For those experiencing a dip or surge in hormone levels, you may be wondering if HRT is right for you. Perhaps your doctor has suggested it, or you saw an advertisement or commercial for it that piqued your curiosity. Do you find yourself listless and lethargic, suddenly putting weight on, or just overall feeling unlike yourself? Your hormone levels may be to blame. Exactly what is HRT, and how can you know if it’s right for you?
What is HRT?
HRT is an abbreviation for Hormone Replacement Therapy. Generally, it means any form of hormone treatment where a patient receives hormones through the course of medical treatment. This either supplements a deficient level of naturally occurring hormones or substitutes other hormones to aid or combat naturally occurring ones.
Most commonly, HRT is used for women trying to combat the symptoms of menopause and aging through the use of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. It’s one of the most effective treatments for menopause and is heralded for its anti-aging side effects.
Who Needs HRT?
One mostly hears of HRT in reference to the treatment of the symptoms of menopause. When menstruation stops and a woman can no longer bear children, she enters menopause. Thus, her body’s natural production of estrogen and progesterone decrease substantially, which comes with side effects such as hot flashes, fatigue, hair loss, vaginal dryness, and erratic sleep patterns. Menopausal women are also at an increased risk of osteoporosis, as estrogen is involved in delivering calcium to the bones. In addition to all of that, women can also experience anxiety, irritability, or an array of uncontrollable mood swings.
A more specific type of hormone treatment is Thyroid Hormone Replacement Therapy. This is the same general idea as HRT but used specifically for people suffering from an improperly functioning thyroid.
Women are not the only ones suffering from hormone imbalances. Men may also find themselves wondering, what is HRT? Hormone replacement can be used for men suffering from hypogonadism, or low testosterone production, which causes men to feel lethargic, lose confidence, and lowers their sex drive.
Benefits and Risks of HRT
HRT for menopausal women used to be associated with a lot of potential risks, but more recent studies have shown that it is safer than thought years ago. Estrogen taken without progesterone can lead to increased risk of uterine, or endometrial cancer. Estrogen alone is usually given to women who have had a hysterectomy, or the removal of the uterus.
For women who used the combined treatment of estrogen and progesterone, the risk of developing one of those feminine cancers is substantially lowered.
While not entirely risk-free, the benefits of HRT make it the best available treatment for the symptoms of menopause. Women are free of the symptoms that make them uncomfortable and irritable, and can enjoy pain-free intercourse with their partners. HRT is favorably recommended by doctors if it’s taken for the right reasons (like the treatment of menopause or a thyroid issue), taken only for as long as necessary at the lowest effective dose, and if users are assessed by their physician at least once a year.
Men supplementing with testosterone will experience benefits of sex drive, increased energy, better cardiovascular health, improved blood sugar control, and increased strength when compared with those with low testosterone. Testosterone given by injection may increase red blood cell count, which can lead to increased risk of heart attack, blood clots, and stroke. However, these risks can be easily avoided by giving blood every once in awhile.
Is HRT Right for You?
With the question of What is HRT? answered, now you need to know if it’s right for you. If you’re suffering from insufficient hormone production, talk to your doctor about HRT. He or she can walk you through the process and the method of delivery. They can also talk with you more in depth about the risks and benefits as they relate specifically to you. HRT may not be right for everyone, but your doctor can tell you if it’s the answer for you.
Dr. Maita is a recognized and award-winning holistic, functional, and anti-aging physician and author. She transforms people’s lives by getting to the root cause of illness using the best of science and nature. Her approach is personalized, precision medicine where you are treated as the unique individual you are.