6 Common Myths about BHRT
Jun 07, 2023 | Wellness and Healthy Living | Share:
There’s a lot of confusion surrounding bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, or BHRT. But BHRT can be an incredibly helpful part of your wellness toolkit.
Dr. Ashley Tamucci at MedHelp Women’s and Wellness sets the record straight by tackling 6 common myths about BHRT.
Myth #1: Hormones Aren't That Important
You may not hear a lot about hormones, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. These chemical messengers tell your body what to do and are present in every system of your body.
Hormones affect all of your body’s processes and impact your sleep, mood, metabolism, energy, and even your sex drive. When your hormones are unbalanced, you can feel it: there’s a genuine impact on your quality of life. But many women experiencing symptoms of unbalanced hormones are quick to blame themselves.
Dr. Ashley Tamucci, board-certified gynecologist and MedHelp provider says, “When it comes to hormones, you aren’t crazy.” Women who are eating well and working hard can still have trouble losing weight. Fatigue is often blamed on busyness or a hectic schedule. Low libido is seen as the result of lifestyle changes. And your hormones can be responsible for all of these issues. "But it’s not your fault. You just can’t outwork your lack of hormones.”
Most women have no idea that hormonal changes can begin around the time you turn 40. Dr. Tamucci says, “Most of the women I talk to expect to experience hormonal changes by the time they’re 50. But they’re often surprised to learn that their ovaries can become lazy and cause a shift in their hormones a full decade earlier.”
The good news for women is that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can bring balance to your hormones and help you feel better.
Myth #2: BHRT is Harmful to Your Heart
While traditional hormone replacement therapy using synthetic hormones can be harmful to your health, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is much safer. Synthetic hormones aren’t made from natural products and have a chemical structure that is different from the hormones made by your body.
Dr. Tamucci says, “It’s accepted within the medical community that synthetic estrogen can increase the risk of blood clots. But people need to know that the estrogen hormone itself isn't harmful; instead, it's the way your body metabolizes the synthetic form of that estrogen. The metabolites - or waste products that result when your body metabolizes the synthetic estrogen product - are what actually cause harm to your body.”
BHRT is a safe and effective option for hormone replacement therapy. The hormones used in BHRT are created using natural products such as yam and soy and match the chemical structure of the hormones made by your body. As a result, your body metabolizes these hormones cleanly, giving you the benefits of hormone replacement without the harmful side effects.
“Women are often surprised to learn that bioidentical estrogen poses no risk of blood clots to patients. In fact, even women with a history of blood clots can safely take bioidentical estrogen,” Tamucci says.
Myth #3: Only Women in Menopause can Take Hormones
While bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is a great treatment for women experiencing menopause symptoms, it can be used to treat other hormone imbalances as well. For example, BHRT is an effective treatment for pre-menopausal hormone imbalances, and it can be used to optimize thyroid hormones.
Many women aren’t aware of how important their thyroid is in hormone regulation. Your thyroid regulates hormones that impact your mood, metabolism, and sex drive. “You don’t have to have thyroid disease for you to have thyroid dysfunction,” Tamucci says. “If your thyroid isn’t functioning at its best, you aren’t going to feel great.”
“Unfortunately, doctors are often more concerned with sickness than with wellness. If you’re feeling sluggish, gaining weight, or losing your hair, your doctor will often test your thyroid function. If your lab results fall within the reference range, it’s considered “normal” and the doctor will send you on your way. But if your thyroid function is on the lower end of that reference range, we can improve your thyroid function and get you feeling more like yourself.”
And BHRT isn’t just for women. Both men and women can benefit from thyroid optimization. While Dr. Tamucci treats women experiencing thyroid dysfunction, Dr. Larissa Russell treats both men and women.
Myth #4: BHRT is Only for Symptom Management
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can certainly alleviate symptoms associated with hormone imbalances such as weight gain, night sweats, and fatigue. But BHRT also has preventive benefits.
“BHRT also has extensive preventive benefits for patients for as long as they are taking the hormones,” Tamucci explains. Although hormone replacement therapy is usually used for the shortest period of time possible to help patients with symptoms, Tamucci says that utilizing BHRT for longer can extend the preventive benefits.
Some preventive benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy include:
- Prevention of bone loss and osteoporosis
- Maintain strength and reduce muscle loss
- Reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease and memory loss
- Improve your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease
“While symptoms of menopause only last for five to seven years, women remain in menopause for the rest of their lives. Even though the hot flashes go away, you’re still going to be hormone deficient,” Tamucci says.
Myth #5: All BHRT Involves Pellet Insertion
Pellets are a common form of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. But they certainly aren’t the only option for patients. Other options for BHRT include transdermal hormones and oral medications.
Pellets are inserted subcutaneously, usually in the upper buttocks, during a regular office visit. Because each pellet dose lasts for three to six months, there are no other prescriptions to fill or medications to remember: you only have to think about your hormones a few times a year.
Transdermal hormones are bioidentical hormones that are administered through creams, gels, or patches on the skin. Your body can absorb these hormones more easily than oral hormones since they are absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
“For patients who prefer to take hormones orally, I can prescribe those as well. These are traditionally dissolved under the tongue to avoid metabolism in the liver,” Tamucci explains.
Your doctor can help you weigh the risks and benefits of each type of BHRT and help you choose the best option for your needs and your lifestyle.
Myth #6: BHRT Isn't Real Medicine
Your primary care doctor may not be familiar with BHRT, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid and important medical treatment. Dr. Tamucci says, “It’s important for patients to know that all of our treatments are informed by data. We use specific diagnostic tools before beginning BHRT that include lab tests and symptom evaluation.”
“Our baseline labs for hormones include lab tests for estradiol, FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), and total testosterone. We also test TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and Free T3 to evaluate thyroid function.”
There are no one-size-fits-all treatments in BHRT; all treatments are designed specifically for each patient. Dr. Tamucci says, “When we use pellets, we’re able to create precise doses of hormones designed specifically for each patient. Our program enables us to input lab values, current medications, family medical history, and personal medical history, so there’s no guesswork.”
As with any other medications, doctors look at your labs and symptoms to determine the best starting dose for you. “With compounded medications such as creams, patches, and oral medications, we know where to start patients based on their lab values, but we’re also able to adjust those doses as needed,” Tamucci continues.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can significantly improve an individual’s quality of life, but patients are often uninformed about its benefits. Dr. Tamucci says, “I recommend that all of my patients read The Hormone Health Zone by Dr. Don Colbert so that they can educate themselves, understand what’s happening in their bodies, and advocate for themselves as they pursue the care they need.”
Dr. Ashley Tamucci at MedHelp Women’s and Wellness and Dr. Larissa Russell both provide bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to patients in the Birmingham area. Call MedHelp Women’s and Wellness or our 280 Clinic for more information.
Dr. Ashley Tamucci and Dr. Larissa Russell at MedHelp Clinics are now offering BHRT to patients in the Birmingham area. Every patient receives individualized, targeted care to balance their hormones and improve their quality of life.