Are you confused about hormone replacement therapy? You’re not alone. HRT after menopause is a controversial topic. The media hype is usually wrong, since it just parrots what the pharmaceutical company paid “experts” say. So, should you, or shouldn’t you? How do you decide what kind of hormone replacement is safe? Ultimately, the decision is yours, so you need to be informed.
Living longer – but better?
It’s a sad fact that people often start to go downhill after middle age. Declining hormone levels accelerate the aging process and unless you’re careful, prescriptions for drugs can begin to slowly poison you; sedatives for sleep disturbances, benzodiazepines for anxiety, antidepressants for depression and statins for high cholesterol. All have toxic side effects that can interfere with your normal body function, cloud your thinking, reduce your libido and make you more susceptible to disease.
HRT v BHRT
Mainstream medicine’s answer to age-related decline has been to replace lost hormones with hormones distilled from pregnant horse urine. For the past forty years or so, Premarin and Prempro have earned billions of dollars for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, despite a lack of proof that they were either safe or effective – and with plenty of evidence that they were neither. Originally developed to reduce hot flashes and other unpleasant symptoms related to menopause and declining levels of estrogen, these drugs were marketed to women as a sort of fountain of youth. Pharmaceutical companies have made huge amounts of money by selling synthetic HRT while downplaying the risks – essentially sacrificing women’s health for commercial profit.
At the same time, Wyeth and the FDA were busy discrediting and ignoring the benefits of a new, natural, yet un-patentable alternative known as Bioidentical Hormone Replacement (BHRT). BHRT is not patentable because just like water, air and vitamins, these compounds occur naturally in the world around us and therefore there are no profits to be made from marketing them.
While studies such as the famous Women’s Health Initiative confirmed that conventional HRT had fewer benefits and more risks (heart disease, blood clots and cancer) that originally thought, other studies showed BHRT to be relatively safe and effective in relieving the common symptoms of menopause, as well as warding off the long-term effects of menopausal decline such as heart disease, osteoporosis, memory loss, incontinence and more.
The problem with “one size fits all”
Lately the position of conventional HRT as a big profit-maker has slipped and acceptance of BHRT has grown. This has prompted
mainstream medicine to get on board with their own “bio-identical” hormones, comprised of estradiolor estrone (very potent estrogens), but with no estriol (an anti-carcinogenic estrogen). This “one size fits all” approach is potentially far too strong for the body and may increase the risk of breast cancer. Likewise, it is not safe simply to replace Premarin with estradiol pills and Provera pills with progesterone.
The BHRT advantage
BHRT uses hormones that are chemically identical to those the ones secreted by the human ovaries. They are distilled from natural sources, usually Mexican yams or soy. Since the disruption of the normal hormonal environment is responsible for the symptoms of menopause, the logic is that restoring that environment with exact copies of the missing hormones removes the cause, so symptoms vanish and your body returns to normal balance.
Scientific evidence continues to accumulate in favour of a balanced combination of bioidentical estrogen, plus natural progesterone, and in many cases, the use of additional hormones such as DHEA, pregnelolone, melatonin and testosterone – which also decline with age. Restoring your hormones to normal levels with BHRT can have a remarkable effect on mood, heart, bones, immunity, cognitive function and energy levels.
Do you need them?
Conventional medicine assumes that all women after menopause are estrogen-deficient and routinely prescribes HRT without even testing for hormone deficiency. However, you don’t give insulin to someone unless they need it and the same applies to thyroid, cortisol and all our hormones.
So how do you know if you are deficient in estrogen? Any woman still having monthly periods has plenty of estrogen. Vaginal dryness and vaginal mucosal atrophy, on the other hand, are clear signs of estrogen deficiency. Lacking these signs, the best test is the saliva hormone assay. It’s also worth remembering that hormone levels differ between individuals – what is normal for one person is not necessarily normal for another.
However, not even BHRT is 100% safe. Careful dosing and monitoring are essential with all hormone replacement.
Hormone imbalance is not the only cause of breast cancer, strokes, and heart attacks. Other risk factors of importance include the following:
- Poor diet – excess sugar and refined starches, trans fats, nutrient deficiencies such as omega-3 fats, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
- Environmental xenoestrogens and hormones in our water and air.
- Insulin resistance.
- Lifestyle issues such as excess light at night (poor sleep, melatonin deficiency), alcohol, tobacco and birth control pills.
Men share these risks equally with women. Hormone imbalance and exposure to these risk factors in men leads to earlier heart attacks, lower sperm counts and higher prostate cancer risk.
Conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) carries an unacceptable risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and stroke. BHRT in dosages based on one’s true needs (as determined by saliva testing), while correcting other lifestyle and environmental issues is your best bet for reducing these risks and addressing the natural symptoms of aging.
For nutritional consultations on a wide range of health issues, including menopause and hormonal issues contact Susan Tomassini, Licensed Nutritionist BSc (Hons) Dip BCNH @ 06 17481114 or visit www.foodwise.life for your personalized nutritional program!