A bio-identical hormone is one that is “biologically identical” to that which your body produces.
Conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) uses synthetic estrogen and progesterone derivatives that are *similar* but not identical to the hormones produced in a human.
Because they are similar, they may lead to improved symptoms when they are prescribed for hormone deficiencies. The issue is that it is difficult to predict the long-term effects of a non-identical hormone in the body. There is strong evidence to suggest that conventional HRT leads to increased risks of certain cancers (see Women’s Health Initiative study from 2002).
Essentially, conventional HRT has been shown to be good at controlling symptoms, but with risk of adverse effects. That is, HRT has high efficacy, but questionable safety.
The purpose of educating patients on bio-identical hormone use is to help them understand that there is another option with good efficacy to improve their hormonal symptoms and mitigate the risks of non-identical hormones.
Can naturopathic doctors write prescriptions for bio-identical hormones for their patients?
Naturopaths in Ontario who have successfully passed a pharmaceutical prescribing exam are entitled to prescribe bio-identical progesterone cream as well as desiccated thyroid hormone.
Are these prescription hormones also available through medical doctors?
Yes, bio-identical progesterone cream and desiccated thyroid hormones are also available to be prescribed by medical doctors in Ontario.
That being said, most medical doctors are either not interested in prescribing these particular forms of hormones or are not familiar with them. This makes them less likely to recommend bio-identical hormones to patients.
Are bio-identical hormones natural?
This is a common misconception. Bio-identical does not equate with natural.
Although bio-identical hormones may be derived from natural sources (eg. progesterone from Wild Yam), they are altered in a laboratory to make them into the exact same molecule as the progesterone your body naturally produces.
They are *identical* to the hormones in your body (ie. same chemical structure) but are synthesized.
This does not render them any less desirable. Remember that the goal is to give your body exactly what it is deficient in, in order to maximize efficacy and minimize adverse effects.
A naturally sourced *progesterone-like* compound will compromise either efficacy or safety or both.
What is the best way to test hormone levels?
The most reliable and practical way to measure bio-available hormones (i.e. those that your tissues use) for the purposes of health is through saliva hormone testing.
Serum (i.e. blood) testing of hormones is difficult to assess because it represents total circulating hormones, much of which is bound to proteins.