Let’s start at the beginning. You’re probably already familiar with the idea of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) because it is often used in relation to the menopause. BHRT is a term used to describe HRT using either bioidentical or body identical hormones.
Unlike with traditional HRT (which uses hormones that are similar to those in the body, but not the same), the bioidentical and body identical hormones used are chemically identical to those produced naturally in the body. Here, we explore the ins and outs of bioidentical hormones, and their differences in relation to body identical hormones. Are bioidentical hormones available on the NHS? We explain.
A bioidentical hormone is one that is derived from natural sources (usually plants), and is molecularly identical to the hormones created by the human body.
Dr Harpal Bains, explains: “Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) utilises these hormones in bespoke formulations, dosages, and delivery methods (i.e. oral, lozenges, creams) to address specific needs in a patient. For example, if your hormone profile revealed that your oestrogen level was low, but not low enough to be considered an issue by public healthcare, a bespoke dosage of oestrogen could be prescribed by a specialist hormone clinic to return your oestrogen level to its optimal state. Just because an imbalance isn’t dramatic, doesn’t mean it’s not impacting how you feel. Bioidentical hormones can be tailored precisely to a patient’s requirements – we can specify the dosages of the different components of oestrogen (like oestradiol and estriol) depending on what the patient requires. This level of tailoring is not present with both non-identical hormones and body identical hormones”
BHRT can be used to rebalance the sex hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, as well as precursor hormones DHEA and pregnenolone. It can also be used to rebalance other hormones like thyroid (T3 and T4).
Body identical hormones are also derived from plants and are chemically identical to those found in the body. They differ from bioidentical hormones in that they are only available in set dosages and delivery methods. They are not made bespoke for an individual patient.
There are many other differentiations, including how they are made, costs, shelf life, and more. You can read more about the differences between body identical and bioidentical hormones in detail here.
At Harpal Clinic we offer both body identical and bioidentical hormones, and prescribe based on your needs and preferences.
Many people who suffer with hormonal issues may be unaware of bioidentical hormones and the benefits of them, simply because they are not offered this by the NHS.
Instead, the NHS offers a combination of synthetic hormones, and body identical hormones, such as Utrogestan and Evorel, which are available in non-customisable dosages and delivery methods.
Private hormone clinics offer patients a wide range of benefits. Victoria, New Patient Liaison & Nutritional Therapy Practitioner at Harpal Clinic, explains:
“Many patients we speak to struggle with their regular GP service, and tell us that they do not feel fully listened to. This is due to many factors, including doctor time restraints, which can often hinder the ability to look at the bigger hormone picture. At Harpal Clinic, our integrative hormone consultations allow plenty of time, which is great as there are lots of different aspects of hormonal health to take into consideration.”
With a specialist clinic, you’re not just making an appointment with a medical professional who will write you a prescription. It’s far more complex and involved than that. We’re making a full assessment of your health with hormones as the primary focus, while also considering other elements of your health. We take a well rounded approach, looking also at supplements, lifestyle, dietary aspects and much more within your consultation.
Victoria continues: “Supplements, diet and lifestyle are key factors, especially for those with hormonal imbalances. Before coming to our clinic, patients are often considering which supplements would best complement their BHRT regime. This is an important point to consider. A simple example is omega 3. Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that is crucial for every cell in our body because it supports the function of the cellular membrane, receptors on a cell, and importantly in this case – hormone receptors. It also plays a significant role in producing the hormones in the first instance. Our doctors will pick up on this and ensure that uptake is helped rather than hindered.
“In addition, our hormone testing (in fact, our blood markers alone) is more extensive than what could be achieved at a GP appointment. Alongside sex hormones, we are also looking at precursor hormones such as DHEA, vitamin levels, the thyroid, and even antibodies – all of which have a large impact on sex hormone production. Our markers have been constructed in such a way that we are covering all bases. We also offer DUTCH complete testing, which is an advanced hormone metabolite test. We all break down hormones in very different ways. Understanding how your body is metabolising your hormones is advantageous to your overall health and care. A blood test can be paired alongside a DUTCH complete test, which is not available via a GP or NHS service.”
Yes, this is sometimes the case with patients who want their hormone profile analysed in more detail, alongside supplement recommendations and other advice. We do see patients who obtain specific hormones from their GP, and then come to us for the other important hormones they are unable to access via their GP, like pregnenolone or DHEA.
Quite frequently patients prefer to come to us for detailed monitoring and access to other services within the clinic like nutritional assessment and IV therapies, whilst getting their body identical hormones fulfilled by their GP.
Because of the nature of bioidentical hormones and the ability to create bespoke dosages, anyone can be a candidate for BHRT.
Age is responsible for a decline in hormone production, so many of those seeking BHRT are aged 40 or above. However, hormone imbalances can happen at any age, and there are many people aged 25 to 35 who are interested in understanding more about their hormones and taking preventative measures.
In this day and age, particularly with stress at the forefront of our lives, many young people are struggling with adrenal fatigue, which can then have a knock-on effect on sex hormones. Therefore, our patient age range is quite wide, so if you are a young person who feels embarrassed about seeking advice in regards to your hormonal health, you aren’t alone.