HRT and Menopause

What ever happened to the days when women “came of age” and simply stopped menstruating… when menopause was recognized as a natural part of life – a Right of Passage – and not as a disease needing a cure? Why is it that the medical profession views menopause as something needing to be “fixed,” even when nothing’s broken?

For well over 40 years now, women have been given estrogen, in its various forms, to prevent miscarriage, as a morning-after pill, to alleviate symptoms associated with menopause, to suppress milk in new mothers, to prevent osteoporosis, and to keep them sexually active and “forever young.”

Gynecologist Robert Wilson must have thought that estrogen replacement was the Sexual Holy Grail for women back in the 60s when he wrote his hugely successful (albeit sexist) book, Feminine Forever (published in 1966). He had women believing that they decended into a “vapid cow-like” state and estrogen would be their salvation… their ticket to being a younger-looking wife and mother.

Estrogen replacement therapy may be necessary for some women, in some circumstances. However, most women do not need estrogens. Other women may need estrogens for a few months while their bodies adjust to lower (as long as women have their ovaries, they will continue to create some estrogen) estrogen levels.

Hormone replacement therapy has been shown to relieve hot flashes, vaginal changes and osteoporosis, though not without risks. In addition to the increased risk of cancer of the uterus (unless you’ve had a total hysterectomy) and breast cancer, there are side effects associated with HRT, such as nausea/vomiting, breast tenderness, depression, enlargement of benign tumors of the uterus, retention of excess fluid, and spotty darkening of the skin.

A large federally funded study (published in The JAMA) provided definitive proof that estrogen and progestin are not age-defying wonder drugs as we were lead to believe. This study came as a shock to the Medical System.

Another, and lesser known issue, is how the estrogen drug, Premarin, is created. Made from pregnant mare’s urine, the cruelty involved in its production would be reason enough to refuse using it.

Why take these risks if there’s a more natural way to go through this “Menopausal Initiation?” The side effects are far worse than the symptoms HRT is meant to alleviate. So NOW what do we do?

Interestingly enough, many women in other cultures do not have the side effects of menopause that are common to American women, due to lifestyle and eating habits. Studies of Japanese women with traditional Japanese diets (which are high in estrogenic substances) show a much higher level of plant estrogens in their bodies than those found in Western women. Mayan women in Yucatan, Mexico, report no symptoms at menopause other than menstrual cycle irregularity.