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Bioidentical HRT & Weight Gain

By Bryan Myers ; Updated July 18, 2017

Consumers want to take natural products for their medical problems. Bioidentical hormones are considered equally effective -- and perhaps safer -- alternatives to synthetic drugs, according to a June 2011 review in "BMC Women's Health." Pharmacists often add these substances to hormone replacement therapy protocols. Women use HRT to help them recover the hormones lost during the menopausal transition. Natural substances can have unexpected side effects. Many women, for example, believe that HRT causes them to gain weight. Consult a physician before using bioidentical products.


Women experience hormonal changes during their late 40s and early 50s that trigger the menopausal transition. Not having your monthly period for over a year indicates that you can no longer become pregnant. Most postmenopausal women report negative symptoms when this change occurs, according to a March 2011 review in the "Nursing Standard." These signs include both biological and psychological changes. Increasing your natural hormone levels with bioidentical substances may alleviate these symptoms.


Taking testosterone increases the lean body mass of both younger and older men, according to a June 2011 report in "Immunity and Aging." These data indicate that the hormone affects body composition. Testosterone levels decrease with age, so older women may have difficulty maintaining their muscle mass. That loss can have an adverse effect on bone health, according to a May 2011 article in "Maturitas." Testosterone replacement may help prevent these negative changes. A clinical trial presented in the July 2006 edition of "Fertility and Sterility" tested this hypothesis in postmenopausal women. Participants received three months of daily testosterone injections. This treatment increased muscle mass relative to baseline. It also, however, caused mild symptoms of diabetes mellitus.


Levels of estrogen decrease as women age, and this decline causes menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness and hot flashes. According to a September 2009 review in the "Journal of Cardiovascular Translational Research," estrogen also plays an important role in regulating body composition. So hormone replacement therapy with estrogen can alter your body weight. A study described in the December 2007 issue of "Fertility and Sterility" looked at the effects of estrogen replacement. The authors reviewed data obtained from female patients who had their ovaries removed. Ovariectomy causes symptoms of menopause in most women. In their report, the scientists noted that ovariectomized patients receiving estrogen supplementation gained more weight than those not given estrogen.


Progesterone also decreases with age and contributes to menopause. Thus, many hormone replacement therapy protocols include both estrogen and progesterone. According to an April 2011 paper in the "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews," taking progesterone does not affect body composition. Given this fact, adding progesterone to an HRT protocol may counter estrogen-mediated increases in body weight. A July 2007 report published in "Menopause" tested this hypothesis using an animal model. Primates received either the combined treatment or an inert substance for eight weeks. The researchers used two different methods to deliver the progesterone -- oral and vaginal. When the oral form was used, the combination reduced body weight relative to placebo. Bioidentical hormone use did not cause side effects.

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