BIO-IDENTICAL VS SYNTHETIC HRT
The terms “Natural” or “Synthetic” can often times be confusing to women who are looking for options to replace lost hormones. While both Natural and Synthetic can be labeled as “Natural” because they come from ingredients found in nature, not all are created equal. The main difference that women want to look for is whether or not a Hormone Replacement is Bioidentical.
Bioidentical means that the molecular structure of the medication is the exact molecule of hormone that your own body makes and processes. In estrogen HRT, this estrogen molecule is called 17-beta estradiol. Because the body has a very sophisticated pathway of using and breaking down hormones, the benefit of Bioidentical hormones is the body’s ability to recognize them, and use them the same way it would it’s own hormones. Often times, this results in fewer side effects and the body’s ability to break down and eliminate them naturally and more efficiently.
Synthetic is often times a tricky word. All hormones are considered synthetic, as the term synthetic refers to the process of a laboratory or pharmacy “creating” or “synthesizing a compound”. However, the term synthetic HRT is most commonly and accurately used for HRT that is NOT Bioidentical (same molecule as your own hormones). This means that the body doesn’t recognize the medication or compound as identical to its own, and it may take more steps to process the hormone. This frequently leads the body to breaking down the hormones into metabolites (hormone waste products) that are harder for the body to eliminate. This can lead to a build up of the hormone compound and can increase the risks involved. This type of hormone however, can be beneficial for women who have a hard time holding onto the hormone in it’s natural form, as they either use it up too quickly or their body’s processes have an odd way of breaking it down. Synthetic hormones are well known for lasting a lot longer in the body, as they take more time to be broken down and eliminated. However, this has a flip side of increasing the side effects and risks involved with hormone supplementation.
The easiest way to think about this, is to imagine your hormone receptors as door locks. You can either unlock the door with a key that was made to fit the lock, or your other option is to use lock pick tools. Both will get the job done, but one will be quicker and easier. It’s the same with how your body processes hormones. Bioidentical hormones are the keys that fit the lock perfectly, where synthetic hormones are like tools that have to be made to fit the lock before you can use them. How your body processes hormones will have an effect on whether or not Bioidentical or Synthetic hormones are the best fit for your body.