What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT),or Hormone Therapy (HT), is a treatment to replace declining hormones. Sometimes it’s used to treat or prevent certain medical conditions, such as treating symptoms of menopause in women, andropause in men, or patients with osteoporosis.
The more important and common hormones are estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone, but sometimes thyroid, parathyroid, and growth hormones are also used.
Hormones represent specific proteins produced by the human endocrine organs such as the pituitary, adrenals, thyroid, testes, and ovaries. Too much or too little of any of these hormones cause an imbalance that can have serious implications to your system and your health. Hormone Replacement Therapy is life-changing for many patients.
There are many reasons hormones change including illness, stress, autoimmune destruction of our glands, and the natural process of aging. As we age, changes take place in our bodily systems. Cellular processes show down, and hormone levels decline as we age. The balance of your hormones is also intimately tied to your “biological age”. The major hormones can be replaced in both men’s and women´s bodies.
What are Bio-Identical Hormones?
Bio-identical hormones have the same chemical structure as hormones that are made by the human body. The term “bio-identical” does not indicate the source of the hormone, but rather indicates that the chemical structure of the replacement hormone is identical to that of the hormone naturally found in the human body.
In other words, bio-identical hormones are manufactured to be molecularly identical to hormones found in the human body. Bio-identical preparations include estradiol, estriol, progesterone, and testosterone. Bio-identical hormones are not a marketing term. The term has been used for more than a decade in the inserts to all FDA-approved commercial hormone preparations that contain hormones molecularly identical to human hormones.
What Are Common Uses for HRT?
The most common uses include menopause and andropause. There are other reasons hormones may be in decline or out of balance, and a simple test can help determine if Hormone Replacement Therapy is right for you.
Menopause is the point in a women’s life in which she stops menstruating. At this point, the amount of estrogen secreted by the ovaries decreases, and progesterone also declines. The reproductive hormonal cycle becomes irregular, and eventually ovulation and menstruation stop.
Common Symptoms of Menopause include hot flashes, perspiration, insomnia, vaginal dryness, bone loss leading to osteoporosis, decreased skin thickness, urinary tract problems, cardiovascular problems and mood swings.
Andropause (male menopause) is when testosterone levels decrease with age. As a result of these hormonal changes, men as early age 40 can develop impotency or libido problems.
Common Symptoms of Andropause are fatigue or tiredness, loss of muscle mass and muscle strength, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depression (moodiness, sadness), brittle bones, and increased blood sugar levels.
The Beginning of Hormone Replacement Therapy
In the 1920s, medical professionals began to recognize the association between declining hormone levels and problems associated with menopause. Today´s technology did not exist; therefore, these problems were corrected using animal products. One of the largest sources for estrogen was found in pregnant mare´s urine, and “Premarin” (also known as conjugated equine estrogens, or CEE) was patented, approved by the FDA, and hit the market as the nation´s first hormone replacement therapy in 1942.
Two studies published by The New England Journal of Medicine in 1975 found that the use of CEE by post-menopausal women led to an increase in the risk for endometrial cancer.
In the early summer of 2002, the United States of America´s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLB) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) halted the Women´s Health Initiative (WHI). The large multicenter trial administered conjugated equine estrogens with medroxiprogesterone acetate to healthy menopausal women. While the WHI did find “noteworthy benefits of estrogen plus progestin, including fewer cases of hip fractures and colon cancer”, reports of the number of cases of invasive breast cancer exceeded the predefined safety boundary, causing the premature termination of the WHI study.
The HRT trial was scheduled to end in 2005. However, researchers decided to stop the combination-therapy part of the study in 2002 because they could see that the risks associated with combination HRT outweighed the benefits. Specifically, it was found that long-term use (5 years or more) of combination HRT increased a woman´s risk of breast cancer, blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
In addition, NHBI failed to disclose that their researchers used synthetic, NOT bio-identical , hormones in the treatment protocol of WHI.