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Bioidentical HRT and Pharmaceutical HRT

Health Sciences Institute newsletter

Over the past couple of years I've sent you several e-Alerts with updates about hormone replacement therapy studies that showed how this synthetic drug treatment may sharply increase the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.

For a change, I have no new information about the dangers of synthetic HRT. (Don't worry, I'm sure we'll get more soon.) Instead I'll take a look at a different type of hormone replacement that uses bioidentical hormones to relieve the symptoms of menopause.

Natural vs. Synthetic

I recently received an e-mail from an HSI member named Bev who wrote: "Could you please explain in your newsletter about bioidenticals, what they are and how used for menopause hot flashes?"

Glad to, Bev. It's been awhile since I've discussed bioidentical HRT, and it's a treatment option that any woman looking for a way to cope with symptoms of menopause needs to know about.

As the name implies, bioidentical hormones (derived from estrogen-like plant compounds) are identical to natural hormones in the body. The chemical makeup of synthetic HRT is not identical, which is the source of so many problems with that therapy.

The first doctor in the U.S. to recommend bioidentical hormones to his patients was Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. Since 1982, Dr. Wright has been prescribing these natural hormones with great success. In the May 2002 issue of his Nutrition & Healing Newsletter, Dr. Wright wrote, "The best indicator that this therapy really works is the relief on my patients' faces when they tell me they simply feel better using identical-to-human hormones."

The Big 3

To clear up the confusion between pharmaceutical HRT and bioidentical HRT, Dr. Wright offers some hormone basics, beginning with three primary types of estrogen that are present in a woman's body between the onset of menstruation and menopause: estrone, estradiol, and estriol.

Dr. Wright explains: "It's been found that estradiol, when prescribed by itself (as sometimes happens in conventional HRT) can raise the risk of cancer after several years. Estriol, on the other hand, is anti-carcinogenic. Healthy women naturally excrete much more estriol than estradiol and estrone. But when hormone production slows down during menopause, it's important to replace all three estrogens in the same proportions your body would produce on its own if it could.

"With natural hormone replacement therapy, these estrogens are used along with natural progesterone in proportions as close as possible to those produced in the body."

As Dr. Wright notes, pharmaceutical progesterone is useful in lowering the risk of cancer, which is elevated when either synthetic estrogen or estradiol are used alone. But this type of "fake" progesterone raises the risk of heart problems, whereas natural progesterone provides the same benefits, but virtually no risks. According to Dr. Wright, the natural form also helps rebuild bone mass, another key advantage over using synthetic.

In touch with your masculine side

The next piece of the bioidentical puzzle is DHEA, a hormone whose production naturally peaks in our 20s but drops off steeply as we age (see the e-Alert "Not Pumping Up" 11/3/04).

Dr. Wright: "When testosterone levels go down during menopause, it can negatively affect your sex drive. DHEA goes along with testosterone in controlling your libido, as well as keeping your body's tissues healthy. Please have your levels of these hormones tested and if your levels are low, ask your doctor to prescribe identical-to-natural replacements. This is especially important for testosterone replacement, since the major synthetic version (methyltestosterone) is a known carcinogen. Fortunately there is no synthetic form of DHEA (yet), so you can only take the natural form."

In Dr. Wright's practice, he uses an FDA-approved urine test to estimate the risk of estrogen-related cancer. Over the course of two decades he's observed "very, very few adverse effects."

For more information about bioidentical HRT, you can visit the web site for Dr. Wright's clinic: If you feel that this type of HRT may be right for you, it's essential to find a health care practitioner who is knowledgeable about bioidenticals. Physician referrals can be found on the web site for the American College for the Advancement in Medicine (, or the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (

Source: Institute of Health Sciences, L.L.C

Contact Sue Richards at [email protected]

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