Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) to alleviate Menopause Symptoms
Serving as an internal communication system, the hormones in the human body regulate virtually all the essential body functions. They control digestion, appetite, growth, libido, immune function, and mood. So, when the body's hormones are out of balance or their levels fall, even slightly, it can drastically affect one's health and well-being.
Once women approach 40 years, their hormone levels begin to decline. Estrogen is an essential hormone in women that regulates the development of their reproductive system including the menstrual cycle, controls glucose metabolism, food intake, insulin sensitivity, and body weight. When estrogen levels fall, most women experience hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, and vaginal dryness. This decline in female reproductive hormones is what is referred to as peri-menopause.
Menopause is a natural process signaling the end of a woman's menstrual cycle. When a woman goes for 12 months without menstruating, she is said to be in menopause.
Symptoms of menopause
Most of the symptoms of menopause occur during the peri-menopause stage. Some women experience menopause without any complications or unpleasant symptoms and hence require no medical treatment. Others might not be so lucky.
The symptoms of menopause are primarily related to a decline in estrogen levels in the woman. These symptoms vary widely due to the many effects estrogen has on the female body:
- Hot flashes: Hot flashes are the most common symptoms of menopause. A hot flash is the sudden feeling of warmth or intense heat in the upper portion of the body or all over. It is mostly felt on the neck, face, and chest. Hot flashes generally last between 30 seconds to 10 minutes and might cause sweating, tingling in the fingers, red or flushed face, and a faster heartbeat.
- Insomnia: Most women suffer from sleep disturbances such as early awakening or insomnia during menopause. A balance in hormones can help promote healthy sleep. Some women experience a lack of peaceful sleep as a direct symptom, but for most others, it’s due to night sweats, hot flashes, or anxiety.
- Vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse: As estrogen levels begin to fall in women during menopause, the walls of the vagina become thinner, drier and less elastic. This can cause itching of the vagina and irritation/pain, soreness, burning, and light bleeding during sexual intercourse. Some women in menopause only experience vaginal dryness at certain times, such as during intercourse, while others experience it all the time.
- Dry or loss of scalp hair: Research postulates hormonal imbalance as the cause of hair loss during menopause. Hair loss, in particular, is associated with a reduction in estrogen and progesterone levels. These hormones are responsible for hair growing faster and staying longer on the head. As estrogen levels drop, the hair becomes thinner and brittle. Sometimes, the hair on the scalp breaks and falls out. The hair can get very dry leading to dandruff and other scalp irritation.
- Reduced libido: Hormonal imbalance during menopause is one of the most common causes of loss of libido in women. Reduction in estrogen, testosterone and progesterone production can impact negatively on a woman’s desire for sex. The vaginal changes associated with menopause, such as soreness, burning, irritation and painful sexual intercourse, also dampen women’s desire for sex. Reduced estrogen levels can cause a reduction in blood supply to the vagina. This affects vaginal lubrication, making the vagina too dry for pleasurable intercourse.
Other symptoms associated with menopause include the absence of menstruation or irregular menstruation, mood swings, itchy skin and change in body odor. The combination of these symptoms could lead to anxiety and depression.
Treatment for menopause
No treatment is required for menopause. Rather, treatments are aimed at relieving the unpleasant signs and symptoms and preventing or managing the conditions associated with menopause.
Sometimes, a simple change in lifestyle, diet, and nutrition can alleviate the unpleasant conditions associated with menopause.
Women having hot flashes are advised to wear light clothing, reduce their stress levels, take regular exercise and lose weight if they are overweight, take cold showers, keep their bedroom cool at night, and avoid potential triggers such as spicy food, caffeine, smoking, and alcohol.
For those suffering from insomnia and sleep disturbances, focus on having a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, avoiding heavy evening meals, exercising during the day, and adjusting the light, noise and temperature levels in the bedroom.
Generally, to stay healthy during menopause and reduce the undesirable symptoms, women are urged to
- Avoid smoking, caffeine, alcohol, excess salt, and sugar.
- Eat a balanced diet: Nuts, whole grains, leafy vegetables are recommended to keep the body healthy and relieve hot flashes.
- Get regular exercise
- Eat calcium and vitamin D-rich foods
Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) as a Treatment for Menopause Symptoms
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, also referred to as natural hormone therapy is the type of hormone replacement that uses hormones that are chemically identical to the body's natural hormones instead of synthetic hormones.
Since the molecular structure of the bio-identical hormones is identical to hormones found in the body, the body uses them the same way it uses hormones naturally produced in the body. This minimizes the side effects commonly associated with the use of synthetic hormones in the traditional hormone replacement therapy.
BHRT is used as a treatment for people with hormone imbalances or reduced hormone levels. In this case, it serves as a viable treatment to ease the symptoms of menopause in women.
How to use BHRT
Bio-identical hormones come in many forms, including creams, pills, and suppositories.
You'll have to consult your naturopathic doctor to ascertain the best form of these hormones for your lifestyle. Once you begin bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, you'll need to be regularly monitored to evaluate your body's response. Naturopathic doctors recommend using the lowest possible dose that is effective if you ever choose any form of hormone replacement therapy. The average use of BHRT is approximately 2 years.
Benefits of BHRT
Bio-identical replacement therapy increases the level of hormones that have dropped and alleviates or eradicates menopause symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes, insomnia, and low libido. The benefits of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy far outweigh the risks. Women who opt for this mode of treatment over the traditional hormone replacement therapy experience fewer side effects and any adverse reactions are usually mild, if noticeable.
Some of the benefits include:
- Improved sleep
- Improved libido
- Reduced risk of anxiety and depression
- Less vaginal dryness and fewer hot flashes
- Bone strength restoration and reduced osteoporosis
- Reduced risk of breast cancer
- Improved concentration, mood, and memory.
Unlike the approach of traditional hormone therapies to fit in all instances, the bio-identical hormones are compounded based on each patient’s symptoms and diagnostic results. This makes the therapy not only safer but can be more effective than the traditional hormone therapy.
For more information, schedule an appointment to discuss whether you are a candidate for Bio-identical hormone therapy today!