"Natural" Hormone Therapy

woman smiling with a shopping bag over her shoulderIf you watch Oprah or read books by actress Suzanne Somers, you've probably heard about "bioidentical" or "natural" compounded hormones. This phrase is being used primarily to discuss the hormones estrogen and progesterone and medication that is "compounded" or mixed in pharmacies that provide individualized medical therapies.

Somers and others claim that bioidentical hormones are identical to the hormones your own body produces and are more effective at controlling menopausal symptoms and age-related changes. They also claim that bioidentical hormones are safer than hormone therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, there is no evidence to support these claims, according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and other medical organization.

The push for bioidentical compounded hormones came after the results of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) were released in 2002 and 2003. The large, government-sponsored study showed a slightly increased risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease in women who took a synthetic form of estrogen/progestin therapy called Prempro and a slightly higher risk of stroke in women who took the estrogen-only therapy, Premarin.