Bioidentical Hormones: The Natural Solution to Menopause and Manopause
by Jonathan Manoukian
Menopause is the stage in a woman’s life when monthly periods end and the production of female sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone begin to decline. Menopausal symptoms experienced in this stage can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. Symptoms may include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness and mood changes.
Manopause, also known as male menopause, is a similar stage in men’s lives. It occurs when there is a drop in the male sex hormone testosterone. Men typically have a slower and more subtle hormonal decline, and develop symptoms over a period of time. Symptoms may include a decline in sex drive, erectile dysfunction, loss of body muscle and mood changes.
Both affect millions of people alike. Mass-produced synthetic hormone therapy such as pills, patches and creams target large populations, but they are not customized to address an individual patient’s needs and symptoms. This is where bioidentical hormones play a role in customizing hormone therapy.
The difference between bioidentical hormones and synthetic (artificially produced) hormones is their chemical structure and source. Bioidentical hormones are identical in structure to the hormones made by the human body. The human body easily recognizes and allows them to mimic the functions of hormones that are produced in our bodies. In addition, bioidentical hormones come from natural plant sources before being optimized in the pharmacy for individual use.
In contrast to bioidentical hormones, synthetic hormones are often derived from pregnant horse urine. However, most estrogens found in horses are not naturally produced by humans and when used with synthetic progestins may cause an increased risk of breast cancer, according to The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a long-term national health study focused on disease prevention in postmenopausal women. Other synthetic hormones are made by adding side chains to natural substances in order for the product to be patentable by a manufacturer. These side chains are also what often leads to the side effects experienced when taking synthetic hormones.
Jonathan Manoukian is a pharmacist intern at Woodinville Pharmacy.