Hormone imbalances like low testosterone and hormonal changes like perimenopause and menopause can bring a host of physical and emotional symptoms that keep you from feeling your best. If you’re struggling with hot flashes, mood swings, sleep problems, or low sex drive, you know how disruptive these symptoms can be—and chances are that you’re looking for relief.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is widely regarded as the best treatment for hormone imbalances and age-related hormone changes. By compensating for your body’s diminished hormone levels, HRT can restore balance and minimize—or eliminate—hormone-related symptoms. But as with any medical treatment, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of HRT to determine if it’s the right path for you. By learning more about HRT and connecting with a practitioner who specializes in hormone health, you can thoughtfully consider your options and choose a treatment plan that will help you achieve your health goals.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of HRT
Each person’s body, health history, and life circumstances are unique. As such, weighing the pros and cons of HRT is a deeply personal process that involves understanding what the evidence tells us about the risks and benefits of this powerful treatment option—and considering what they may mean for you.
Hormonal Symptom Relief
HRT is prescribed to address a wide range of symptoms in men and women who are struggling with hormone imbalances and age-related hormone changes. Symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, depression, fatigue, sleep problems, and low sex drive have all been found to significantly improve in patients using HRT. While some choose to use HRT for only a limited time, it can also be used long-term to keep symptoms at bay.
HRT can help prevent osteoporosis in both men and women. Researchers have found that HRT can be an important preventative measure for osteoporosis in women when started within 10 years of menopause and continues to offer protection for the duration of treatment. Testosterone replacement therapy has also been found to improve bone mineral density in men with low testosterone.
Heart Disease Prevention
HRT may help decrease heart disease and related mortality in women and men. For women, estrogen replacement therapy is associated with a reduction in coronary heart disease incidence and death. Similarly, testosterone replacement therapy is associated with a lower risk of adverse cardiovascular events in men with androgen deficiency.
Dementia Risk Reduction
Estrogen replacement therapy may reduce the risk of dementia when taken in mid-life, but not when taken in late life.
Improved Quality of Life
While HRT has the potential to bring wide health benefits and symptom relief, it is also a powerful path to improving your life overall. When hormone-related symptoms lift, you are likely to feel more balanced, energetic, and empowered to embrace daily life. Depending on the nature of the hormone imbalance and the treatment prescribed, individuals have experienced a range of health and wellness benefits, including muscle retention, improved bone density, improved memory, enhanced mood, better sleep, improved sex life, and more energy and motivation throughout the day.
HRT Side Effects
Like any medical treatment, some people may experience side effects while taking HRT. Depending on the specific type of HRT, these can include headaches, mood changes, sleep disruptions, irritability, nausea, bloating, hair loss, and skin irritation related to topical administrations. However, most side effects are mild and dose-dependent, which means your practitioner may be able to fine-tune dosage to improve tolerability.
Breast Cancer Risk
A recent study by the American Association for Cancer Research found that combination therapy with estrogen and progestin may increase breast cancer risk and mortality. However, this relationship has not been observed in women using bioidentical progesterone. As such, women who are concerned about breast cancer risk may want to choose bioidentical HRT rather than conventional treatment. Additionally, the study found that estrogen-only HRT may actually reduce breast cancer incidence and mortality.
Some studies have found an increased risk of stroke and venous thromboembolism (VTE) in women taking oral estrogen and combination therapy. However, the risk appears to be dose-dependent and primarily associated with oral administration; stroke risk is associated with higher doses but not with lower doses, and VTE risk increases with oral estrogen therapy but not with transdermal HRT. In men, the evidence has historically been mixed, but a 2018 metareview found no association between testosterone therapy and VTE.
How Should You Approach the Risks Associated with HRT?
Not every type of hormone replacement therapy is right for everyone, whether due to individual risk factors, pre-existing health conditions, or personal preferences. That’s why HRT must be prescribed with careful consideration for each individual’s needs. If you are concerned about the risks associated with hormone replacement therapy, the best thing to do is to schedule a consultation with an experienced practitioner so they can complete a full assessment and determine how the pros and cons of HRT weigh out for you. They can also help you explore strategies to potentially reduce side effects and risks, such as using particular types of hormones, choosing conservative dosages, and avoiding certain administration methods.
What Are the Benefits of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Today, there are more HRT options than ever before, giving you more opportunities to find a treatment that works for you. For many, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is an ideal choice and may help you avoid some of the risks associated with some conventional treatments.
Healing from the Inside Out
Bioidentical hormones are derived from plants and are chemically and structurally identical to the hormones produced by your own body. By supplementing your body’s natural hormone levels, BHRT can help reduce your hormone-related symptoms and optimize your health.
BHRT can be tailored to your needs. Based on state-of-the-art hormone testing, a comprehensive health assessment, and your personal preferences, your practitioner will prescribe custom-compounded hormones in the format of your choice. By getting personalized doses administered in a way that works for you, you can optimize your results while minimizing the risk of side-effects. Your practitioner may also combine hormone therapy with lifestyle counselling and supplements to support even greater balance.
HRT patches are attached to your skin to deliver a predetermined dose of hormones for a specified period of time. You then replace the patch with a fresh one.
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Low libido
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- Muscle loss
- Memory issues
- Low energy
With BHRT, your care is personalized. Your treatment journey begins with an in-depth assessment, including comprehensive hormone testing. Taking into account your symptoms, physical health, medical history, and personal preferences, they will create a custom treatment plan to help you achieve your health goals. This plan may include nutritional and fitness support as well as lifestyle counseling to promote greater symptom relief and enhance overall health.
Your BHRT practitioner will also track your progress and adjust your treatment as necessary over time. They will be your partner throughout your journey to ensure that your treatment plan continues to be the best possible fit.
Reclaim Your Future
Balancing the pros and cons of HRT often comes down to finding the right hormones, the right administration method, the right dosage—and the right practitioner. The best hormone health practitioners not only have specialized training, they also have a wide range of resources available for precise testing, customized dosing, and additional treatment options to support your healing journey. With their guidance, you can explore the possibilities of HRT and identify the best path toward durable symptom relief and greater overall health.
If you are ready to discover if HRT is right for you, BodyLogicMD can help. The BodyLogicMD network is comprised of top hormone health practitioners who are committed to helping you find relief from hormone-related symptoms. Contact a local practitioner to schedule your first appointment, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about how hormones may be impacting your daily life.