Understanding hormones

Natural Hormones and Menopause

Menopause marks the end of the reproductive years. Menopause can be defined as the conclusion of the menstruation period in a woman´s life. It marks the end of the reproductive years in a similar way that the first menstrual period marks the start. As a woman approaches menopause, the ovary’s production of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone starts to slow until eventually menstruation ceases altogether.

As a result of the change in hormonal levels, women can suffer from a variety of symptoms associated with menopause. The following information is vital to understand the relationship between natural hormones and menopause.

Hormones during Menopause

Women and health professionals are regularly given information about hormone imbalance and how to deal with menopause naturally. This information needs to be carefully evaluated before making any definitive comment on hormones and natural hormone treatments during menopause.

Many women are turning away  from postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

However, it is true that many women are turning away from traditional pharmaceutically approved postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that is currently available as a tablet, patch, gel and/or implant and are using instead bioidentical or “natural” hormones in the form oflozenges, troches, or creams.

Natural hormones tend to be manufactured synthetically in a similar process to most hormones, including the pill. The process begins with a chemical substance derived from either yams or soy.

Natural Hormone Prescriptions during Menopause

Pharmacists making the “natural” preparations are not required to adhere to the codes of conduct of the national professional pharmaceutical body, as these codes apply only to pharmaceutical companies. This means there is limited formal quality control or quality assurance on individual formulations.

Compounded natural hormone preparations require a doctor’s prescription and are produced by pharmacists. However, there are no further training requirements for compounding pharmacists, who are likely to have had identical training to your average family pharmacist.

The estrogen present in many “natural” hormone therapies is the same estrogen that occurs naturally in the human body — estradiol, which is prepared in the same way as most government-approved oral and non-oral hormone therapies including patches, implants, and gels.

Safety of Using Hormones

There is no evidence that the recommended doses of the hormone preparations made by compounding pharmacists are safe or effective for treating menopause. There is also no adequate data to show what dose of progesterone is necessary to protect the lining of the uterus (endometrium).

Whilst it has been claimed that natural hormones do not cause side effects, this remains unproven. Furthermore, some women have had complications due to estrogen and testosterone therapy while on natural hormonal preparations.

Some women have had complications due to estrogen and testosterone therapy.

Despite all of this, there are theoretical advantages to the use of natural hormonal preparations similar to the forms produced in the body, especially in alleviating the symptoms of menopause. However, further research and regulation is needed. Prescription of so-called natural hormones cannot be recommended for menopause sufferers until sound research has been completed.

As stated above, the main cause of discomfort during menopause is the unpredictable hormone fluctuations that characterize this stage. To keep learning about hormone levels and their fluctuations, read more about hormonal imbalance here.

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