What is Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy: A Clarification
When we speak of natural hormone replacement therapy, or NHRT, you may likely imagine herbs, herbal supplements and alternative medicines that you can buy from your local health food store. Not many people are convinced of the beneficial effects of such natural products because they are not backed by substantial research. So chances are, you are also repelled by them. Yes, there are progesterone and phytoestrogen preparations that are classified as natural because they are plant-based. These are over-the-counter products which you can readily buy from health food stores. These are not the natural HRT we are talking about here. Rather, let’s specifically talk about the bioidentical hormones, or BHRT preparations, and what their proponents think of it.
Hormone Sources and Forms of Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy
BHRT involves the use of hormones that are molecularly identical with the hormones naturally produced by the human body to replenish those which have been depleted due to aging. They can be synthetic or nonsynthetic substances which are extracted from various plant and animal sources, like yams, soy, horses, and pigs, and are then altered to make them resemble the endogenous hormones. Some of the particular hormones used in natural HRT are estradiol, estrone, progesterone, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone, and estriol. Some of them have limited availability and approval in the United States and other countries.
Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy: Are Studies Really Lacking?
The number one stumbling block for NHRT from gaining acceptance from the general public and many physicians is the reported lack of long-term studies. However, this really is not true as there are sufficient studies to support the use of natural or bioidentical hormones. Adverse events associated with synthetic hormones are sometimes not seen with the use of natural hormone replacement therapy. There have been a few European studies though that demonstrate the better safety profile of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy as compared to synthetic hormones.
Advocates of the natural HRT assert that there is not much interest among pharmaceutical companies to make further research on BHRT because the financial benefit for them is not substantial since it cannot be patented. Drug manufacturers cannot apply a patent for them, giving them no financial motivation to fund research, production and distribution for such HRT preparation. They get drawn to developing synthetic hormones that can be patented and are thus, more financially promising.
There is still room for logic when it comes to the discussion of synthetic hormones versus bioidentical hormones. It seems unlikely that something that the body naturally makes would cause more problems than something “foreign” (synthetic hormones) to the body. Therefore, women already receiving synthetic hormones should feel comfortable in considering bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
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