Hormone Replacement Therapy in Women: Good, or Bad for Menopause Relief?
Hormone replacement therapy in women is one of the most popular methods used to cope with the frustrating, and sometimes agonizing, symptoms of menopause.
During the menopausal years, women often become desperate and frustrated because their quality of life is drastically flipped upside down by grueling hot flashes, sudden, unexplainable weight gain, and severe mood swings.
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone replacement therapy is a system of medical treatments that prevents discomfort caused by diminished circulating estrogen and progesterone hormones in the years leading up to menopause. The main hormones that are replenished in this process are estrogen, progesterone or progestins, and sometimes testosterone.
Hormone replacement therapy is not a bad method for relieving symptoms of menopause, but the process should be closely monitored by an experienced physician if you are going to make this your remedy of choice.
“In my years of working with menopausal women at my medical practice, I have always emphasized the importance of monitoring hormone levels during hormone replacement therapy,” says Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D., a board-certified bariatric physician, and the founding physician behind BistroMD.
The average pre-menopausal woman will have a spike in their estrogen levels, right before ovulation. If the level stays high, then the heightened, steady levels of estrogen can increase your risk of serious health conditions including breast cancer and stroke.
"When hormone replacement therapy was first introduced as a treatment for menopausal symptoms, estrogen levels weren't monitored appropriately, and each woman was given the same exact dose of hormones," says Dr. Cederquist. "Fortunately, times have changed, and more physicians are monitoring estrogen levels more closely, making sure that they treat their patients with the lowest dosage of estrogen possible. This is essential if you want hormone replacement therapy to treat your symptoms of menopause effectively."
If you are seriously considering hormone replacement therapy to help you cope with your menopausal symptoms, BistroMD’s founding physician is going to share with you some important information about this process, and what you can expect if you decide to use this treatment.
Good For The Long-term, or Better For The Short-term?
“Most women prefer to use hormone replacement therapy for as long as they possibly can, but many physicians recommend using this process as a short-term relief for patients living with menopausal symptoms,” says Dr. Cederquist. "However, every woman is different which is why it is important that you and your physician make this decision together.”
Hormone replacement therapy has been shown to relieve most physical menopausal symptoms, while helping reduce the risks of developing other health conditions, like osteoporosis, breast cancer, and heart disease.
“Ideally, you want to speak with your physician before you start hormone replacement therapy,” says Dr. Cederquist. “It all depends on how your body will react to the treatment. For some women, it can work really well, but for other women, the treatment can cause uncomfortable side effects such as breast soreness, bloating, headaches, mood swings, nausea, and increased water retention. Again, you and your physician should compare the risks versus the benefits before you begin hormone replacement therapy.”
In the video below, Dr. Caroline Cederquist explains the process behind hormone replacement therapy, whether it's best for the short-term or long-term, and explains how to determine if this treatment is right for you:
Will Hormone Replacement Therapy Help Me Lose Weight?
Although hormone replacement therapy has been a reliable method for relieving menopausal symptoms, there is no conclusive evidence that indicates it helps you lose weight.
“I do not recommend taking hormone replacement therapy to prevent weight gain or to lose weight,” says Dr. Cederquist. “Hormone replacement therapy can help ease menopausal symptoms, but there is no evidence that indicates it helps you lose weight.”
Sudden weight gain is one of the most discouraging side effects of menopause. When a woman’s body stops producing estrogen—in combination with other influences like genetics and aging—this can cause an increase in abdominal fat retention.
“The best solution for losing weight during menopause is eating a well-balanced diet that contains appropriate nutrition,” says Dr. Cederquist. “An appropriate diet with the proper combinations of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats will, in time, re-train your menopause metabolism, encouraging it to burn excess abdominal fat.”
Instead of depending on hormones to help you lose weight during menopause, it’s best to go with a healthy diet that won’t starve your body of essential nutrition, but still helps your body burn stored fat.