Your Doctor Will Never Tell You This, but if You Want to Safeguard your Health, Replace Your Hormone Replacement Therapy with Better Alternatives
For those who are not very sure what Hormone Replacement Therapy is and what it is used for, Hormone Replacement Therapy, commonly known as HRT, is a procedure which helps women to cope with hormonal changes induced as a result of menopause.
Before You Sign up for Hormone Replacement Therapy, Know the Roles of Female Hormones
Female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone play an important role in female sexuality and maintenance of the female reproductive system. The menstrual cycle is central to female sexuality, health and reproduction. It refers to the periodic set of changes which occurs in the female reproductive system, every month, under the action of hormones and helps keep the body prepared for possible pregnancy. Thus, it is essential for the release of the eggs, preparation of the uterus for pregnancy and in case of no fertilization, the eggs and the extra tissues formed are sloughed off.
The menstrual cycle is activated in girls around 10-13 years and remains active till around 40-50, following which it is slowly tapers off as egg production and maintenance drops off. The age when it starts is called menarche and the age when it tapers off is called menopause.There are two phases in the menstrual cycle: the ovarian phase and the uterine phase and the endocrine system is involved in regulating this. The hormones oestrogen and progesterone are involved in this, which are themselves under the control of pituitary gland regulatory hormones, FSH and LH.
Prior to menopause, the level of estrogen in the body reduces till appoint at which it stops, following which you are said to have reached menopause. The years before menopause are accompanied by a slow reduction in the production of eggs as well as changes in the menstrual bleeding patterns, owing to fluctuations in the levels of estrogen and progesterone. Times immediately and following menopause may be accompanied by symptoms such as hot flushes or insomnia which is normal and tends to reduce as the hormones stabilize. But in some women, these symptoms continue to a very prolonged duration, which makes life difficult for them. This is owing to their very low estrogen levels.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Lower sex drive
- Hot flashes
- Racing heart
- Vaginal dryness and soreness
- Painful sex
- Trouble sleeping
Hormone Replacement Therapy As a Means to Counter These Effects
To relive their symptoms, many women choose to undergo hormone replacement therapy to balance their hormone levels and raise it to a point, which will relieve these symptoms. The usual Hormone Replacement Therapy is a combination of estrogen and progesterone or progesterone like hormones or only estrogen (estrogen therapy). An adequate level of estrogen is necessary for combating menopause symptoms but the problem with using only estrogens is that it increases the risk to cancer in those women who still have uteri. Hence EPT therapy is prescribed for women with menopause symptoms, who have not undergone hysterectomy. This therapy involves a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Progestin protects the endometrial lining. EPT can be undertaken in a sequential manner or in a continuous manner ET or estrogen therapy is prescribed for women, who have already had their uterus removed.
Version of Hormone Replacement Therapy
While Hormone Replacement Therapy has been associated with women, there are versions of Hormone replacement therapy which are used for other genders including transgenders and males. Hormone Replacement Therapy for transgenders involves injecting hormones into the person, which will create the effects relating to the particulay gender which the person associates with e.g. testosterone for trans men and estrogen for trans women. They are termed HRT (male to female) and HRT (female to male) respectively. Androgenic hormone replacement therapy is used for men to combat hypogonadism as well as for delaying of male aging.
Dangers of Hormone Replacement Therapy
When it was first prescribed, Hormone Replacement Therapy was a big hit but later issues cropped up. Research has shown that those women who take Hormone Replacement Therapy continuously for duration of many years are highly susceptible for heart attack, stroke and cancer, even though there is a lowered risk for osteoporosis and colon cancer.
The largest study shows that estrogen-progestin pill increased the risk of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer. This propensity has been demonstrated in several studies relating to hormone therapy combinations. In addition, prolonged use of Hormone Replacement Therapy may disguise the appearance of breast cancer and make it more difficult to detect as breasts get denser.
In case, it is matter of choosing which risks you would have. Using Hormone Replacement Therapy tend to lead to greater risk to health than without HRT. In addition, there were concerns about the experiments relating to HRT studies. Hormone Replacement Therapy studies have been done in rats from whom, the ovaries have been removed and hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are injected and changes are observed. The results are inconsistent with some showing progress and others not showing any. In addition, factors such as timing of the therapy and which regions of the brain are activated as well as method of delivery of the treatment (cyclic/chronic) will determine the effectiveness of the hormone therapy.
While Hormone Replacement Therapy is now no longer recommended for treatment of heart disease and dementia, in certain forms it may still be effective. These include Systemic hormone therapy over a short period of time and usage of low dose vaginal products. The former helps in dealing with menopause symptoms and hot flushes and night sweats as well as changes in vagina which interferes in intercourse. Low dose vaginal products are useful in treating vaginal and urinary issues associated with menopause.
So it is advisable to go for alternative therapies of combating hormone induced changes. This includes changes in diet, taking appropriate supplements like vitamin, exercise, cutting down on risky habits like smoking and alcohol. Herbal supplements like black cohosh and red clover may help in reducing discomforts.
Wikipedia Illustration from Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site. http://cnx.org/content/col11496/1.6/, Jun 19, 2013.
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