Bio-Identical and Body-Identical Hormones

Piece if paper peeling away a question 'what is the difference?' highlighting the difference between Bio-Identical and Body-Identical hormones

Between Bio-Identical and Body-Identical Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT)? Unravelling the Debate

Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT) has been a hot topic in the medical world for decades, especially in the context of menopause. As women go through this natural phase of life, hormonal imbalances can lead to a myriad of discomforts. In an effort to alleviate these symptoms and improve overall well-being, various forms of MHT have been developed. Two terms that frequently appear in this conversation are Bio-Identical and Body-Identical Hormones, often abbreviated as rBHRT and cBHRT respectively. But what’s the real difference between these two types of MHT, and why does it matter?


Body Identical Hormones (rBHRT): Bridging the Gap

Body Identical Hormones, also known as regulated bioidentical hormones (rBHRT), have gained popularity due to their resemblance to the hormones naturally produced by the human body. These hormones are derived from the yam plant, specifically through the extraction of a compound called Diosgenin. Interestingly, these plant-based hormones share the same molecular structure as the hormones produced by the ovaries, making them theoretically closer to what our bodies are familiar with.

Manufactured by large pharmaceutical companies, rBHRT products are subjected to stringent regulations. This includes standardized doses and specific application methods. Such meticulous oversight ensures consistency and quality in each dose, thereby reducing the likelihood of variations that might arise from factors like compounding errors or individual reactions.


Compounded Bio-Identical Hormones (cBHRT): A Custom Approach

On the other side of the spectrum are Compounded Bio-Identical Hormones (cBHRT). These hormones are often derived from plant steroids like Diosgenin extracted from soy or wild yams. The distinctive aspect of cBHRT is that they are prepared by compounding pharmacies, where pharmacists create custom doses tailored to individual patients. This approach is often seen as a way to address specific patient needs and fine-tune treatment.

However, the absence of strict regulatory oversight can raise concerns. Unlike regulated rBHRT products, compounded hormones are not subject to the same quality control standards. This can potentially lead to variations in doses, purity, and effectiveness, which might impact treatment outcomes and patient safety.


Navigating the Concerns: Expert Perspectives

The British Menopause Society (BMS) has expressed concerns over bio-identical hormone preparations. One of the key worries is that these hormones are sometimes prescribed by clinicians who lack formal menopause training. This could lead to inadequate understanding of hormonal complexities and potentially inappropriate treatment plans.

Renowned medical professionals like Dr. Jennifer Gunter and Dr. Heather Currie have also highlighted the importance of evidence-based medicine in hormone therapy. Dr. Gunter, an obstetrician-gynaecologist, has been vocal about the lack of scientific support for many claims associated with bio-identical hormones. Dr. Currie, who is the ex-chair of the British Menopause Society, emphasizes the need for patients to have accurate and balanced information when making treatment decisions.

Dr Joanne Hobson, the Clinical Lead Director at The Menopause Consortium, underscores the significance of a patient-centred approach in MHT. She highlights the importance of considering each patient’s unique needs when looking at Bio-Identical and Body-Identical hormones, while ensuring that the chosen treatment aligns with established medical guidelines.


Making Informed Choices

In the realm of menopause hormone therapy, the terms Bio-Identical and Body-Identical may sound synonymous, but the devil is in the details. While both aim to replicate the body’s natural hormones, the sourcing, preparation, and regulation can make a significant difference in their effectiveness and safety. Regulated Body-Identical Hormones offer the advantage of standardized dosages and quality control, backed by pharmaceutical companies’ resources and research. On the other hand, Compounded Bio-Identical Hormones, while customizable, lack the oversight that comes with regulated pharmaceutical products.


As you consider your options for managing menopausal symptoms, it’s essential to consult qualified medical professionals with expertise in menopause and hormone therapy. The guidance of specialists who understand the intricacies of hormone treatments can help you navigate the nuances between these different hormone options, ensuring that you make choices that prioritize your health and well-being.