Bioidentical hormones (BIH) have been around for years, most practitioners are unfamiliar with them. They function exactly like those the body produces. BIH are manufactured in the lab to have the same molecular structure as the hormones made by your own body. By contrast, synthetic hormones are intentionally different. Drug companies can't patent a bioidentical structure, so they invent synthetic hormones that are patentable (Premarin, Prempro, and Provera being the most widely used examples).
In our practice, we have had the greatest success with an individualized approach. We begin with laboratory tests of hormone levels (a so-called "hormone panel"). When warranted, we then prescribe a precise dosage of bioidentical estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, and/or DHEA that is prepared at a registered compounding pharmacy. Each patient is then monitored carefully through regular follow-up hormone panels to ensure she gets symptom relief at the lowest possible dosage. In the initial stages, we will do a hormone panel every three months. Once balance is restored, we'll do one panel a year at the time of the annual exam. Physicians also make sure that patients undergo yearly pap smears and mammograms, since elevated estrogen levels can lead to breast cancer.
We have found that about 85% can find relief through a natural approach that combines medical-grade nutritional supplements, gentle endocrine support, and dietary and lifestyle changes. In our experience, the great majority of women can rebalance their hormones without the use of drugs, and even without HRT in any form.