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Our bodies’ complicated ecosystems rely on constant and effective communication to operate properly. Our health, our energy, our thoughts, and even our basic movements depend on the successful transmission of messages throughout the body. One of the most important components of this process is the endocrine system, which produces and manages hormones—often thought of as chemical messages.
With age, stress, and illness, this system can be disrupted and your body may begin experiencing missed connections. For some, even a minor hormone fluctuation or imbalance can bring on wide-reaching symptoms and significantly affect your daily well-being and overall quality of life. Fatigue, hair loss, depression, weight gain, memory loss, and sleeplessness are just a handful of the possible complications associated with suboptimal hormone health.
Today, there are a number of therapies available to help restore balance and healthy communication within the body. Hormone replacement therapy, in particular, can be a highly effective and accessible treatment for those struggling with symptoms related to estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, or thyroid hormones. With modern hormone replacement therapy treatment options, you may be able to recover from your symptoms, protect your long-term health, and feel like yourself once again.
What is hormone replacement therapy typically used for?
- Perimenopause and menopause
- Low testosterone
- HPA axis dysfunction
Some of these conditions may require only short-term use of HRT while others will require long-term or even indefinite hormone therapy.
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Right for You?
Changes in your hormone levels can be a normal part of aging—such as perimenopause, menopause, and andropause—but they can also stem from a wide range of health conditions, environmental toxins, and surgical procedures. Regardless of the cause, these changes can disrupt your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. And symptoms can worsen over time without treatment.
Your symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that your health needs attention, and it’s important that you don’t neglect these calls for help. If there is any chance that your body may be under- or over-producing hormones, it’s time to take a closer look and uncover your options for recovery. Ideally, this should begin by seeking the guidance of a healthcare practitioner who specializes in hormone health.
What should a hormone health practitioner do?
- Test your hormone levels
- Assess overall physical, mental, and emotional health
- Discuss your goals and explain your options
- Develop a personalized treatment plan
- Support you in making healthy lifestyle changes
- Monitor your progress
If you choose to pursue HRT, your practitioner will carefully adjust your HRT dosage to achieve an ideal hormone balance in your body over time. However, your treatment success will depend on not just the medication itself, but on the development of a multidimensional treatment plan and a strong practitioner-patient relationship. By working closely with your practitioner, they can help you implement effective strategies around nutrition, fitness, and stress reduction that make sense for you. All of these efforts work together to replenish your body’s interrelated ecosystem.
The right practitioner will help you navigate not just the physical journey of healing, but also the personal and emotional aspects of this transformation. In this way, hormone replacement therapy can be more than just a bandage for your symptoms, but a key that opens the door to empowered living.
Understanding your hormone replacement therapy treatment options
One of the most important things to understand about today’s hormone replacement therapy treatment options is that the goal is not just to “get back to normal.” Rather, you and your practitioner will look carefully at where you are now and plot a course toward the healthy place where you want to be in the future. An experienced hormone health specialist appreciates that you are constantly evolving, and your “normal” may not be the same as it was yesterday—and it is unlikely to be the same as the next person’s.
For many, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) offer the best path toward optimal health. Derived from plant matter and designed to be indistinguishable from your body’s natural hormones, this therapeutic option can be particularly inviting for those looking for a personalized treatment experience. With BHRT, dosage is determined on a case-by-case basis to meet the needs of each individual patient. Over time, your practitioner will help you track changes to your symptoms and make any adjustments necessary.
However, dosage is only one part of the equation. One of the benefits of BHRT is that you can choose from a variety of administration methods to suit your lifestyle and health goals. By taking a closer look at these options, you can begin to consider which method may be best for you.
Pellet therapy involves implanting tiny hormone pellets (roughly the size of a grain of rice) under the skin. These pellets will deliver a steady supply of hormones into the bloodstream as they are slowly metabolized by the body over the course of 3-6 months, after which time new pellets are inserted. Old pellets do not need to be removed because they dissolve completely.
- Longer lasting than other HRT options
- Requires infrequent administration (4-6 months)
- Steady dose delivers consistent, reliable benefits
- Low risk of nonadherence
- Requires several minor outpatient procedures each year
- Small risk of infection
- May require a brief recovery period
- Pellets cannot be removed once added, so dosing should be conservative
- Long-term testosterone replacement therapy
- Long-term treatment of perimenopause and menopause symptoms
CREAMS & GELS
Topical HRT treatments are applied to the skin to be absorbed into the bloodstream. You follow the personalized instructions for how much to apply, where, and how often.
- Simple to apply
- Bypass the digestive system and may present lower risk to organs than oral administration
- Research suggests transdermal estrogen is safer than oral estrogen
- May be rubbed or washed off, compromising efficacy
- May cause unwanted side effects if applied too liberally
- Risk of skin irritation
- Risk of accidentally transferring medication to others
- Vaginal issues during menopause
- Cyclical progesterone therapy
- Testosterone therapy in women with low libido
- Estrogen therapy to treat menopausal symptoms
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.
- Easy and convenient to use
- Low risk of user error
- Does not require daily administration
- Bypasses digestive system, potentially lower risk to organs than oral administration
- Risk of skin inflammation and irritation
- Some dislike wearing a visible patch
- Small risk of patch loosening from water exposure or during heavy exercise
- General estrogen therapy
With HRT in pill form, you swallow your prescribed dosage daily. It’s important that you follow the instructions precisely for best results. For example, your doctor may recommend that you take pills on an empty stomach and not in combination with certain other substances.
- Pills are well-studied
- Easy to use
- Many variables can impact absorption, potentially compromising efficacy and creating dosage difficulties
- Requires daily administration, potentially compromising adherence
- Suitability is hormone-specific
- Oral testosterone is typically not considered a safe treatment option
- Oral estrogen may increase the risk of venous thromboembolism and other side effects
- Oral estrogen is not recommended for women with liver damage
- Thyroid disorders
- Cyclical progesterone therapy
An expert in hormone replacement therapy can consider your history, your health, and your lifestyle holistically in order to develop the ideal prescription that balances out the risks and benefits. Only a very experienced practitioner can weigh out all of the available hormone replacement therapy treatment options and identify which is your best option to minimize risks and side effects so you can start moving forward with your life the way you want to live it.
It’s Your Turn for Healing
If you’re struggling with symptoms of hormone fluctuation or imbalance, there’s no reason to delay a conversation about your options for hormone replacement therapy treatment. When you partner with the right practitioner, you are investing in your long-term vitality and giving your body the opportunity to heal.
BodyLogicMD can help you find out if HRT is right for you. The practitioners in the BodyLogicMD network are specially certified in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and can help identify the cause of your hormone-related symptoms and guide you toward effective treatment options. If you decide to pursue HRT, these expert practitioners will develop a custom treatment plan designed to optimize your health and support greater overall wellness. Contact a local practitioner to schedule an appointment and begin the conversation about your future. Or, take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz now to learn more about how hormones may be impacting your health.