By Doctor Seibel –
What they are, What they are not
Women everywhere are talking about bioidentical estrogens. Oprah did a show about them. Suzanne Somers wrote books about them. And women in book clubs and board rooms are hearing they have all the benefits of pharmaceutical estrogen with none of the associated risks.
But is that really true? These facts will help you answer the question.
What is bioidentical estrogen?
Like every hormone in the body, estrogen has a specific chemical structure. It looks like chicken wire made from 18 carbon atoms with one, two or three “OH” groups hanging off some of those carbon atoms. If it has one “OH” group it is called estrone or E1. If it has two “OH” groups it is called estradiol or E2. If it has three “OH” groups hanging off it is called estriol or E3. These are the three main biological estrogen molecules that a woman’s body normally makes.
How are bioidentical estrogens different from other pharmaceutical estrogen products?
Most of the estrogen molecules that are purchased in a drug store have a similar structure to one of these three biological estrogens, but they differ just a little in their chemical structure. The body thinks these molecules are close enough to what nature produces to respond to them as if they were biological. But they aren’t the same; they might be a little stronger, a little weaker, or just different. There are some estrogens purchased in traditional drug stores that are in fact
Bioidentical estrogens are exactly the same chemical structure as the biological ones the body normally makes. They are not made from plants. In fact, the only plant they come from is a chemical plant. So they are not natural. That is why the term used to describe them is bioidentical. The body cannot turn plant estrogens into human estrogens. It doesn’t have the necessary enzymes to do that.
How safe are they?
I’ll explain the answer to this question with another question: Which weighs more; a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks? Of course, they both weigh a pound so they are the same. In other words, bioidentical estrogens might be weaker than some pharmaceutical estrogens, but if they are given in equivalent dosages so a person receives an equivalent amount, the benefits and the risks should be the same. The problem is that while there are many studies with estrogen medications that are sold in traditional drugstores, there are very few safety studies on bioidentical hormones. Most doctors believe that the risk of estrogen is the same whether it is bioidentical or a different molecule if it is given in the same equivalent amount.
Is there any real advantage to bioidentical hormones?
For me, the major advantage of bioidentical hormones is that they can be measured in laboratory tests and you can know exactly how much is in your bloodstream. Other estrogens cannot be measured as exactly.
Another benefit of bioidentical estrogens is that the dose can be mixed just for you. So if your needs happen to fall between the available dosages of standard pharmaceutical estrogens, a special dosage can be compounded just for you.
Finally, bioidentical estrogens can be compounded together with bioidentical progesterone and/or testosterone or other hormones and all can be applied in one application rather than having to take more than one medication.
If you think estrogen is for you and your doctor or health care provider believes the benefits are greater than the risks for you, then consider any estrogen as a possible choice.
Many patients don’t realize that there are bioidentical estrogens available in traditional drugstores both as pills and patches and through other forms. Those formulations must all pass national standards for manufacturing. Most bioidentical estrogens are mixed in the specific drugstore you purchase them in and are not regulated as closely. I am not implying that they don’t do a great job. Almost all do. But there is a large difference in how closely they are regulated. If you prefer to apply your hormone as a cream, bioidentical hormones are an excellent choice.
I hope this information has been helpful to you. If you would like more information on menopause or many other health issues, please go to www.DoctorSeibel.com.
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Machelle Seibel, MD
It is a real pleasure to contribute a regular article to Families Online Magazine. Over the past 30 years I've had the privilege of providing care to over 10,000 women. I've helped them face their challenges, answered their questions, and heard the frustrations they deal with as they transition from their reproductive years to and through menopause.
As a result, my goal is to share the wisdom I've gained that applies directly to women's health and menopause, or provide insights that can be of help with their families. Some articles will be on things that are ongoing health and wellnesstopics, and others will be comments or perspectives on important issues you notice in the news.
You will find my two most recent books helpful. They are Eat to Defeat Menopause and Save Your Life: What to do in a Medical Emergency.
My websites are https://www.doctorseibel.com/ & https://www.healthrockwomen.com/. There are many FREE downloads, songs, videos, eBooks and other useful content that I hope will help you stay well. My comments here aren't intended to take the place of your healthcare provider. If you have a medical problem, be sure to ask your doctor.
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