Natural hormone replacement therapy uses what are called bioidentical hormones. These natural hormones may or may not be made from plants. They could be made in a lab from a plant extract, or they could be made from other chemicals. The reason they are called natural hormones is because they are identical to the hormones that are in your own body. This means when they are metabolized, the breakdown products are also similar to what your body knows from metabolizing its own hormones.
It can be confusing looking at the source of a supplemental hormone. This is because synthetic hormones can actually be made from 'natural' substances. A good example of this is Premarin, which is made from the urine of pregnant mares. This may seem like it makes it a good candidate to be considered natural. However, Premarin, and other synthetic hormones, are structurally quite different to our own hormones. This is true of their breakdown products as well.
Because the breakdown products are also structurally different, synthetic hormones expose women to foreign chemicals that can cause side effects and potentially other harm over a period of time. Some synthetic hormones are even made from plants. So don't assume a plant derived hormone is 'natural' (and hence safe), unless it is also a bioidentical hormone.
Bioidentical natural hormones include:
- dermestril septem
- elleste-solo MX40 & MX80
- estraderm MX
- climaval elleste-solo progynova
Natural hormone replacement therapy medication is available as pills, creams, gels, patches and sprays. They have much fewer side effects than synthetic HRT, although some women may not respond to them. In that case, synthetic hormones may be the best option.
Before taking any form of hormone replacement therapy, even a natural hormone, it is worth making dietary changes, and exploring the use of herbs and phytoestrogens. Vitamins may help as well.
There are three types of phytoestrogens - isoflavones, lignans, and coumestans. Isoflavones are relatively well known. They are found in soy products and things like chick peas, lentils, and red clover (a herb). Try eating more tofu, and drinking more soy milk. These are often supplemented with calcium as well. It's better to consume isoflavone rich food rather than taking isoflavone supplements, as the protein in the food is needed to make the isoflavones active in the body. If you do decide to take an isoflavone supplement, make sure it has soy protein in it, or take it with a glass of soy milk.
Lignans can be found in flaxseed, as well as many fruits, vegetables, and cereals. Coumestans are found in alfalfa and bean sprouts.
References: Dr L E Corio and L G Kahn, The Change Before The Change
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