For many women, menopause comes with hot flashes, low energy and mood swings. Chalk it up to declining hormone levels. Biodentical hormone therapy (BHRT) is gaining popularity as a treatment to balance hormones and guard against the effects of aging. Here’s our Q&A with Dr. Michael Gross, medical director of the Active Center for Health & Wellness in Hackensack, New Jersey, who specializes in preventive medicine.
Biodentical Hormone Therapy
SheKnows: What is BHRT?
Dr. Gross: As men and women age, hormone levels decline, causing an imbalance in the body. BHRT replenishes the body with natural hormones to make up for the ones that have been lost, restoring a person’s balance and well-being.
SheKnows: The molecules used for BHRT are derived from plants, believed to be identical to human hormones?
Dr. Gross: Yes the molecules used for BHRT are derived mostly from yams and soy and are molecule-for-molecule identical to human hormones. The body will recognize natural hormones the same as they would their own hormones, so they will be broken down completely, with no harmful byproducts.
Synthetic hormones are derived from animals
SheKnows: How does BHRT differ from synthetic hormones? How is it more effective and safe?
Dr. Gross: Synthetic hormones are sometimes derived from animals — for example, horse urine — and can contain harmful byproducts when the body breaks them down. The hormones used in BHRT contain no byproducts and the body recognizes them the same as they would their own hormones, so they are broken down completely. Synthetic hormones are also sold in commercial dosages, but everyone’s body is different, and what one person may need can differ from what another person needs. BHRT medications are compounded, so they are made in specific doses for each individual. Think of it as the difference between an off-the-rack suit and a custom suit – one is tailored specifically for an individual wearer and you can see — and feel — the difference.
Success with bioidentical hormone therapy
SheKnows: Is there a success story you could share?
Dr. Gross: About four years ago, a woman, 36 at the time, was experiencing symptoms of female hormonal imbalance – she was tired and lethargic and could not get a good night’s sleep no matter how many sleep hours she clocked. She was experiencing weight gain in the classic female problem areas (hips, thighs and buttocks) and her hair and nails seemed brittle and thin.
All of those problems she says that she could have dealt with, but after a routine bone mineral density test, she was diagnosed with advanced osteoporosis, which became her biggest health concern. A family doctor offered her sleeping pills and antidepressants for her insomnia and fatigue, but she didn’t want to take that route. She started reading up on BHRT and went for a consultation. Fast-forward to the present day and she now feels like she is 30 again. She has regained her energy, drive and overall sense of well-being — but most importantly, her bone density has improved dramatically.
Bioidentical hormone therapy controversy
SheKnows: Why is the treatment considered controversial?
Dr. Gross: BHRT is becoming increasingly popular, so now there are a lot of people who are raising their eyebrows. Like any new idea, it takes a retooling of the way people think to make them accept something, and that takes time. People don’t realize that balancing hormones can help fix many health problems that we face. High cholesterol, for instance, is a sign of aging. One can combat this by taking medication such as Lipitor, which will go to the root of the problem but will not fix the symptom. If we can balance the hormones, then we can help treat the symptoms of high cholesterol without the use of drugs.