By Ellen Dolgen
A big decision that many women face during menopause revolves around the use of hormone therapy (HT).
When you go through perimenopause and menopause, 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 experience. HT is intended to supplement or moderate these fluctuations and ultimately provide an umbrella for women caught in the perimenopause and menopause storm.
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 and conjugated estrogen are not. Progesterone is bioidentical but medroxyprogesterone is not.
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.
So back to the question: To HT, or not to HT? Just like me, you’ll probably have a lot of other questions that need answers first, like:
- If I use hormone therapy, what other side effects will I have?
- Will I gain more weight?
- Will I have more or less risk of cancer?
- Will I have more or less risk of heart disease?
- Will hormone therapy prevent osteoporosis or make me more susceptible to broken bones?
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 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. However, 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!
Remember: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN.
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