What is Menopause?
Menopause is an inevitable part of aging many women do not look forward to since it is marked by symptoms caused by hormonal fluctuations and imbalances. Menopausal symptoms may be mild for some women while affecting the quality of life in others. Prior to these two groundbreaking treatments, there was hardly any medically approved methods to effectively manage symptoms, which are far more than just hot flashes.
Then came the FDA-approved hormone replacement therapy for restoring hormonal imbalance. The treatment has not been without controversy, however, over its effectiveness, risks and how the hormones are made. This led women to consider bioidentical hormones, which are shown to be an effective way of boosting hormone levels while avoiding the risk of side effects caused by traditional hormone replacement therapy.
Common Symptoms of Menopause
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Loss of bone mass (osteoporosis)
- Irregular menstruation
- Trouble sleeping
- Low libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood changes
Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms
Women experiencing one or more of these symptoms have the option of choosing between HRT or BHRT. This selection process may not be an easy one. Having a clear understanding of these therapies and their levels of effectiveness can help you make a more informed decision. Your doctor or health specialist will first need to do a medical evaluation before choosing one. The decision may depend largely on your symptoms and accessibility to treatment.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Traditional hormone therapy, also known as menopausal hormone therapy, involves the use of hormones synthetically made from animals or animal by-products. The therapy could be estrogen alone (ET) or estrogen and progesterone (EPT) combined. The choice depends on whether or not you have had a hysterectomy. A combination of estrogen and progesterone helps prevent uterine cancer in women with their uterus intact.
Replacement hormone can be delivered through various methods including pills, skin patches, gels, creams, and vaginal rings. Although this treatment is approved by the FDA for managing menopausal symptoms, taking hormone replacement therapy places some women at risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and gallbladder diseases.
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Bioidentical hormone therapy is a breakthrough treatment that essentially offers a safer and more effective way to up the levels of estrogen or progesterone. The required hormone is custom made to match the hormone in your body. Hormones can be replaced by taking oral capsules or through the transdermal route via skin gels, creams, or pellets. These products are designed to deliver the exact dose required to optimize hormone levels.
Since bioidentical hormones are chemically similar to those naturally produced by your body, it reduces the risk of side effects. Your doctor can monitor you regularly, adjust your dose or stop treatment altogether once your hormone needs are met.
How do BHRT and HRT Differ?
The main differences between BHRT and HRT are the way the hormones are made, the risk of side effects and the benefits they provide. Traditional hormone therapy involves the use of synthetic hormones made from animals or animal by-products. They are marketed as a one-size-fits-all treatment that carries various side effects, including the risk of breast and endometrial cancer. Women who take HRT for more than five years have greater risks.
Benefits of Taking Bioidentical Hormones
Bioidentical hormones provide a natural way to manage symptoms without the side effects that may accompany HRT. Studies also show that BHRT may reduce the risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer and other health conditions while alleviating menopausal symptoms in a safer manner. Women who take BHRT have seen physical, psychological and emotional benefits. They include improved sex drive, moods and bone density, as well as reduced hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Energy levels rise, memory and focus improve, and these women are left feeling refreshed and youthful.
Replenishing hormone levels helps to restore body functions that depend on a healthy balance of estrogen and progesterone. The important thing is to find a treatment that is both safe and effective and carries a lower risk of side effects, such as BHRT. Because BHRT is not right for everyone, your doctor will need to do special tests, including blood and saliva tests, before deciding to treat you with bioidentical hormone.