Bioidentical Hormones


Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is treatment of hormone deficiencies using only molecules that are identical to the hormones found in the human body. The most common hormones replaced are estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and thyroid. You may do best on only one of these or all of them depending on your individual assessment.

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy differs from traditional hormone replacement therapy which includes animal-derived and man-made synthetic molecules that are similar to, but not identical, to human hormones.

What is the difference between bio-identical and synthetic hormones?
Synthetic hormones are molecules that are altered from the natural form found in our bodies. Pharmaceutical  companies have designed hormone-like molecules that are an attempt to improve on nature. Sometimes they are much too strong or can have significant unexpected side effects like nausea, fluid retention, brain fog and dizziness. Unfortunately these molecules often don’t do the job, and can increase long term risks. For example, the synthetic Provera®, for over 40 years the most commonly prescribed post menopausal progesterone, increases the risk of depression and breast cancer. The horse derived estrogen complex known as Premarin®, taken by mouth and passing through the liver, has inflammatory and increased blood clotting effects so causes  increased risk of heart attacks, blood clots and strokes.

The process of making of bioidentical hormones starts with particular molecules extracted from plants like soybean and yams.   These molecules have structures very similar to our hormones. They are then purified and transformed into molecules identical to the estrogen, progesterone and testosterone produced by humans. They can then be compounded (usually made into creams or gels) to suit any individual specific hormone replacements needs, so that each person receives treatment designed specifically for them.

Some benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy are:

  • resolution of hot flashes and insomnia
  • improved mood, memory and brain function
  • increased energy, better quality sleep
  • improved bone strength
  • better look and feel of hair and skin, weight loss
  • decreased vaginal dryness, improved sex drive and responsiveness
  • lower cholesterol levels
  • decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack and stroke

Dr. Hathaway has been a Bioidentical hormone specialist since 1997 and can assess your individual need for hormones by taking a careful history, doing an exam and analyzing your lab work. She will take the time to inform you about the risks and benefits of hormones, answer all your questions, and address your individual concerns. You need to have all the facts to make an informed decision about what’s right for you. She will regularly test your hormone levels and provide the ongoing guidance you need to avoid  possible risks and get the greatest benefit.

Women, Estrogen, Cognition, and Alzheimer’s Disease
by Ann Hathaway MD
Published in Townsend Letter, June 2012