Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
I find it interesting when a celebrity, in this case, Suzanne Sommers who has no medical background, writes a book in which she claims to be an expert on HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Not only is she wrong to promote bioidentical hormone therapy replacement, but many women who follow her advice are increasing their risk of acquiring breast cancer.
When hormone replacement therapy was first introduced in the sixties, the only drug available was conjugated estrogen, better known as Premarin® which was an acronym for a natural substance obtained from the urine of pregnant mare horses. Eventually the active ingredient in the urine was synthesized and this became a new wonder drug that could alleviate the two main menopausal symptoms, night sweats and hot flashes.
When the drug was first introduced, it was strongly recommended that the patient only take the drug for a maximum of two years and stop in order to alleviate the menopausal symptoms. If you did not have symptoms, you did not take hormone replacement. Women on Premarin® took it for 21 days and stopped for 7 days each month and thus continued to have menstrual periods. The drug was very effective for night sweats and hot flashes but did very little for the mood swings and many other hormone issues. Eventually synthetic progesterone was prescribed along with the estrogen and it was determined that they could be combined and taken every day. No more cycles and no more periods and woman were very happy.
When women took this combination they noticed that not only did they not age as fast but they seemed to regain some of their youth, more sexual desire, less vaginal dryness, better skin and hair and more vitality. When the pharmaceutical manufacturers became aware of this effect, they saw a bonanza in which they could promise women eternal youth as long as they kept taking the drug forever. They produced more studies showing that HRT prevented heart disease and osteoporosis and thus a female fountain of youth was discovered.
It was not until almost 40 years later that we found out the real truth. Replacing hormones was not a natural thing to do and there was a direct correlation between women taking HRT and the large increase in breast cancer. Independent studies showed that the original studies indicating HRT was heart protective were flawed and the truth was they put you at greater risk for heart disease. Other independent studies showed that HRT did not increase bone density and could not prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
So here we are today in agreement that HRT therapy is dangerous and yet Suzanne Sommers claims it is not dangerous if the HRT comes from natural source instead of synthetic source. In this area she is entirely wrong, because the long term effect will still be the same; higher risk for breast cancer.
Women who follow her regimen use saliva tests which are totally inaccurate and blood tests which are better but still inaccurate because of the daily fluctuations of all the female hormones. In any case, they are prescribed a bioidentical mixture containing natural estrodial (estrogen) natural progesterone and sometimes even some testosterone or DHEA to increase the sex drive. These products are compounded into a cream and applied once day. The cream must be of the highest quality and made in such a way to insure that all the compounds make their way through the six layers of your skin and are absorbed into the blood stream. Just recently the United States Food and Drug Administration tested 29 of these compounded products for quality, sterility, identity, potency and uniformity of content: 34% failed one or mores tests and 25% of the compounded hormones failed the potency test. Biochemical availability tests showed that of all the products tested the amount of hormones that penetrated through the skin and into the blood stream ranged from zero to a maximum of 61%. The problem is that all none of the local pharmacies or internet companies that compound the creams are regulated by the government. There are no inserts in the package, no warnings about possible side-effects or contraindications and no guarantee that the ingredients in the tube actually match the names and quantities on the label.
Another problem is the use of the term “natural” for which there is no legal definition. After all, what could be more natural than pregnant mare’s urine? With bioidentical hormones, the creams are actually compounded from synthetic progesterone, synthetic estrogen (estradiol) and synthetic testosterone. The term natural comes into play because the theory is that the strengths of each ingredient are the exact amounts geared to your body’s natural needs and custom compounded for each individual. They are not from botanical sources because it would be horribly expensive to grow the plants, extract the hormones and then compound the creams uniquely for each individual.
What Suzanne Sommers does not tell you is that since the late nineties, natural HRT patches and natural HRT pills have been available with plant-based ingredients from soy and yam sources. They come in pill forms known as Estrace® and Prometrium® and they are covered by most drug plans. There are skin patches known as Climara®and Vivelle-Dot® patch which guarantee 100% absorption into your blood stream. The patches are also covered by your drug plan and just like the pills require a prescription from your physician. Even though they are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, the source is guaranteed botanical and there are even different strengths to suit a woman’s needs.
Suzanne Sommers is an extremely beautiful woman for her age. The fact that she works out for hours and hours each day, eats a super healthy diet , uses hormone replacement therapy and probably has had cosmetic surgery accounts for the look she presents to the public. She has already had breast cancer and if she is telling the truth about continuing to take hormone replacement therapy, she is putting herself at very high risk for a recurrence of this disease.