Menopause is a condition that every woman will experience at some time in their life. The term menopause is used to describe a collection of changes that usually happen to women in their 50’s or 60’s. Though some of these changes are often start to become noticeable in their forties. The hormonal decline that accompanies menopause results in a host of undesirable symptoms that compel many women to seek relief.
According to a recent Fox News article, “relief is rumored to exist with a steady soy diet or acupuncture, but hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is known as the most effective.” Still, many women are fearful of hormone therapy and question its safety.
The fear of hormone replacement therapy for menopause stems from a study on the safety and efficacy of hormone therapy known as the Women’s Health Initiative. Conducted in 1991, the study tested traditional hormone therapy on postmenopausal women. Participants in the study were limited to post-menopausal women with an average age of 68 years old. One part of the study, which compared estrogen-only therapy with estrogen-progestin therapy, was stopped in 2002 due to the adverse health conditions that developed in many of the study’s subjects.
What is significant, the article says, is that “most of the women studied had been in a state of hormonal decline or complete loss of hormones for fifteen years or more, putting them at-risk for the development of diseases that estrogen, progesterone and testosterone might have prevented if administered earlier in their lifespan.”
“Relief is rumored to exist with a steady soy diet or acupuncture, but hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is known as the most effective.”
Also, the Women’s Health Initiative study used traditional (non-bioidentical) hormones, not bioidentical hormones in their therapies. Unlike bioidentical hormones, the traditional, non-bioidentical hormones are not designed to mimic the natural structure of human hormones. Although non-bioidentical hormones can mimic the effects of hormones in the body, they rarely provide the effectiveness, at a molecular level, that you see with your natural hormones.
“The difference between bioidentical hormones and traditional hormones is deeply layered. Unlike bioidentical hormones, traditional hormones may be patented by pharmaceutical companies, therefore dosages vary from person to person by mere milligrams dictated by your doctor, while bioidentical hormones are prescribed precisely to meet your individual needs,” the article continues.
BHRT, or Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, is a safe and effective way for women to get relief from the debilitating symptoms of menopause. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapies are customized to address your specific set of symptoms. A BHRT specialist will assess your condition through comprehensive lab tests and will formulate the therapy that’s right for you.
Estrogen is widely thought of as the “female hormone.” It’s associated with many functions that impact a woman’s beauty and health. According to the article, Low estrogen can lead to a diminished sex drive, because the vaginal walls become thinner and drier when estrogen is lacking; this can make intercourse painful. Also, orgasms may be less intense and more difficult to achieve. Collagen is responsible for building skin and connective tissue; low estrogen leads to a reduction in collagen resulting in thinner, drier, wrinkled skin.
Progesterone, according to the article, has a host of functions inside a woman’s body, “regulating a symphony of other hormones: estrogen, testosterone, cortisol – without it or with low levels, wellness is undoubtedly threatened.” In the central nervous system, progesterone produces calming effect, and impacts memory and cognitive function. “Progesterone also works in conjunction with estrogen to help regulate the action of the cells that form new bone and downplays the effects of mineral corticosteroids, such as cortisol. This effect makes it pivotal in reducing water-retention and bloating,” the article continues. “Bioidentical progesterone performs these same functions, while progestin (the traditional form) exclusively regulates the menstrual cycle and exacerbates side effects of having an imbalance of progesterone.”
Women need testosterone too! It’s true; women need testosterone, though typically in lower levels than their male counterparts. Not unlike men, testosterone in women helps to boost sex drive, build and maintain lean muscle, and manage mood and an overall sense of wellbeing.
Many women approaching menopause labor over the decision to pursue hormone therapy, or just deal with the symptoms. As the article states, “It can be a very difficult decision, especially with all the media headlines and fears instilled from previous studies.” “Fortunately, experts and researchers have continued to pursue in-depth studies and analysis on hormone therapy and the results yield good news for women.”
In March 2011 the medical journal, “Menopause,” published the results of The California Teachers’ Study which was a long-term study analyzing and observing the effects of traditional and bioidentical hormone therapy. 71,000 retired female teachers between the ages of thirty and ninety were observed over the course of 9 years.
The study showed that women 34 to 59 experienced a decrease in their risk of heart disease by using hormone therapy, and women 70 to 84 showed no increase in heart disease risk. These results were consistent with the WHI study which showed that women, aged 50 to 59, also experienced a decreased risk of heart disease, while participants not receiving hormone therapy experienced an increased risk.
Breast cancer is probably the greatest concern for women considering whether or not to take hormone replacement therapy, but it’s important to note that the 1991 WHI study saw an increase in breast cancer in women who were taking non-bioidentical estrogen combined with progestin, which is a non-bioidentical form of progesterone.
The International Journal of Cancer published the results of a 2005 study that measured the risk of breast cancer using varying types of hormone replacement therapy, and concluded that women experienced a decreased risk of breast cancer when using estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy, regardless of whether the therapy used traditional or bioidentical hormones. According to the article, “Researchers observed significant increases in breast cancer incidence among women who used estrogen hormone therapy combined with non-bioidentical progesterone versus little to no incidence of the disease among women who used estrogen therapy combined with natural (bioidentical) progesterone.”
A 2011 study published in the journal, “Menopause,” took a detailed look at the effects of discontinuing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) at varying points in a woman’s lifespan. For over six years, the study analyzed the bone density of fifty-thousand women who were either taking HRT or had discontinued HRT. During this time, researchers observed a 55% increase in hip fractures among women who had discontinued their HRT, and more alarming was the steady decline in bone density observed each year for women who didn’t resume hormone replacement therapy.