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Have you seen the spate of articles on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in the news lately?
If you’ve been suffering from menopausal symptoms and contemplating HRT and you’re just plain confused about all this talk, then read on.
Some of the most common symptoms of menopause are:
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- sleep disturbances
- joint pains
You may even be hugely worried that your cognitive function will decline because of menopause.
So, it’s no wonder that many women may well be thinking about whether or not to go on HRT. Your doctor may even have suggested it.
What’s the story with HRT?
There are no black and white answers with HRT; there are many things to consider – from the increased risks for breast cancer or cancer of the womb, which increase the longer HRT is taken, to the increased risk of blood clots, also known as thromboembolism. Plus the risk for this is higher if taking HRT orally, than if taken by using transdermal patches (transdermal, meaning through the skin). Then, there is synthetic HRT, and there’s bioidentical HRT. Bioidentical HRT is where the shape of the molecules are chemically similar to the hormones that our body makes. So, bioidentical hormones are often assumed to be safer than the conventional synthetic hormones. But the truth is, no one knows; because there have not been any randomised controlled trials to show this.
Yikes! So much to think about! But let’s take a step back.
Now, remember, when we enter the menopause, this is a natural bodily process… a time when sex hormones are naturally decreasing. If you decide to take HRT, you would be adding back hormones that your body is reducing. So you’d be working against a natural process. Plus, when would you stop taking them? Wouldn’t this simply be delaying the “issue”?
You see, HRT doesn’t address the root causes of menopausal symptoms.
In functional medicine, which is how I practice my nutritional therapy, we look at all the body systems, the whole person, and then look upstream from the symptoms, to find what is going on inside of the body that may be contributing to the symptoms in the first place.
What causes menopausal symptoms?
The short answer is, hormonal changes and imbalances, such as:
- Lower levels of oestrogens
- Lower levels of progesterone
- Fluctuating levels of hormones
- Imbalanced levels of oestrogen metabolites
- Thyroid hormone levels that may be too low
- Adrenal hormone levels that may be either too high or too low.
Imbalances in more than one of the above causes contributes to the severity and duration of menopausal symptoms.
But here’s the good news. Let’s go even more upstream to identify what can cause these hormonal imbalances…..
There’s a lot there that’s under your control and influence – you can take specific action to remove toxins, reduce stress, change your food and diet, address nutritional insufficiencies… In fact, you could address virtually all of those facotrs, other than your genetic predisposition.
This means that you can do something about it.
For example, you may be experiencing oestrogen dominance because of suboptimal liver and GI detoxification of hormones, or your adrenals which are the prime source of female sex hormone production at menopause may not be functioning optimally, due to elevated levels of stress. So liver, adrenal and gut imbalances may be contributing to your symptoms and if these are handled, you may not have a need for HRT and there wold be no need to increase your risk for cancer.
It is outside of my scope of practice to prescribe HRT, but I have helped women tackle these areas first and they have found their symptoms to go away. That’s why, in my view, HRT is not the first in line, but the last in line for consideration.
If you have examined each of these areas and addressed the underlying causes, and you are still experiencing symptoms, then HRT may be the solution. In this case, make sure to choose a reputable expert practitioner who has been properly trained in hormone health and hormone therapy, and who will take the time to understand your medical history and your condition, before prescribing your treatment.
On the other hand, if you haven’t yet looked at these factors, you might like to start with making some changes in your diet. I have just the thing for you – my free hormone balancing recipe guide. Get yours right here – http://behindthefoodnutrition.com/free-hormone-balancing-recipes/