What is the difference between synthetic vs bioidentical medications
Synthetic Medications Vs. Bioidentical Medications
Your body’s hormones regulate most of your bodily functions. They serve as messengers, coordinating, and controlling various activities throughout the body. Hormones help regulate your body’s processes like hunger, growth, brain function, blood pressure, libido, appetite, digestion, mood, and appetite. That’s why hormonal imbalance can wreak havoc on your emotional, physical, and psychological well-being.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help mitigate hormonal imbalance and ease symptoms. Synthetic and bioidentical medications are two of the most commonly used hormone therapy methods. This article examines the differences between synthetic and bioidentical medications and which one is the safer option for you.
What are Synthetic Medications?
As the name suggests, synthetic medications are synthesized in a pharmaceutical laboratory from human-made or synthetic chemical compounds. Some synthetic medications like Prempro, a synthetic progestin, and Premarin, a synthetic estrogen, are synthesized from urine from pregnant mares. These medications are also referred to as conjugated equine estrogens and progestin. Although they try to mimic natural human hormones, they don’t have an identical chemical structure or function as those produced by your endocrine system.
What are Bioidentical Medications?
Like synthetic medications, bioidentical medications are modified or manufactured in a lab. But that’s where their similarity ends. Bioidentical medications have an identical chemical structure as the hormones your body creates. They can be made from plant tissues or synthesized in a lab, but the result is a compound that is biologically identical to your body’s natural hormones. As such, your body can’t tell the difference between the hormones it produces and the bioidentical ones.
Bioidentical medications are made by pharmaceutical companies regulated by the United States FDA and are sold in standard doses. However, some special types of pharmacies called compounding pharmacies mix their own formulas of bioidentical medications, which aren’t regulated by the FDA. A compounding pharmacist makes bioidentical hormones from natural substances and customizes the doses to meet an individual’s needs.
Synthetic Vs. Bioidentical Medications
One of the main differences between synthetic and bioidentical medications is how they act in the human body. Synthetic medications contain a molecular bond that isn’t recognized by the human body. Although they mimic endogenous hormones’ effects on some biological pathways, synthetic medications seldom offer the same effectiveness at a molecular level. As a result, they aren’t metabolized efficiently and can cause uncomfortable side effects.
On the other hand, bioidentical medications are the exact replicas of your endogenous hormones right down to the chemical and molecular structure. Hormones work by attaching themselves to cell receptors to initiate a chemical process that results in body functions. Since these receptors are designed to interact with the body’s endogenous hormones, synthetic hormones don’t fit well due to their different structural composition. However, bioidentical medications provide the best fit making them more effective.
Apart from their ineffectiveness, synthetic medications have also been linked to an increased risk of several potentially fatal illnesses such as breast cancer and coronary heart disease. Because synthetic medications are made differently than hormones in the body, the body reacts to them. For example, conjugated equine estrogens like Premarin binds to human estrogen receptors very tightly making, them more reactive.
Synthetic medications also can incite and increase estrogen-related breast cell mitosis resulting in breast cancer. They also convert endogenous estrogen into stronger variants (16-hydroxyetrone), a toxic version of estrogen that can stimulate cancer formation.
The Women’s Initiative Study, a large-scale study carried out in 2002, found that women using synthetic estrogen and progestin, a synthetic version of the human hormone progesterone, had a 26% increased risk of breast cancer. They also had a 41% increased risk of cerebral vascular accident, a 29% increased risk of myocardial infarction or death from cardiovascular disease, and a 200% increased risk of pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis.
On the other hand, bioidentical medications have been found to have distinctly different and opposite physiological effects than their synthetic counterparts. Researchers evaluated the efficacy of bioidentical medications for clinical efficacy and risks for cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. They found that bioidentical medications are more effective and have a much lower risk for breast cancer and cardiovascular disease than synthetic hormones.
Bioidentical medications have also been shown to improve the general well-being and quality of life of people with breast cancer. A study found that breast cancer patients on bioidentical medications reported increased energy and improved overall well-being. The medications resolved most of their anti-estrogenic complaints like migraines, insomnia, incontinence, and low libido. The cancer recurrence rates for the study group were no higher than average.
Helping with Hormonal Imbalance
While not a panacea, hormone replacement therapy can be helpful for people with hormonal imbalance. Although synthetic medications were heavily used in the past, bioidentical medications are now the preferred choice due to their numerous benefits. While new research is always being conducted, current evidence suggests that bioidentical medications are a safer, more effective long-term alternative to synthetic medications.