Hormones are the body’s messengers, and they control some of the most complex functions of our body. As hormones are produced, they seek out their partner receptors and then join together to turn on/drive a process or function within the body.
The hormone and receptor are meant to fit together exactly – like a key slipping into a lock. A synthetic hormone is a chemist’s version of the hormone – so they’re what you might call “a reasonable facsimile”. There are usually distinctive structural differences in the molecules, so synthetic hormones do not fit the lock perfectly.
It’s like putting together IKEA furniture and finding that you have several extra pieces left over at the end. Uh-oh. The leftovers have to go somewhere, and oh, do they have the potential to cause problems!
Synthetic hormones are the most commonly used versions associated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and they are most often taken orally and metabolized through the liver. Since the synthetic hormone molecules are not an exact match to those made by the body, metabolization through the liver has the potential to kick off very undesirable side effects that can adversely impact health.
For example: Most oral contraceptives are a combination of synthetic estrogen and progesterone to replace what the ovaries would normally produce. What they don’t replace is testosterone – which is 40 percent of a woman’s hormonal makeup and the ovaries manufacture most of it – approximately 90 percent.
Synthetic estrogen and progesterone in oral contraceptives have to process through the liver before they can travel to their receptors to “turn off the ovaries”. In doing so, they are turning off the woman’s major source of testosterone. One of the by-products of liver metabolization is a protein that starts to bind up the remaining testosterone made by the adrenal glands, and another that binds the “free thyroid” hormone needed to fuel metabolism.
We do not recommend or use any synthetic hormone replacement therapies within our practice, because there is a better, safer option available.
Bio-identical hormones have the same structure as hormones naturally made by the body, so the molecules are recognized and metabolized the same way the body would its own hormones.
Pharmaceutical companies can’t secure a patent on a molecule like testosterone or estradiol unless there’s something unique about it, such as a special delivery system. Trying to patent molecules would be like trying to patent a hamburger. No company is going to invest millions or even billions of dollars to get a product FDA approved if they can’t protect the patent.
The reality is that major pharmaceutical companies make ridiculous profits selling brand name drugs for high cholesterol, stress, sleep disorders, migraines, and the like – all health issues caused by underlying hormone imbalances. Unfortunately they’re allowed to advertise their drugs directly to patients and market them to doctors (sometimes even providing incentives).
Patients using bio-identical hormone replacement therapies tend to feel better and experience fewer side effects than those using synthetics, which is why bio-identical hormones are our treatment of choice.
Want to find out if bio-identical hormone replacement is right for you? Call 480.619.4097 for an appointment at one of our five Arizona locations: Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale and Sedona.