Bioidentical Hormones—Know The Side Effects

Posted by Medical Board on August 12, 2015 in Hormones Last updated on October 4, 2016

Bioidentical hormone therapy gained its popularity in 2002 as an alternative to synthetic hormones or animal based hormones.  These are biochemically the same as hormones produced by the ovaries during the reproductive years.  Many people seek bioidentical hormones because they are structurally identical to the body’s own hormones and cannot be differentiated from them.

Bioidenticals—The Source

Bioidenticals are derived from natural plants and herbs.  The hormones used for estrogen treatment contain estrone, estradiol, and progesterone and are created from yams and soybeans by several manufacturers.  Bioidentical progesterone is micronized, or finely ground in a laboratory for maximum absorption in the body.  Commercial manufacturers extract plant-based hormone material from the natural source and either formulate it for commercial use, or furnish it to a compound pharmacy that mixes the components for individual use.   

Technically, the body cannot tell the difference between bioidentical hormones and the hormones it naturally produces.  Many bioidentical estrogens and progesterones are made into an array of hormone products, available by prescription at the local pharmacy.

SIDE EFFECTS

Hormone Imbalance

In order to reach the correct hormone levels, bio-identicals must be adjusted periodically for optimal hormone replacement treatment.  Throughout this process, hormone imbalances may occur, causing a variety of temporary side effects.  Many of these may closely mimic those for which treatment is initially sought, however they will generally disappear once hormones are balanced.

Side effects may include any of the following:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Increased acne
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Breast tenderness
  • Itching at the site of application

Some bioidentical hormone therapy has side effects that may be linked to dosage and type of hormone therapy.  As hormone levels improve, dosage may need to be changed. Any side effects should be reported to a physician immediately.

Testosterone

Both men and women have reported symptoms of irritability, increased aggression and acne at the onset of testosterone hormone therapy.  As hormone levels are stabilized however, these symptoms are reduced, or eliminated altogether.

Estrogen

Women have reported symptoms of spotting, breast tenderness, cramping and bloating.  As with testosterone hormone replacement therapy, many of these symptoms occur only in the initial phases of treatment.  As hormones become balanced within the body, symptoms generally lessen, or disappear altogether.

In both sexes, hormone therapy may cause itching or redness at the site of injection or insertion.  These eventually diminish when the body adjusts to hormone treatment.

It is possible that the adjustment period may take several visits before optimal levels of hormones in the body are reached.  Once this occurs, debilitating symptoms of menopause should decrease.

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