Bottom Line/HEALTH: Dr. Holly, there’s so much controversy about hormones. So let me ask you this: what makes bioidentical hormones safer than prescriptive hormones?
Holly Lucille, ND, RN: In my opinion, we still have to have a critical thought process when dealing with hormones as therapies. However, the bioidentical hormones, it’s kind of in the definition itself: they’re biologically identical to what our bodies have been used to, what our brains have been used to, what those receptor sites have been used to.
With synthetic hormones, a lot of the times there are many different compounds in those agents that are not listed and we are not familiar with them, and so we have a hard time metabolizing them and they can put us at risk for several things.
Bottom Line: When they’ve produced the prescriptive hormones, they’ve added other things in that impact the biochemistry, but the bioidentical ones – which actually are made from yams –
Dr. Lucille: Bioidentical progesterone does come from a plant, yam. And then the estrogen, actually soy.
Bottom Line: How can a yam be more like me than an animal source?
Dr. Lucille: What’s that little saying? “I am what I am, but I’m not a yam.” How can a yam be more like you?
Bottom Line: This is not a riddle, right?
Dr. Lucille: Okay, it’s not. Then horses’ urine, right?
Bottom Line: At least that’s a mammal versus this plant.
Dr. Lucille: Yeah. I think it’s an important distinction when it comes to marketing of anything, because of course you can eat all the yams you want. Are you going to get a medicinal level of perhaps the bioidentical progesterone that we want? It still has to be altered in the lab somewhere.
So if we think about the word “natural,” I honestly think we need to be careful about that, because it’s natural – it’s a plant, as you said – there are some things that need to be adjusted in the laboratory that actually makes this compound that is bioidentical. But the yam definitely gets my vote way, way above pregnant horses’ urine for sure.
Bottom Line: Let me ask you this. Now let’s say somebody goes to their doctor, and I know the whole decision tree of hormones is a very complicated one, and safety and all that sort of stuff, but let’s say they really decide that some hormone therapy may be beneficial, but the doctors are not necessarily knowledgeable or able to give them a bioidentical hormone. What can somebody do to be able to not have to take the prescriptive one?
Dr. Lucille: This is where being your own PCP – primarily in charge of providing care for yourself – comes in big time. Your doctors work for you, and also I think in a great partnership. If your doctor has a scope of practice – and I think this is really important for folks to understand – there are different systems of medicine out there.
Conventional Western reductionistic treatment is very valuable; that doctor is working within his or her scope. Perhaps their scope of practice is synthetic hormone recommendation. But I’m a naturopathic doctor; there are also traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. There’s other systems of medicine that you, the consumer of this healthcare, can go out and seek, because then you are primarily taking charge of your care and you can make decisions about what goes in your body and what doesn’t.
Bottom Line: So perhaps then if somebody does talk to their doctor and decide that hormone supplement may be beneficial, they should then get a naturopathic physician, now have a team of doctors that work together because they provide different knowledge and different awareness and abilities.
Dr. Lucille: Hey, it’s the golden second opinion. It’s not having to fight with somebody; it’s smiling and nodding, saying “Thank you for your recommendation. I need to make sure that this is exactly right for what I need to do and what I want to do.” You become fully informed.
That way, we aren’t a victim of the health care system. We are actually creative causes. We can start taking better charge, and that is where health really comes in.
Bottom Line: That’s great. Thank you, Dr. Holly Lucille.