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Bioidentical hormone use in the UK – are we following in the USA’s footsteps?

Written by Fiona

December 12 2023

The American bioidentical hormone market has recently been valued at a sizeable $33.8 billion (2022). According to estimates, it is expected to grow to $61.5 billion by 2032. 

What about bioidentical hormones in the UK? Are we following in the footsteps of the US? It seems that bioidentical hormones are not as popular as they are in the US, instead, the go-to hormones for GPs are body identical hormones. Despite that, there is a regular stream of private hormone clinics popping up in London and further afield offering bioidentical hormones. 

You may be wondering about the reason behind this growth and popularity. Perspectives on health and wellness are changing. More people are interested in what they put in their bodies and in how they can live a better life as they grow older. Although bioidentical hormones are currently not picking up speed in the UK as quickly as the US, it’s thought the UK won’t be far behind. 

As an ageing population, more and more women are in the menopausal stage of their life. And, as such, there is a greater need for hormone replacement therapy to deal with menopause symptoms and other associated hormone issues.   

With the likes of Davina McCall, Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities speaking out about menopause and the challenges it brings, there is more awareness around this phase of life than ever before.

Women reach menopause on average at age 51, but they can experience symptoms long before this (the peri-menopause) and are likely to continue to do so after. Once a woman reaches menopause (the time when periods have stopped for 12 months) she is considered to be postmenopausal. 

Yams are used for hormone replacement therapies.

What are bioidentical hormones?

Although the majority of the UK uses synthetic and body identical hormones, a fast-growing number of doctors and hormone specialists are adopting bioidentical hormones.

But what are bioidentical hormones? They are hormones, including oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone, that are derived from natural ingredients, such as Mexican yams. These are different to the body identical hormones and synthetic and older synthetic hormones that are prescribed by most GPs across the UK. Let’s take a look at the differences:

Progesterone is affected by menopause.

Body identical hormones

Production: Made in large laboratories, which are tightly regulated by GPhC and MHRA.

Source: Derived from natural sources (like yams).

Molecular make-up: These are molecularly identical to those in the human body.

Dosages: Available in set doses and only certain hormones are available. This means that doses cannot be tailored to the individual and not all hormone deficiencies can be addressed effectively.

Applications: Available in a small number of application methods like patches and gels.

Cost: Due to the large production facilities, the cost of body identical hormones is small

Bioidentical hormones

Production: Made in compounding pharmacies. These smaller pharmacies are also regulated by GPhC.

Source: Derived from natural sources (like yams)

Molecular make-up: These are molecularly identical to those in the body.

Dosages: Each person’s medications are bespoke, specific to their body’s needs. A much wider variety of hormones are available, too.

Applications: They come in a much wider range of application methods than body identical hormones.

Cost: Due to the personalised nature of medication from compounding pharmacies, bioidentical hormones are usually more expensive than body identical hormones

What are the signs of a hormone imbalance?

The symptoms associated with hormone problems are many and varied. That being said, here are some of the most common signs of a hormone imbalance, athough you may not experience all of these:

  • Changes to your periods (heavier or lighter bleeding than normal, more irregular periods)
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating (hot flushes and night sweats)
  • Mood swings (anxiety, depression, and irritability)
  • Loss of libido
  • Trouble getting pregnant
  • Weight gain
  • Muscles cramps
  • Skins issues (acne, dry skin, brittle hair and nails, thinning hair)

Who are bioidentical hormones for?

Many doctors and patients swear by bioidentical hormones. Despite common misconceptions, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can be used to treat both men and women.

The most common use for bioidentical hormones is to address the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. However, other conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis and low testosterone can also be treated effectively. 

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