Alternatives To HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
With the inevitability of Brexit and the current shut down of pretty much the world (as at April 2020) the availability of HRT is beginning to diminish. For a lot of women this impending HRT shortage is causing unnecessary stress.
Let’s have a look at the following:
What is HRT?
HRT means hormone replacement therapy and is a solution offered by mainstream medicine to women who are suffering from the symptoms of perimenopause and the menopause. (Not sure what the symptoms are? Click here...)
The 2 main hormones used in HRT are:
oestrogen – types used include estradiol, estrone and estriol
progestogen – a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone, such as dydrogesterone, medroxyprogesterone, norethisterone and levonorgestrel
HRT involves either taking both of these hormones (combined HRT) or just taking oestrogen (oestrogen-only HRT).
Most women take combined HRT because taking oestrogen on its own can increase the risk of developing womb (endometrial) cancer. Taking progestogen alongside oestrogen minimises this risk.
The key word here is ‘minimises’. Meaning there is still a risk.
Oestrogen-only HRT is usually only recommended for women who have had their womb removed during a hysterectomy.
You may have also heard about Bioavailable Hormones. These are hormones which mimic specific hormones in the body. They are not recommended by the BMS (British Menopause Society) as they are not subject to the rigorous testing which other HRT medicines are. You can read more about that here: https://thebms.org.uk/publications/consensus-statements/bioidentical-hrt/
How does HRT help?
HRT simply replaces the hormones which are no longer being produced by the body, with the expected result being that perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms are reduced or eliminated. For some women this certainly is the case, but for many women it doesn’t help at all. The fact that by replacing the lost hormones, for some women, doesn't help with symptoms, raises the question why? These are the questions which Homeopathy can answer.
What are problems and risks with HRT?
Many doctors say that the risks are low enough not to worry about and that getting rid of the symptoms is more important, but the risks are still there. If those risks are coupled with less than healthy habits, the risk increases.
The risks and problems with HRT are:
Blood clots (venous thromboembolism)
HRT tablets (but not patches or gels) are linked with a higher risk of developing a blood clot. If you are already at higher risk of blood clots (for example, if you are obese) and you are considering HRT, you may be offered patches or gel rather than tablets.
If you have a strong family history of blood clots or if there's another reason why you are at high risk of blood clots, you may be referred to a haematologist (a doctor who specialises in blood conditions) before considering HRT.
Heart disease and stroke (cardiovascular disease)
Studies suggest that if you begin taking HRT before the age of 60, there is very little risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, HRT tablets (but not patches or gels) slightly raise the risk of stroke.
If you're already at higher risk of cardiovascular disease it may still be possible for you to take HRT, but it will depend on your individual circumstances.
Studies show that for women around menopausal age oestrogen‑only HRT causes little or no change in the risk of breast cancer, but increases the risk of womb cancer. HRT that contains oestrogen and progestogen may increase breast cancer risk. This risk may be higher if you take HRT for longer, but falls again when you stop taking HRT.
If there is a history of breast cancer in the family, most doctors will not prescribe HRT as the risk is higher.
As we age and especially as we stop producing oestrogen, the risk of osteoporosis increases. HRT helps to hinder the process of that, but only while it’s being taken. As soon as HRT ceases, the risk increases again. This can be however, avoided with suitable nutritional changes and regular, moderate exercise, including weight bearing exercise.
When to stop
Contrary to popular belief you don’t have to keep taking HRT for the rest of your life because theoretically, you can stop once you have reached the postmenopause stage (for information on the 3 stages of menopause, click here..) However, there are some problems with this. Firstly, how do you know when your symptoms have ceased when you are masking them with HRT. Secondly, it is not unusual for women to still experience symptoms in postmenopause, when theoretically they should have stopped. This again raises the question as to why? Another question which Homeopathy can answer.
What are the alternatives to HRT?
There should always be two aims with tackling perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms.
The first aim is to balance the hormones. As oestrogen drops, so other hormones increase. The main culprit being cortisol. So preventative measures need to be taken to hinder the overproduction of cortisol.
First and foremost on the list is nutritional changes. It is about observing triggers for things like hot flushes, and avoiding or eliminating them. The most common triggers for hot flushes are: alcohol, sugar, spicy food and coffee.
Alcohol causes blood to flush the skin and with it comes heat. Spicy food has the same effect. Sugar and coffee cause stress on the adrenal glands and increase the production of cortisol. This too can cause the hot flush.
Another is stress itself. Stress again puts extra pressure on the adrenal glands. As the ovaries stop producing oestrogen, its production is somewhat taken over by the adrenals. However, given the choice of whether to produce cortisol or oestrogen, the adrenal glands choose cortisol every time. So by minimising stress on the adrenals, we can give them the chance to produce oestrogen rather than cortisol.
The second aim is to address the person as a whole. This is where homeopathy comes into play. We are a tangled web of emotions, experiences, physical differences and perceptions, which have been formed and moulded, changed and re-changed, throughout our lives. And no two women will experience their symptoms in the same way.
Homeopathy works to stimulate the body to heal itself, rather than covering up or suppressing the presenting symptoms. During a homeopathic consultation, the homeopath will not only look at the presenting symptoms, but also at the whole life experience, medical history and emotional well-being of the patient and select a homeopathic medicine or remedy which matches the individual as well as the symptoms.
By combining nutritional and lifestyle changes, with homeopathic treatment, up to 90% of women experience either a drastic reduction in their symptoms, or their total elimination.
Evidence that Homeopathy Works
In this 2008 study, 90% of participants experienced drastic improvement in their symptoms: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18194760
For more information on how Homeopathy can help with the menopause, click here...