Hormone Replacement Therapy – The Best Menopause Treatment?

Do the Benefits of HRT Outweigh the Risks?

First you’re sweating, then you’re freezing. You’re grumpy, tired and miserable.

On top of feeling like crap, your skin’s dull, you’re hair’s limp and it seems like you’re getting a new wrinkle every day.

Welcome to menopause, the biggest battle in your war against getting old.

The information available out there regarding hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is contradictory and confusing.

If you’ve been looking for relief, you’ve probably uncovered the great HRT debate: One side swears that you can’t make it through menopause without it. The other side says that HRT will give you cancer.

Many from both sides agree that the risks associated with HRT are often outweighed by the risks associated with menopause but what’s the truth? If you’re trying to decide whether or not HRT is right for you, then keep reading.

I’ve researched the benefits and risks of HRT using information from top-notch medical research facilities and am going to share what I found in the following paragraphs.

What is HRT?

There are actually two options available if you’re considering hormone replacement therapy. There’s traditional HRT and the new bioidentical HRT. What’s the difference? Let’s find out.

  • HRT

    Hormone replacement therapy has long been the gold standard for treating symptoms of menopause as well as for preventing maladies such as osteoporosis and heart disease that are associated with menopause and low estrogen levels.

    Women who are experiencing natural menopause at around the typical age of 50 are generally given two hormones in tandem: estrogen and progestin, a synthetic version of progesterone. These hormones are typically derived from the urine of horses, or from plant sources.

    This cocktail is used because the use of estrogen alone increases your risk of uterine and endometrial cancers. If you’ve had a hysterectomy, you’ll probably just be prescribed estrogen alone if you can’t manage your symptoms naturally.

  • Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy:

    There’s a new kid on the block now called bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BRHT). These are hormones that are derived from plant sources and bioengineered using a saliva sample to match your personal hormonal needs in levels that are supposedly exactly right for you.

    These “natural” hormones are being touted as the best things since sliced bread in the hormone industry by the companies that produce them but there are a couple of problems with them:

    • The hormone levels in your saliva don’t reflect the hormone levels in your blood, nor do they correspond to the menopausal symptoms that you’re having, so the test is skewed from the beginning.

    • The hormones are “matched” to your DNA in a compounding facility that may not be held to the same high standards that commercially produced hormones are.

    • Even though they’re advertised as “natural”, bioidentical hormones have to undergo commercial processing to become bioidentical. Many commercially produced hormones such as Estrace (standard estrogen replacement) and Prometrium (a natural progesterone replacement) are also derived naturally from plants.

    The bottom line is that some women can benefit from the non-typical dosages but there’s very little research that supports using bioidentical hormones over standard, commercially-produced ones. At least not yet. There’s also the fact that since they’re fairly new, there aren’t any long-term trials to show what the long-term effects of BHRT may be.

How Do I Take HRT?

Good question. most forms of HRT or BHRT are available as suppositories, vaginal creams, pills, patches or injections. The method right for you will depend on what your symptoms are as well as what you’re taking.

What are the benefits of HRT?

Though hormone replacement therapy used to be used on a long-term basis, that’s no longer the case. There are, however, a few health benefits that you may derive from them even by using them just to get you through the crunch. These are, of course, in addition to the relief that you’ll get from your menopause symptoms. They include:

  • Decreased risk of heart disease: There is some data that suggests that taking estrogen early in your postmenopausal years may decrease your risk of heart disease. There are some studies being conducted now on younger women in premenopausal conditions but the results won’t be available for several years.

  • Osteoporosis Prevention: hormone therapy during and after menopause has been shown to prevent the bone loss associated with menopause. This, in turn, prevents the development of osteoporosis. Incidentally, it may also help with tooth decay and loss during and after menopause.

  • Reduced risk of colorectal cancer: There are several studies that indicate that hormone therapy may reduce your risk of colorectal cancer significantly.

  • Memory loss: Estrogen may help protect you from age-related memory loss and mental decline. Some studies are even suggesting that it may even help Alzheimer’s patients.

Other symptoms of aging that HRT may help include:
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Migraines
  • Vision
  • Diabetes
  • Urinary Tract Infections

Risks of HRT

Now it’s time to get down to brass tacks. Let’s talk about the potential downsides to adding artificial chemicals to your body when it stops making the originals.

The problem with everything that’s mentioned below is that it’s all under fierce debate, with each side having studies to back up their claims. To make it easy for you, every risk that we’re going to discuss has only been shown in most studies to be increased slightly by the use of HRT.

  • Breast cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease (remember though, that some studies have shown that HRT DECREASES your risk of heart disease!)
  • blood clots
  • Abnormal or false positive mammograms.
  • Asthma
  • Gallstones
  • Endometrial cancer

Side Effects

In addition to potential health risks, there are also some side effects of estrogen and progestin. Most are mild and will probably fade away after you’ve been on the therapy for a few weeks. Your body simply needs to get used to having the hormones again.

    Estrogen:

  • headaches
  • Irregular vaginal spotting or discharge
  • Nausea
  • Fluid retention
  • Weight gain
  • Skin blotches or darkening, particularly on your face
  • Breast tenderness
  • Gallstones
  • In rare cases, your endometriosis or fibroid cysts or tumors may worsen

    Progestin

  • Mood changes
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Abdominal pain or bloating
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vaginal discharge
  • As you can see, there are several potential risks to using HRT and the side effects are no walk in the park either. If your menopause symptoms are severe though, it may be the best choice for you.

    More than likely, your doctor is also going to suggest that you modify your diet and make some lifestyle changes in order to help you cope with menopause even if he does start you on HRT. It’s good advice to follow! We’ve actually composed a list of the Top 5 Must-Have Anti-Aging Supplements to help you out.

    Now that you have a little bit of non-biased information on HRT, good luck with your decision and may your future be temperate, sane and full of restful sleep!

    If you’ve taken HRT, or decided to tough menopause out without it, please let us know about your experience in the comments section below.

    Be the first! Share your experience!


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