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The Side Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy

The Side Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy

By Hanny Roskamp

Bioidentical hormones are hot. Oprah Winfrey is already taking them to beat menopause. Suzanne Somers wrote a book about them—Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones—in which she describes how they’ve saved her from physical aging. More and more women are visiting hormone-therapy specialists and returning with enthusiastic stories. They feel young again; their hair and skin are radiant; and their libido is back to youthful levels.

All this is thanks to a small dose of estrogen, a dollop of progesterone and sometimes even a little testosterone, all bioidentical—which means they are the same as the versions naturally present in the body. They may be of organic (plant or animal) origin, but they don’t have to be. The idea doctors are promoting is that these hormones are safer than the traditional ones.

Bioidentical hormones are proven effective in combating the symptoms of menopause. The same is true of traditional hormone therapy. But bioidenticals may carry the same disadvantages. We know that traditional replacement estrogens increase the risk of breast cancer, and there is scientific evidence that the same is true for bioidentical estrogens.

We also know that women who have been exposed to higher concentrations of natural estrogen (because they are overweight, began menstruating at a young age or enter menopause later than average) are better protected against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. However, a Women’s Health Initiative study in which more than 16,000 American women between ages 50 and 79 took Premarin, estrogen isolated from pregnant mares, showed that this protective effect declines and even reverses dramatically the further women get past menopause. The study participants turned out to be at a higher risk for breast cancer, thrombosis, heart disease and stroke. That’s why traditional hormone replacement therapy is prescribed for a maximum of five years. After that, the benefits no longer outweigh the disadvantages. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may be slightly safer as a result of lower dosages and external application via the skin. Unfortunately, not enough research has been done to know.

One thing we don’t consider thoroughly enough in hormone replacement therapy is that sex hormones affect young bodies differently than older ones. Estrogens do different things in a baby’s body than in that of an adult woman (and it’s a good thing they do). Of course, for some women, menopause is years of torture. But it is vital that these women are thoroughly informed, preferably not only about the physical aspects but also the mental ones (to the degree body and mind can be separated—but that’s another story).

Read more on menopause at odewire.com.

For a free digital copy of Ode’s entire Menopause Series, email engage@odenow.com.

Related:
The Meaning of Menopause
4 Real-Life Menopause Experiences
Best & Worst Foods for Menopause Symptoms

Read more: Aging, Body Image, Health, Menopause, Women's Health, , ,

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The Intelligent Optimist

Ode, the magazine for Intelligent Optimists, is an international independent journal that publishes positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better.

92 comments

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4:03PM PDT on Sep 7, 2013

It amazes me how people with no education, training, clinical experience, or personal experience can write about treatments and cures for menopause or hormone replacement therapy. The information in all articles pertaining to menopause and hormones are exceedingly inaccurate.

You're also discussing an old school way of balancing hormones. The going HRT is rhythmic dosing bioidentical hormone restoration.

Menopause Moxie

4:30AM PDT on Jul 5, 2013

Thank you :)

8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Interesting, there are so many differing opinions on this topic, some prefer herbal and others prefer something different, it always depends on the person and the symptoms.

Since my Mom died of cancer the idea of hormonal therapy was advised against and since my symptoms were not all that bad it was never much of an issue. For others there is the need to seek out relief and one has to do a lot of research beforehand on ultimately deciding what is best for you and your own body.

9:30AM PDT on Jun 24, 2012

Thanks a lot for sharing!

1:55PM PDT on Jun 2, 2012

thanx

12:22PM PDT on Jun 2, 2012

noted!

10:36AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

All these hormones , and other chemicals we pump into our bodies are naturally found within us. I had subtotal-hysterectomy/ oopherectomy in my mid -30's. HRT did not work for me- the best advise I got was to keep active-physically, mentally, and yes, sexually and try to maintain a good emotional balance. Some of our body systems / functions do slow down as we get older, but this should not slow anyone down. Like wine, we should get better as we age.

4:19AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

thanks for sharing

5:34PM PDT on May 31, 2012

Thank all of you for the good advice. One thing I did for hot flashes was to take Black Cohosh, I only took it one time!!! and never had another hot flash, I still can't figure it out, but it did work for me. I did checking and wild sweet potatoe root and soya beans are what they make some of the bioidenticals from.

2:03PM PDT on May 31, 2012

Thank you

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