Two years ago night sweats, lack of sleep, PMS, brain fog, forgetfulness, lack of energy, weight gain and irritability were all part of my life. I was only 49, but felt 70. But, today life is good due to bioidentical hormone therapy. In fact, I’ve never felt better. Diet and exercise definitely helped, but they weren’t the big cure that I was looking for. I say this as an avid exerciser and a healthy eater.
I attribute most of the part of “feeling good” to hormone replacement therapy. Without hormones, I don’t feel good and I’m one of those women you don’t want to be around.
Some of my friends do just fine without hormone therapy. So, here is my disclaimer–hormone replacement isn’t for everyone. I’m truly envious of those of you that seem to float through perimenopause without any complaints. Me? Perimenopause was PMS times ten! My guess is I’m just really sensitive to hormone fluctuations.
So, I decided to try Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). And, I chose the bioidentical route versus the synthetic (birth control pills) my Gynecologist offered me. In all honestly, I didn’t even give the synthetic hormones a fair try. But, I didn’t want to go there after a lot of research. Here is why.
We only need the lowest dose to ease the symptoms
One size doesn’t fit all in the hormone world, so it’s important to be able to change or personalize your dose. As they say, the dose makes the poison. Too much estrogen or progesterone can make menopause symptoms worse. To manage my menopause symptoms, all I needed was a very low dose. I like the advantage of compounded, topical, or sublingual hormone creams and lozenges. I can just take what I need, just enough to manage my symptoms. With pills it’s a bit more difficult. The goal is to take the lowest dose to simply restore balance.
Progesterone vs. Progestins
A decline in progesterone is the first hormone change to cause symptoms in women approaching menopause. Our body is designed to have enough progesterone to counter balance estrogen or you will experience something called “estrogen dominance,” which causes heavier periods (see Steph’s post), PMS and a host of other issues. Progesterone also gives us a sense of calmness and helps promote sleep.
I chose to supplement with a bioidentical progesterone, compounded at my doctor’s pharmacy versus taking the synthetic progestin (birth control pills) for three very good reasons. First, progesterone is what is naturally found in our body NOT progestin. Progestin is synthetic has side effects, most notably depression and weight gain. Plus, bio identical hormones are associated with lower risks, including a lower risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease ¹ ².
Using progesterone (not progestin) has another advantage. It can be converted to other hormones when needed, like testosterone and DHEA. It’s not uncommon for women to see a bump in sex drive after they begin natural progesterone therapy, but will not experience this affect with synthetic versions.
You see, there is a great deal of difference between the bioidentical and synthetic options. I only named a few. There are a lot of great resources available for you to read. I really like Dr. Christine Northrup’s book called the Wisdom of Menopause. She goes into the differences in great detail and discusses the study that gave all hormones a bad rap ten years ago. Bottom line, talk to your doctor and make a decision that’s right for you.