What is Bioidentical Hormone Therapy?

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A big decision that many women face during menopause revolves around the use of hormone therapy (HT).

When you go through perimenopause and menopause, your body begins to produce different (usually lower) amounts of estrogen, progesterone, and/or testosterone hormones. These fluctuations often result in the symptoms that many women experience. HT is intended to supplement or moderate these fluctuations and ultimately provide an umbrella for women caught in the perimenopause and menopause storm.

But not all hormone therapy options are created equal. An important distinction that needs to be made is whether a hormone therapy supplement is bioidentical or not. A bioidentical hormone is chemically identical to the hormone produced in your body. It may not have originated in your body, but it has the same chemical structure and even goes by the same name. Most importantly, it has the same biological function.

On the other hand, there are hormone therapy options available that are not identical to the hormones in your body. They might be similar, they might even have a similar name, but they are not exactly the same as the hormones produced in your body.

Don’t be fooled by a hormone with two names. Even if one of those names is the name of your body’s hormone, the presence of another name should tip you off that you are NOT dealing with a bioidentical hormone. For example, estradiol is bioidentical, but ethinyl estradiol and conjugated estrogen are not. Progesterone is bioidentical but medroxyprogesterone is not.

It’s important to understand that your body reacts differently to all these different options. When you take bioidentical hormone therapy, your body may react the same way it would if it produced the hormone itself, because, chemically speaking, it is the same as the hormone it actually does produce. When you take hormone therapy that is not bioidentical, your body may react differently, and in some cases, this might not be as helpful or beneficial.

Keep in mind though that all women are different, with unique challenges that require different solutions. Regardless of your own particular situation, there are many schools of thought on hormone therapy, and it is up to you to educate yourself and draw your own conclusions about what is best for your body.

So back to the question: To HT, or not to HT? Just like me, you’ll probably have a lot of other questions that need answers first, like:

  1. If I use hormone therapy, what other side effects will I have?
  2. Will I gain more weight?
  3. Will I have more or less risk of cancer?
  4.  Will I have more or less risk of heart disease?
  5. Will hormone therapy prevent osteoporosis or make me more susceptible to broken bones?

What I did was this: I kept reading and educating myself so that I could make the healthiest choices. I can’t stress enough the importance of research — take responsibility for your body and arm yourself with knowledge. There are many studies out there with conflicting information. I know it is very confusing and frustrating. However, keep reading and educating yourself. Then, together, with your Menopause Specialist  you can figure out what course of action is best for you.

Depending on your medical history, your options may be very different. A good starting point is to ask yourself, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how am I functioning and how is my life?” Some women are so used to being less than functioning that they find themselves accepting a 2 as normal. However, you don’t have to settle. Once you know your challenges, you can begin to find the right solutions. Whatever you do, don’t give up trying to be as close to 10 as possible. You deserve it!

For more information on HT, search Hormone Therapy on EllenDolgen.com.  Read all the blogs and research!

Remember:  Suffering in silence is OUT!  Reaching out is IN.

For more great tips on how to find a menopause specialist and deal with menopause download my free ebook: MENOPAUSE MONDAYS  the Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause.    

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After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • Such a wonderfully, helpful post Ellen. Thanks so much for educating us!

  • Helene Bludman

    Always good to know about these issues, and you are the go to person when I have a question.

    • Yes, it is helpful to educate yourself on your options so that you can meet with your menopause specialist and together you can decide on the best protocol to fit your personal health needs.

  • Great points. I think you really crystalized the concept when you say, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how am I functioning and how is my life?” A woman can then track her total physical and mental health and make an educated choice in her care, knowing that things may change and not one solution is perfect until the end of times.

  • When I realized it’s Monday I knew I would find this post. As usual, super helpful stuff, Ellen.

  • Cheryl

    I just wanted to check in with others- im on Angelique pill – it seems to take away the dreaded hot flashes in the middle of the night. I’m worried because it’s not the safe bioidentical hormone, that I probably should be taking.
    I’m not dying to take the gel, because I have a 13 year old boy, & don’t want to expose him to estrogen..
    Anybody wanna chime in what bioidentical has helped them the best with night hot flashe?
    Thanks tons!


    • You do not have to use a gel or a cream. You can use an FDA approved Estradiol patch. Applied twice a week. There is no need to worry about exposing young children to estrogen with a patch applied to your skin. Usually, the patch is applied right above the bikini line.

  • Mary La Fornara

    I definitely will know where to look when these issues arise. Thanks for all the important information.

    • it’s best to learn about this before you need it! Just tuck it away – just in case!

  • I did take hormone replacement therapy when I first had my hysterectomy but I developed a lump in my breast from it and the doc took me right off them. All good info! thanks so much for sharing.

    • Thanks for sharing Carolann. May I ask what kind of estrogen replacement you were on?

      • Premarin – it helped at first but then I developed that tumor. Thank GOD it was benign and removed easily. I guess it was just not for me! Since then, I take nothing cept some supplements. It’s OK for the most part although I do still get some nasty hot flashes every now and then…esp if I get anxious which is so weird. lol

        • So happy it was benign! Premarin is not on a bioidentical estrogen. It is a conjugated estrogen. For hot flashes and mood swings, you might try Remifemin – which according to the Oncologists that I interviewed at Yale Cancer Center for my blog on Menopause and Cancer………is the purest form of black cohosh.

          • Oh wow, good to know! I will get some for sure. Thanks so much for the wealth of information you provide. xo

          • It’s always good to run it by your obgyn’s nurse before taking anything. She can check with your dr. Good Luck!

  • I haven’t needed to go down this path (yet) Ellen but you are absolutely right about educating yourself to make the best choices and not just going with what you hear on the grapevine.

    • Just tuck the info away so you can circle back if you ever need to.

  • Lois Alter Mark

    I’ve been curious about this and had no idea how to sift through all the information out there. Thank you for making it easy to understand!

    • My pleasure, Lois. Luckily I have several amazing Menopause Specialists who help me dissect the info into layperson speak!

  • Magnolia Miller

    I’m so glad to hear you say this! It’s taken me years to sift through the research and information to understand the difference between bioidentical hormones and conjugated hormones.

    I’ve had physicians tell me flat out that there is no such thing as “bioidentical” hormones.

    Of course, I disagreed. But I didn’t necessarily have the research to back up my opinion. I too believe women need to do the work of research for themselves. Because there are great options out there and we don’t have to suffer!

    I didn’t begin using HT until I was actually menopausal. I’m now five years post menopause and still using it with great results!

    I’m a believer!

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Magnolia! Thanks to all of the wonderful doctors, scientists, and experts that I have interviewed over this past 10 years. I am a believer, too!