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Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy

By Joseph Serio R.Ph. Registered Pharmacist

What is natural hormone replacement therapy and why is it one of the leading grass roots movements for women in the 90's? To best describe it, I should state what is the general rule for hormone replacement and then differentiate from it. A typical course for women post menopausal is the estrogen and progesterone combination of Premarin and Provera.

The first is touted as coming from natural sources. Natural, certainly to the horse that it came from, but not to the women's body that it is going into. To clarify, Premarin is a drug that is derived from pregnant mares; hence the name PreMAREin.Although sharing some of the same estrogen hormones, a horse possesses additional hormones not found in a women. Because of this difference women can experience side effects that may result in discontinuance of therapy.The second drug Provera is a synthetic progestrin that does not have the same metabolic pathway as natural progesterone and can cause side effects such as fluid retention, irritability and depression.

In natural hormone replacement therapy, the estrogens found in a women's body are replaced in the identical ratio that they are found in the body. The progesterone replaced is bio-identical to the physiologically source. Additionally testosterone is in some cases indicated in a women's regime. Typically thought of as a male hormone, testosterone is also produced by the female ovaries and is essential for sexual desire, as well as the strength of the muscle and bone.

The burning question once again as I addressed in my last column is, if there are therapies available that are more beneficial and cause less side effects, why aren't they used? I don't want to repeatedly dwell on the answer, but the reason is vital for the American population to understand. If a substances cannot be patented, it is not a major source of interest to the Pharmaceutical industry, who basically does most of the continuing education for the doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. So how do you get these substances if the pharmaceutical manufacturers don't make them? That's where we come to the "Back to the Future" part of the equation. There are a group of pharmacists (about 1500-2000) in the country who custom mix these natural substances in their own on-site laboratories. This is not a new phenomena. It is the art of compounding that has governed pharmacists practice before the pharmaceutical industry ever existed.

Most pharmacies however stopped custom preparation of medications in their stores as commercial manufacturers made more and more of the finished products. In fact as late as the 1950's twenty percent of the prescriptions were custom prescriptions written by the doctor, specifically for each individual patient. In hormone replacement therapy the ability of pharmacists to custom mix the medications specific to each individuals women's needs helps in insuring that each women is getting exactly what she needs. The means of administration are varied as capsules, troches, vaginal suppositories and topical creams can be formulated.

The point here is each women is unique and in many cases needs a regime that is tailored to the individual as opposed to a one size fits all approach that is common with commercial medication. If you are in an area where you are not sure who is a compounding pharmacist, simply call the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists at 1(800) 927-4227 to get a referral. They can also direct you to a physician who practices and writes for Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy. If any of what I write interests you and you want further information , please stop in at Westminster Pharmacy and references will gladly be supplied. We have an extensive library of books and articles and are always looking to give our patients the information they need to be proactive towards their own health.

In our next column , we will explore the explosion in nutritional supplementation and other holistic options in the quest for optimal health.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. You should read carefully all product packaging. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.