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to HRT or not HRT – treating menopause symptoms

Article by Ellen Sarver Dolgen

A big decision that many women face during menopause revolves around the use of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). To HRT or not to HRT, that is the question.
When you go through perimenopause and menopause (or PM&M for short), your body begins to produce different (usually lower) amounts of estrogen, progesterone, and/or testosterone hormones. These fluctuations often result in the symptoms that many women in PM&M (perimenopause and menopause) experience. HRT is intended to supplement or moderate these fluctuations and ultimately provide an umbrella for women caught in the PM&M (perimenopause and menopause) storm.

Not all HRT options are created equal

But not all hormone therapy options are created equal. An important distinction that needs to be made is whether a hormone therapy supplement is bioidentical or not. A bioidentical hormone is chemically identical to the hormone produced in your body. It may not have originated in your body, but it has the same chemical structure and even goes by the same name. Most importantly, it has the same biological function.
On the other hand, there are hormone therapy options available that are not identical to the hormones in your body. They might be similar, they might even have a similar name, but they are not exactly the same as the hormones produced in your body.
Don’t be fooled by a hormone with two names. Even if one of those names is the name of your body’s hormone, the presence of another name should tip you off that you are NOT dealing with a bioidentical hormone. For example, estradiol is bioidentical, but ethinyl estradiol is not.

Biodentical Hormone therapy

It’s important to understand that your body reacts differently to all these different options. When you take bioidentical hormone therapy, your body may react the same way it would if it produced the hormone itself, because, chemically speaking, it is the same as the hormone it actually does produce. When you take hormone therapy that is not bioidentical, your body may react differently, and in some cases, this might not be as helpful or beneficial
Keep in mind though that all women are different, with unique challenges that require different solutions. Regardless of your own particular situation, there are many schools of thought on hormone therapy, and it is up to you to educate yourself and draw your own conclusions about what is best for your body.

Questions to ask about HRT

So back to the question: To HRT or to not HRT? Just like me, you’ll probably have a lot of other questions that need answers first, like:
1)     If I use Hormone Therapy, what other side effects will I have?
2)     Will I gain more weight?
3)     Will I have more or less risk of cancer?
4)     Will I have more or less risk of heart disease?
5)     Will Hormone Therapy prevent osteoporosis or make me more susceptible to broken bones?

Make the healthiest choices

What I did was this: I kept reading and educating myself so that I could make the healthiest choices. I can’t stress enough the importance of research — take responsibility for your body and arm yourself with knowledge. There are many studies out there with conflicting information. I know it is very confusing and frustrating. However, keep reading and educating yourself. Then together, with your PM&M (perimenopause and menopause) specialist you can figure out what course of action is best for you.
Depending on your medical history, your options may be very different. A good starting point is to ask yourself, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how am I functioning and how is my life?” Some women are so used to being less than functioning that they find themselves accepting a 2 as normal. You don’t have to settle. Once you know your challenges, you can begin to find the right solutions. Whatever you do, don’t give up trying to be as close to 10 as possible. You deserve it!
Reaching out is IN. Suffering in silence is OUT!

Ellen Sarver Dolgen

"E" is the pen name of Ellen Sarver Dolgen, author of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness, a light-hearted, informative, easy-to-read book on menopause, and creator of http://www.shmirshky.com, a resource treasure trove for women going through perimenopause and menopause.

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  1. pjdiva

    March 3, 2011

    A lot depends on sleepwear. Silk, satin and cotton are hot, hot
    Go for ionized, moisture wicking sleepwear. You will sleep MUCH better

  2. Novelette

    February 24, 2012

    My Menopause experience was horrible I’m so grateful my sons were living with me as my husband left at the start. What I went through I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. So now I advice friends to prepare for it by reading more as I didn’t even know what was happening to me until four years later. When I changed GP.

  3. Melmissy

    April 14, 2012

    I started menopause six weeks ago and face a daily suicide battle, being awake is a living nightmare. Sleeping when it happens for a hour and a half tops at a time, is my only respite. I am reading everything I can and trying to work the best ways for me. My gp’s knew 18 years ago I would have real problems and have always put things down to depression, only now I have really crashed are they beginning to try and understand and help. I know I wouldn’t wish this on anyone and so hope that you are in a better supported and happier place now. Take care.

    Mel x

  4. Eileen Durward

    November 5, 2012

    Great article. I find it amazing how many women have no idea what to expect when the perimenopause and menopause starts or what their symptoms might be.

    It is so important that they do as much research as possible and to ask their healthcare professional for guidance (preferably to start this in their early forties).  The more information they have at hand the easier it will be for them to treat their symptoms quickly and naturally instead of waiting until they are so severe as to cause distress and need medical intervention.

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