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  • Bioidentical hormones--claimed by their manufacturers to be chemical duplicates of hormones that naturally occur in a woman's body, such as estrogen and progesterone--treat the symptoms of menopause. Bioidentical hormones are a controversial and often misunderstood treatment option, however.

    Menopause

    When a woman enters menopause, her body produces less estrogen, which can lead to vaginal dryness, hot flashes and thin bones. Doctors often suggest hormone replacement drugs to alleviate symptoms.

    Hormone Replacement

    Two types of hormone replacement therapy utilize bioidentical hormones--menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).

    MHT

    MHT involves treatment with prescription medication--approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-- made from chemically identical versions of estrogen and progestin. According to FDA.gov, the agency recommends the drugs' use "at the lowest dose that helps, for the shortest time needed."

    BHRT

    BHRT treatment utilizes non-FDA-approved pills, gels and/or lotions derived from plants and other "natural" sources. Made from compounded ingredients based on a saliva test, BHRT manufacturers promote it as "tailor-made" for each patient, a claim the FDA deems "unrealistic." The Mayo Clinic says such products "have not been subject to the same rigorous quality assurance standards" as MHTs.

    FDA

    The FDA states it will take action against companies and pharmacies making what it deems to be false and/or non-scientifically supported claims about BHRT products, and encourages consumers to educate themselves about the myths, risks and facts of both treatment options.

    Source:

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Bio-Identicals - Sorting Myths from Facts

    MedlinePlus: Hormone Replacement Therapy

    The Mayo Clinic: Bioidentical Hormones - Are They Safer?

    More Information:

    Menopause.org: FDA-Approved Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy Charts

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