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Natural vs. Synthetic Hormones: Making an Informed Choice for HRT

July 2, 2024

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been a hot topic in recent years, with many women seeking relief from the symptoms of menopause and other hormonal imbalances. But with so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to make a decision about which type of hormone replacement is right for you.

One of the primary debates in the world of HRT is between natural and synthetic hormones. Natural hormones, also known as bioidentical hormones, are made from plant-based sources and are said to mimic the hormones produced in the body. On the other hand, synthetic hormones are created in a laboratory and are derived from animal sources or are chemically made to be similar to natural hormones.

But which type of hormone is best for your body? In this blog, we will explore the differences between natural and synthetic hormones, the benefits and risks associated with each, and how you can make an informed choice for your HRT journey.

Understanding Hormones and HRT

Before we discuss the specifics of natural and synthetic hormones, let's first understand their role in our bodies and why HRT may be necessary.

Hormones are chemical messengers produced by the body's endocrine glands. They are crucial in regulating various bodily functions such as metabolism, reproduction, mood, and sleep. Our hormone levels naturally decline as we age, leading to imbalances and uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and fatigue.

HRT aims to restore hormonal balance in the body by supplementing with hormones, usually estrogen and progesterone for women, to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. HRT is also used to treat conditions such as osteoporosis, endometriosis, and certain types of cancer.

What Are Natural Hormones?

Natural or bioidentical hormones are derived from plant-based sources such as yams and soy. They are designed to be chemically identical to the hormones produced in the human body, specifically estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Since they are identical to natural hormones, they are believed to be safer and more effective than synthetic hormones. Furthermore, a pharmacist usually compounds natural hormones to create a personalized dosage for each individual, considering their needs and hormone levels.

Benefits of Natural Hormones for HRT

There are several potential benefits of using natural hormones for HRT:

  • Bioidentical to the hormones produced in the body

The main advantage of natural hormones is that they are chemically identical to the hormones produced in the body. As a result, the body may be more receptive to these hormones and experience fewer side effects.

  • Customizable dosages

Since natural hormones are compounded by a pharmacist, they can be customized to fit your unique needs. This is especially beneficial for women who may have hormone imbalances or are at different stages of menopause.

  • May improve effectiveness

Some studies have shown that natural hormones may be more effective in relieving menopause symptoms compared to synthetic hormones. This is because they are better able to bind to hormone receptors in the body and have a higher affinity for them.

  • Lower risk of side effects

Many women report experiencing fewer side effects with natural hormones compared to synthetic hormones. This is likely because natural hormones are identical to the hormones produced in the body, making them a more natural fit for our biology.

Risks of Natural Hormones

While natural hormones may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to HRT, it's essential to understand that there are potential risks associated with their use, including:

  • Lack of regulation: Unlike synthetic hormones, which are regulated by the FDA, natural hormones are not. Since they are compounded by a pharmacist, there is no standardized formula or dosage, making it difficult to determine their safety and effectiveness.
  • Limited research: Large-scale studies are needed on the long-term effects of natural hormones. While smaller studies have shown promising results, more research is required to fully understand their safety and effectiveness.
  • Possible interactions with medications: Natural hormones can interact with other medicines, including birth control pills, blood thinners, and certain antibiotics. It's crucial to discuss all of your medications with your doctor before starting natural hormone therapy.
  • Cost and availability: Natural hormones are often not covered by insurance and can be more expensive than synthetic hormones. Additionally, not all pharmacies offer compounding services, making it challenging to access these hormones.

What Are Synthetic Hormones?

Synthetic hormones, or non-bioidentical hormones, are made in a laboratory and designed to mimic natural hormones' effects on the body. They are the most commonly prescribed form of HRT and are usually available in standard doses in pill, patch, or cream form.

Synthetic hormones are derived from animal sources, such as the urine of pregnant horses, or are created by chemically altering plant-based hormones to make them similar to human hormones.

Benefits of Synthetic Hormones for HRT

Synthetic hormones also have their own set of potential benefits, including:

  • FDA-regulated

Unlike natural hormones, synthetic hormones are regulated by the FDA, which means they have undergone extensive testing and clinical trials to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

  • Easier to access

Synthetic hormones are readily available at most pharmacies and are covered by many insurance plans, making them more accessible and affordable for many women.

  • Standardized dosage

Since synthetic hormones are manufactured in standard doses, there is less room for error when dosing. This can be reassuring for those who prefer a more standardized approach to their HRT.

Risks of Synthetic Hormones

Along with the potential benefits, there are also risks associated with synthetic hormones, including:

  • Increased risk of blood clots: Studies have linked synthetic estrogen with an increased risk of blood clots, which may lead to serious health complications such as strokes and heart attacks.
  • Side effects: Like any medication, synthetic hormones can come with side effects, including headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, and mood swings. These side effects may be more pronounced in women with preexisting health conditions.
  • Not bioidentical: Synthetic hormones have a slightly different chemical structure from natural hormones, which may lead to a different response in the body. This can increase the risk of side effects and may not provide the same benefits as natural hormones.
  • Not suitable for everyone: Women with a history of breast cancer, blood clots, or liver disease may not be good candidates for synthetic hormone therapy. Discussing your medical history with your doctor before starting any form of HRT is crucial.

Making an Informed Choice for Your HRT Journey

With the pros and cons of both natural and synthetic hormones in mind, it's crucial to make an informed choice for your HRT journey. Here are some points to consider when deciding which type of hormone replacement is right for you:

  • Consult with a healthcare provider

Discussing your options with a healthcare provider with experience and knowledge in HRT is crucial. They can help you understand each type of hormone's potential risks and benefits and create a personalized treatment plan for your specific needs.

  • Consider your health history

Your medical history, including any preexisting conditions, may impact which type of hormone therapy is best for you. Disclose all relevant information to your doctor to ensure you make a safe and informed decision.

  • Think about your preferences

Do you prefer a more natural approach to your health? Are you comfortable with standardized treatment options? These are essential factors to consider when choosing between natural and synthetic hormones.

  • Discuss cost and availability

It's essential to consider your budget and the availability of different hormone therapy options. Remember that natural hormones may not be covered by insurance and may require a compounding service, which can be more costly and less accessible.

Introducing Windermere Medical Group - Your Trusted HRT Partner

At Windermere Medical Group, we understand that every woman's journey through menopause and hormonal imbalances is unique. That's why we offer individualized hormone therapy solutions tailored to each patient's specific needs. We also provide a comprehensive Preventative and Wellness Exam for our patients.

If you’re looking for a local “bioidentical hormone doctor near me,” check out one of our clinics conveniently located near you: 

Our experienced healthcare providers will work with you to determine the most appropriate form of HRT, natural or synthetic hormones. We use state-of-the-art testing and cutting-edge treatments to optimize your hormone levels and relieve uncomfortable symptoms.

Don't hesitate to make an informed choice for your HRT journey and book a consultation with Windermere Medical Group today. We are dedicated to helping women achieve hormonal balance and live their best lives.


The material on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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