3. HT is made from plants or herbs, like yams, soy, or chasteberry. Bioidentical hormone therapy doesn’t contain drugs. Does it?
Some women choose bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT) because they believe it is natural, meaning that it is made from plants, not drugs, therefore it is safe.
According to Dr. Margery Gass, a NAMS-certified menopause practitioner in Cleveland, Ohio, “There is no hormone out there that women can use that can be harvested from the field, or the trees, or anyplace else” , “All go through laboratories and have to be processed with multiple chemical steps to be in the form that humans can use.”
If a custom-compounded cream claims to contain only plant-base, natural ingredients i.e. yams, it will not be used effectively by the body. If you want to use natural yams to stop hot flashes you’ll have to eat several bushels a day …
One of the definitions of drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is “a substance (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body”. Therefore, if a compound, whether made from plants or manufactured by a pharmaceutical company, has a measurable physiologic effect in the human body it is a drug.
If a hormone, a plant or an herb helps treat symptoms, it is a drug.
Beware of false marketing claims regarding products containing only natural ingredients and offering great relief for menopause symptoms. Like everything else in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Post-market product testing done by FDA has uncovered inconsistencies in ingredients, dose, and quality. The frequency of problems investigated by the FDA concerning compounding pharmacies’ false claims regarding efficacy, manufacturing, and safety has increased since 2008, e.g., products claimed to be all natural actually contained hormones. Custom-compounded preparations may vary among pharmacies and aren’t necessarily exactly the same each time you purchase them. Bioidentical hormones are sought by women looking for natural treatments for menopause. That’s understandable since the Women’s Health Initiative Trials results made public many years ago scared women and healthcare providers about hormone therapy (you can read more on this in the previous, second, blog of this series- BHT is natural, therefore is safe. Is it?).
The lack of accurate and up-to-date information on the safety of hormone therapy makes women vulnerable to unsubstantiated, unethical claims made by companies focused on profit.
The natural product business is a billion-dollar industry, very well marketed and advertised, fraught with misinformation and false claims. Many of the claims are made by celebrities disguised as experts, with no medical background, who are being paid to tout the benefits of such products.
With so much information in the media it is difficult for most women to separate the wheat from the chaff; to tell apart evidence-based information from paid commercials disguised as real information.
Custom-compounded bioidentical hormone products must be used with caution.
Women have to educate themselves—question compounders of bioidentical hormone therapy about the ingredients used in the products, demand proof of efficacy and safety of BHT; ask their healthcare providers for accurate, evidence-based therapies that have been tested, are regulated and approved by FDA and Health Canada, and backed by respectable Societies. Before choosing a product, be informed, be safe!
The first blog of this series Bioidentical-Be informed! is
and the second blog in the series is
2. BioIdentical Hormones – Be Informed! Part 2: Biodentical Hormone Therapy is natural, therefore bioidentical therapy is safe. Is it?
Teresa Isabel Dias BSc Pharm, RPh, NCMP Pharmacist and Certified Menopause Practitioner
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MenopausED was founded by Teresa Isabel Dias, pharmacist and certified menopause practitioner, to help women experiencing menopause challenges.