Clearing up the confusion & how we talk about hormone therapy
🦋 Bioidentical and non-bioidentical describe the molecular structure (ingredients) of a hormone therapy.
"Identical" is somewhat misleading and perhaps "bio-similar" or even "bio-different" would have been better terminology, but that train has already left the station! So here we are to set the record straight.
Every day, I encounter a member of my community, a doctor, a pharmacist or an other health practitioner who has misinterpreted the terminology around hormone therapy. We can not let language (or misuse of language) stand in the way of women accessing the health care they need, and DESERVE!
So let's do this:
Bioidentical hormone therapies have a molecular structure that is similar to the hormones (estrogen and progesterone) produced by our ovaries...when cycles are regular.
The opposite of bioidentical is not synthetic; it's non-bioidentical. Both biodientical and non-bioidentical hormone therapies are FDA- and Health Canada approved, can be prescribed by any practitioner with prescribing rights and are available at any pharmacy.
Synthetic means "made in a lab or a factory," = which all hormone therapies are.
Large, reputable pharmaceutical companies make FDA-approved and Health Canada approved biodientical hormone therapies, and have for decades.
"Natural" hormones are those that are produced by our ovaries when cycles are regular.
🙂 So if someone tells you that you need "natural" hormones, picture extracting the hormones from your girlfriend's ovaries. Those would be natural. If you choose, instead, to take bioidentical hormones, those are made in a manufacturing facility or a lab.
Bioidentical hormone therapies can be prescribed by any practitioner with prescribing rights, and they are available at any pharmacy. They are FDA-appoved/Health-Canada approved, and manufactured by reputable pharmaceutical companies.
Some common brand names include:
Bioidentical estradiol (transdermal): EstroGel™️
Localized estrogen therapy (vaginal): Vagifem™️ or Imvexxy™️ + Intrarosa™️ is a new-to-Canada DHEA option and Osphena™️ is a new oral therapy for the treatment of vaginal dryness.
Bioidentical Progesterone (oral): Prometrium™️
Non-bioidentical hormone therapies have a different molecular structure (ingredients) and can play an important role in many health decisions too.
The most popular non-bioidentical forms of hormone therapy include the birth control pill and the Mirena™️ IUD (intrauterine device)--both originally designed to prevent pregnancy but are sometimes prescribed as hormone therapy options. A hormone-based IUD, for example, provides localized progestin (different molecular structure from progesterone) and can help manage irregular or heavy bleeding.
Compounded hormone therapies:
Compounded = means "customized."
Most pharmacists are compounding pharmacists--which means they can often customize a therapy. Examples include if a child (or adult, like me!) can not swallow a medication that comes in a large capsule, a pharmacist can often compound it into another mode of delivery (liquid or gummy.)
Hormone therapy can be compounded too--and this is especially useful when a custom formula or dose is required and a commercially available option is not a viable solution.
Compounded hormone therapies are not FDA-approved or Health Canada approved due to the fact that they are custom formulas; not mass produced.
The best source you can read on this topic is from my colleague, Nina at Women Living Better. (You can donate to her work on this page too!)
Get informed + then choose the journey that is right for YOU!