Hormone Replacement Therapy
What it is, its complications and its alternatives.
When women reach menopause their bodies are producing every time less estrogen, and less progesterone. These are the hormones responsible of regulating a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle, prepare a woman’s body for fertilization (estrogen), and also to prepare a women’s body for pregnancy and lactation (progesterone, which is released by women every month during their periods).
When women start producing less of this hormones many unpleasant side effects occur, which include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sleep disturbances. This is when hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is recommended by many doctors to thousands of women seeking menopausal symptoms relief.
But what exactly is Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)? HRT is a mix of synthetic estrogen and progestin, designed to “replace” a woman’s decreasing hormone levels in order to relief their bothersome menopausal symptoms.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was supposed to be the most effective treatment for hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.
In the past, research had supposedly shown that HRT helped prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, short-term memory loss, depression and other diseases in post-menopausal women. However, this past researches are now being challenged, as new researches prove more dangerous effects of the so long believed to be the “best menopausal symptoms treatment” available.
For instance, doctors will now advise women who have had breast cancer not to take hormone replacement therapy. This is because HRT also contains estrogen, and this hormone is associated with the growth of certain types of cancer cells.
Even though past studies had shown a weak connection between hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer, this connection seems now to be increasing, and in addition to that, there now seems to be other complications.
In July of 2002, a study undertaken by the National Institute of Health and the Women’s Health institute was stopped due to an increased risk for an invasive form of breast cancer, as well as increased odds for heart attack, stroke, and blood clots, in women taking HRT as a treatment for menopause.
Furthermore, now is not only HRT a dangerous increaser of the possibility of breast cancer, but also, contradicting the long-held believe of HRT to be a protection to the heart, HRT is now also a possible responsible of heart attacks, and possible death. For instance, one review of the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that for women with heart disease, hormones increased the risk of heart attacks and death by 25 percent. What is more, women who started HRT after having a heart attack were 44 percent more likely to have another attack or die within a year, in comparison to those which never took hormones.
In summary, the study concluded that as a result of HRT there was a (1) increased risk of heart attack, (2) increased risk of blood clots, (3) reduced risk of colorectal cancer, (4) fewer fractures, (5) increased risk of breast cancer, (6)and an increased risk of a stroke.
On the other hand, the National Institute of Health stated that: “Participants in the Women’s Health study were randomly assigned to receive either hormones or placebo, and those women who had menopausal symptoms reported relief from symptoms with hormone use. Women who felt that they needed menopausal hormones to treat severe symptoms may not have been willing to take the chance of not receiving hormones and may, therefore, have been underrepresented in the study.”
Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now encouraging all manufacturers of HRT drug products indicated for use by postmenopausal women to update the labeling for their products to provide information about the possible health risks.
Today, women and their doctors have to decide whether or not the benefits of HRT outweigh the possible increase in breast cancer risk, or look for other possibilities for the so long looked after: Menopausal Symptoms Relief.
The good news is that there are ways to manage symptoms and live more comfortably with menopause without taking hormones.
There are many things women can do to alleviate menopause. For instance, modifying their lifestyles with a healthy diet and routine exercise can alter symptoms in an impressively and positively manner, hence, helping them to live better and even longer.
Trisha Posner, on her book No Hormones No Fear: A natural Journey through Menopause, Posner offers an alternative to HRT which involve a program of exercise, diet, and nutritional supplements and natural herbs that worked for her. Beta-carotene, Selenium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Zinc, Fatty Acids, Pycnogenol, Goldenseal, Calcium, royal jelly, and ginkgo biloba are among her recommended nutritional supplements and herbs.
Beth M. Ley, Ph. D., on her health learning handbook “Maca, Adaptogen and Hormonal Regulator” states: “When treating menopause, as a replacement for HRT, maca (a Peruvian root) is my first choice. I have recommended maca to many women for alleviating the symptoms of menopause (as well as PMS) and I have yet to be disappointed.”
There is no doubt nature offers us many resources to alleviate different symptoms and to fulfill different needs. Perhaps we underestimate the importance of a life attitude towards healthier diets and exercise, fortunately for those millions of women who suffer from menopausal symptoms there is always the hope of safe relief that only nature provides.
MACA. Adaptogen and Hormonal Regulator- Beth M. Ley, Ph.D
No Hormones, No Fear. A Natural Journey through Menopause- Trisha Posner