You’ve worked hard your whole life to care for your family. Now you’ve retired and your whole life has changed. You’re tired and irritable. You wake up at night drenched in sweat. You’re gaining weight around your lower abdomen and you’re not interested in sex anymore. At the Guyer Institute of Molecular Medicine in Indianapolis, IN, we specialize in hormone replacement therapy to help our clients protect their emotional, physical and sexual health.
What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone replacement therapy, also known as HRT, is used to balance the levels of progesterone and estrogen in women around the age of menopause. It may also be called menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) or hormone therapy (HT). However, it is not to be confused with testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
How Effective Is It?
If you are suffering from the signs and symptoms of menopause due to an imbalance in progesterone and estrogen levels, hormone replacement therapy is extremely effective.
Does It Cause Weight Gain?
The only thing that causes weight gain is consuming more calories than your body burns throughout the day. Many post-menopausal women claim that HRT caused their weight gain. However, research suggests that the opposite is true.
Around the time of menopause, your body produces less estrogen. This drop in estrogen results in many side effects, including an increased appetite and apathy. Coupled with a reduced rate of testosterone production (low energy levels), it’s easy to see how women can eat more than they burn throughout the day.
Even worse, depression, anxiety, and insomnia can be triggered by low estrogen levels. Each of these on their own can lead to emotional eating, stress eating or impulsive eating.
HRT will not help you lose weight because it’s not a miracle weight loss drug. However, it will stabilize your mood, help you sleep better at night and manage the hormones causing your voracious appetite.
Do I Have Menopause?
The signs and symptoms of menopause vary. However, imbalanced hormones often cause the following symptoms:
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful sex
- Lowered libido
- Incontinence issues
- Thinning hair
- Night sweats and hot flashes
- Reduced fertility
- Irregular menses
- Osteoporosis (caused by low testosterone)
- Reduction in breast size
- Accumulation of abdomen fat
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble forming new memories
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, you may be going through menopause. However, there may be other, more serious medical conditions causing your symptoms. For example, trouble forming new memories may be an early warning sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. HRT is only effective if your symptoms are caused by hormonal imbalances. That’s why it’s essential you come in for an initial consultation to get an accurate diagnosis.
At What Age Do Women Develop Menopause?
As you age, your egg supply decreases. With this decrease comes a drop in the rate of estrogen production. Most women notice hormonal imbalances in their late 40s, but they can occur as early as your mid-30s. The important thing to recognize is your menstrual patterns.
Perimenopause is the first warning sign that your hormone production rates are changing. It can last anywhere from three to 10 years. But, on average, it lasts only four years. During this time, menstruation will continue. However, you will start to notice some of the symptoms of changing hormone production rates.
At approximately 51 years of age, women have their last menstrual cycle. However, if you’ve had irregular periods your entire life, you may not know that you have entered menopause. Post-menopause occurs 12 months after your last period and marks the end of menopause. During this stage in life, your menopausal symptoms may subside within two to five years. Some women experience signs of menopause a decade after menopause has ended. Others struggle with imbalanced hormones for the rest of their lives.
It’s important to note that even if all your noticeable symptoms go away, you are still at an increased risk of osteoporosis due to your decline in testosterone production.
Can I Get Menopause Early?
There are several reasons women may hit menopause before their 50s. Some women are born with a short supply of healthy eggs. Others have glandular disorders that reduce the hormone production necessary for ovulation and menstruation. Others still trigger menopause after undergoing a hysterectomy that involves the removal of their ovaries.
Two of the most common causes of “early” menopause include regular smoking and cancer treatment.
Types of Hormone Replacement Therapy
There are several combinations and delivery systems of HRT. During your initial consultation, our reproductive health experts will help you determine which form is most effective for your unique case.
Estrogen-only HRT is effective for women who have had a hysterectomy which removed their uterus and ovaries. It does not include progesterone, as this hormone is not required.
Cyclical HRT, also known as sequential HRT, is effective for women who are still menstruating but believe they are in perimenopause. With cyclical HRT, you may still get your monthly cycle. This type of HRT is administered with a 14-day dose of estrogen and progestogen dose after your cycle. Alternatively, you may opt for a 14-day daily dose of estrogen and progestogen every 13 weeks.
Continuous HRT is effective for women who have finished menopause. This continuous hormone replacement therapy dose includes both estrogen and progestogen. It is used for as long as you have menopausal symptoms. If you began menopause before age 40, whether due to premature ovarian insufficiency or any other cause, you may need continuous HRT your entire life.
This is perfectly normal and will mitigate your risk of heart attack, stroke, bone disease, and many other medical conditions.
Long-Cycle HRT and Local Estrogen
Long-cycle HRT is a type of hormone therapy that allows you to menstruate every three months. Local estrogen replacement therapy involves inserting a tablet or ring or applying a cream to the vagina to mitigate the risk of a UTI and relieve local symptoms.
How Is HRT Delivered?
The most effective HRT delivery system will depend on your lifestyle, symptoms and personal preferences.
Low-Dose Vaginal Delivery
Vaginal rings are effective for women suffering from vaginal dryness and painful sex. They are also effective for women with incontinence issues who do not suffer from symptoms that affect their body, such as night sweats or hot flashes. Low-dose vaginal estrogen medications may also come in the form of a tablet or ring.
If you still have your uterus, your estrogen prescription will most likely come with progestin, a progesterone-like medication. This is because when you have too much estrogen and not enough progesterone to balance it out, the lining of your uterus can grow out of control. Progestin is not necessary if you have had a hysterectomy.
Systemic Hormone Therapy
Systemic estrogen is the most effect HRT for women with mood or mind disorders. Such delivery systems include sprays, creams, skin patches, gels and pills. Besides keeping your mind sharp and mood stable, this type of HRT is effective for treating physical symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats. Moreover, certain medications are effective for the treatment of vaginal dryness, discomfort during intercourse, vaginal itching and vaginal burning.
Alternatives to HRT
If you’re not convinced yet that HRT is right for you, there are some things you can do to alleviate your symptoms. First, reduce your consumption of alcohol, caffeine and spicy food. These affect your sympathetic nervous system and can lead to anxiety and jitteriness. You should also stop smoking, as nicotine elevates your blood pressure and can lead to panic attacks.
Exercise regularly to help keep your mental health in check. Exercise increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, among other feel-good chemicals in the brain. It can fight depression and anxiety while maintaining a healthy level of bone density.
Wear loose clothing to help keep you cool and make sure your bedroom is well-ventilated. The cooler the room is, the less likely you will suffer from night sweats. If your room is ventilated and you still suffer from night sweats or hot flashes, put a fan in your room or get cooling pillows or a cooling gel pad. The last thing you can try for hot flashes is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Traditionally used to treat anxiety disorders and major depressive disorder, this medication may help to keep your mood stable.
Finally, it’s important to note that consuming such foods as block cohosh, Kava, soya beans and ginseng to treat menopausal symptoms are purely anecdotal and may have a placebo effect. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate any herbal or supplemental treatments for menopause and there is no research confirming their efficacy.
How Does Estrogen Affect My Brain?
Estrogen affects dozens of bodily functions. But its effects on the brain are among the most significant. Primarily, estrogen affects your levels of serotonin and endorphins and helps your neurons create more connections and keep your memories intact.
A healthy level of estrogen in the blood increases both serotonin production and the number of serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is the leading neurotransmitter responsible for you feeling well-off, happy and more. For example, research has shown that serotonin is essential for modulating cognition (understanding complex issues), learning and the formation of new memories.
Endorphins are also responsible for making you feel good. These peptides and endogenous opioid neuropeptide hormones are produced, in part, by the pituitary gland. However, they are also produced by the central nervous system. While the endogenous opioid neuropeptides alleviate pain by blocking pain signals, peptides also play a critical role in your mood.
Low endorphin levels are a leading cause of depression and can contribute to anxiety. Moreover, low peptide levels can lead to extreme irritability when they cause chronic headaches or fibromyalgia.
Serotonin helps you form new memories. However, estrogen also helps you preserve long-term memories by protecting the nerves in your brain from damage and stimulating nerve growth. The more the nerves in your brain communicate with each other, the more solidified and permanent your memories become.
It’s time to come in for your initial consultation and have your hormone levels tested if you’re experiencing any of these signs of memory problems:
- Misplacing your keys or glasses
- Missing a mortgage or medical bill payment
- Making poor decisions
- Forgetting the year or season
- Difficulty holding a conversation
- Trouble remembering a word while talking
- Difficulty writing
- Trouble completing daily tasks
Protect Your Emotional Health Today
Visit the Guyer Institute of Molecular Medicine in Indianapolis, IN today, so we can help you enjoy your golden years. You’ve worked hard your whole life to take care of your family. We want to help you enjoy these years comfortably and remember them with the help of hormone replacement therapy.