hormones.
It’s impossible... because your own hormone production and hormonal balance are compromised when you ingest or absorb an external hormone. This leaves your endocrine imbalance further compromised - leading to issues of weight gain, thyroid deficiency, adrenal deficiency, fatigue, irritability, moodiness, sleep disorders, and so on.
What are the silent side effects of taking bio-identical hormones or HRT?
The dangers of taking HRT are well established; however, the side-effects run deeper than the reported issues with breast cancer and blood clots. The little-known side-effects relate to the impact on the endocrine system.
Because hormones are powerful mediators, when external hormones are introduced into the delicate balance of the endocrine system, endocrine glands such as the adrenals and thyroid are impacted. This is where other subtle symptoms develop such as weight gain, fatigue, headaches & migraines, thyroid deficiency, adrenal fatigue, foggy memory, mood swings, irritability and even depression.
Very rarely are these side-effects discussed, let alone linked to the hormonal therapy.
So is there a better way?
Really the only holistic way to deal with perimenopause and menopause is to encourage the body to find its own balance and produce the right amount of hormones at the right time of your cycle (menopausal women still have a hormonal cycle).
Hormones fluctuate by the hour and no amount of testing will show this. Even saliva testing (see this article) only picks up fluctuations every second day.
Your hormones shift throughout the day, and even change when you sleep. Blanket hormone prescriptions, even so-called personalised ones, just don’t take into consideration this basic physiological fact.
The way to deal with this natural process of perimenopause and menopause is to balance the hormone control centre in your brain. And this can only be done with 3 known herbal medicines:
- Cimicifuga racemosa
- Salvia officinalis
- Vitex agnus castus
These 3 herbs in combination work on the hypothalamic/pituitary axis, which is our body's control centre for hormones.
This is where all our sex hormones are regulated; and by using these herbs in the right combination, they address the imbalances. Not by providing hormones for the body but encouraging this centre to balance itself.
There is no risk of elevated oestrogen or progesterone. The body naturally balances the level of these hormones in the right ratios for your time of life. It sounds very simple, and it is. And it works.
Our Western diet and lifestyle, along with overuse of synthetic hormones over many years have led to an epidemic of perimenopause and menopausal symptoms, with women suffering as a result.
HRT may be a quick fix, but it comes with consequences. The option of so-called natural or bio-identical options is just misleading and does not deal with the underlying issues at hand.
It is possible to effectively treat these conditions with real, natural options that work with the body, rather than forcing the body. In the end, it's a much safer and sustainable option that works without the side effects.