Why Does Anyone Need Hormone Replacement Therapy?
For women, the onset of menopause brings with it a number of uncomfortable sensations. For example:
- Your monthly period may become erratic, either longer or shorter.
- Night sweats may begin.
- Hot flashes during the day bring discomfort and embarrassment.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Loss of bone.
- Moodiness becomes problematic.
- Vaginal dryness, thinning of the vaginal wall, and other changes lead to painful sex.
- Reduced sex drive.
- Frequent need to urinate.
- Lack of self-esteem.
You may not have all of these signs and sensations, but chances are you will have some. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may help. What causes these sensations? As you reach the age of menopause, which varies sometimes widely, your body stops producing enough estrogen and progesterone. This leads to a significant imbalance in these two major hormones. Prior to menopause, you produced these hormones in balance. The progesterone counters some of the effects of the estrogen; your body needs this balance in order to function well. At menopause this balance no longer works. You lose both hormones, but you lose more progesterone than you do estrogen. This puts more estrogen in your body without the balancing power of progesterone. Thus, you experience estrogen dominance and many of the sensations above.
What About Men?
Men, too, lose hormones as they age. This process occurs slower than the onset of menopause in women. Over time, men’s bodies stop producing sufficient testosterone. When this happens, symptoms result which include:
- Loss of sex drive.
- Bone loss.
- Mood changes.
- Less body hair.
- Loss of memory and forgetfulness.
- Loss of muscle.
- Inability to get/sustain an erection.
- Testosterone hormone replacement therapy may help relieve these symptoms.
Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone Replacement
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, BHRT, often provides relief from the symptoms and sensations experienced with decreased production of hormones. Replacement of women’s hormones usually comes in two types. Estrogen therapy occurs when only the estrogen gets replaced. However, a combination of estrogen and progesterone is more effective because you want to make sure there is not unopposed estrogen causing estrogen dominance, and you want to have a good balance of hormones like when you were younger. There are many delivery forms of bioidentical hormone replacement, including topical cream or gels, capsules, patch, lozenges, troches, shots, and pellets that go into the subcutaneous fat. Men or women can also get testosterone replacement in any of several forms. Gels to rub onto the body, patches to place on the genitals, shots into deep muscle, a stick to use like a deodorant, or tablets that soak into the gums are the most typical forms.
Significant Health Risks For Women Taking Conventional Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
There may be some health risks for women that come with HRT. A slightly increased risk of breast cancer may exist. This seems to become more likely with women over 50 who use combined HRT for five years or more. Notice that we’re talking about conventional Hormone Replacement Therapy ( HRT) and not Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy ( BHRT).
- Women over 60 experience a small increased risk of developing heart disease or stroke when taking combined HRT in pill form.
- Women under 50 and those aged 50-60 experience an increased risk of blood clots inside their veins.
- Estrogen only HRT increases the risk of endometrial cancer due to unopposed estrogen.
- A very small increased risk of ovarian cancer exists with HRT.
- Women using oral HRT experience a slightly increased risk of developing gall stones.
Side Effects And Risks
For men, side effects include increased snoring, trouble breathing during sleep, itching at the site of application, increased red blood cell count, potential problems with the prostate, and acne. Men with prostate problems, a history of prostate cancer, high blood counts, or heart problems should avoid testosterone replacement. Women tend to experience more side effects of HRT. Some of these include:
- Cramping or bloating
- A return of your periods
- Skin irritation
- Blood clots in legs or lungs
- Mood swings
- Increased risk of breast cancer
Some conditions where HRT are contraindicated in women include:
- Blood clots now or in the past.
- Heart disease or stroke now or in the past.
- Ovarian, breast, or endometrial cancer now or in the past.
- Liver problems.
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure.
- Current smoker
Even though healthcare professionals who follow the more natural route in dealing with the sensations and symptoms of menopause know bioidentical hormones work more effectively and are safe, the Food and Drug Administration does not support the claim that they are safer than conventional HRT. In addition, some medical groups likewise do not recognize the increased safety aspect of bioidentical hormones. Always weigh the risks and benefits of either therapy that you’re getting with your doctor. Beware that just like how you can have too much hormones in your body, you can overdose on either conventional or bioidentical hormone therapy if the dosing is not effectively managed. So always get your levels checked and don’t just keep increasing the hormones if you’re not feeling better on them. Always double check with a provider regarding these therapies.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy brings significant benefit to men and women suffering from the effects of manopause and menopause.