Journal / Hormone Replacement Therapy

The Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Nancy L. Belcher

Medically reviewed by Nancy L. Belcher Ph.D, MPA

Written by Winona Editorial Team

Last updated November 25, 2021

The Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Medical science is capable of regularly delivering miracles, and it’s time that women are provided with medical treatments to keep from feeling ambushed by menopause. Menopause does not mean that you are dried up and finished. There are many amazing benefits that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can provide for your body.

In the months or years leading up to menopause, you might start experiencing the effects of hormonal fluctuation such as hot flashes, low libido, vaginal dryness, and insomnia.  When you decide that you want to reduce these symptoms, healthcare providers can prescribe bioidentical hormones, or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Hormone replacement therapy is the most studied and effective form of treatment to date for hot flashes and night sweats. Scientists have yet to unearth a more effective remedy for menopause symptoms than giving the body the estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone it desires in order to improve the profound mind-body shifts that occur during menopause. 1,2,3

Hormone replacement for menopause shouldn’t be complicated or scary, after all, it is an incredibly effective natural remedy for menopause symptoms that simply restores the estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that women are producing at lower levels as they age. But especially in the U.S., our societal norms place aging and menopause, and even discussion of hormonal fluctuations, into a taboo category. Sort of like when you try to have a conversation about menstrual complications! Nope. Additionally, because some outdated research continues to get amplified on the internet, there is unnecessary fear associated with taking control of your menopause journey and trying hormone replacement therapy (HRT). 

It is estimated that only one in four women who could benefit from hormone replacement therapy actually try it. This reluctance is often because they fear HRT side effects.  Sometimes talking to friends or reading antiquated articles about HRT will scare women away from trying HRT. 2,3,4  It doesn’t have to be this way. It is a new day in hormone replacement therapy. But unfortunately, the misinformation about HRT continues, and women suffer unnecessarily.

We have noticed that women who are typically accomplished and capable in so many areas of their lives, simply stumble into menopause; their second hormonally disruptive stage (puberty being the first). The phrase “scientia potentia est” is Latin for “knowledge is power,” and Winona aims to provide you with the most current, and thoroughly vetted scientific information available to help safeguard against menopause misery and long-term health problems associated with low levels of the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. 5-10

The main hormone involved in hormone replacement therapy is estrogen but progesterone and testosterone should be included in any HRT discussion. When treating any medical condition, the balance of benefit to harm always needs to be assessed, and the benefits quite clearly promote the use of HRT.* There are amazing benefits of HRT in the short term, and long term. 3

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Winona will help women to receive better, more up-to-date, and informed guidance about their menopause journey. Gone are the days of facing an exhaustive list of baffling, life-altering symptoms such as insomnia,  instant sweats, and anxiety all alone. Did you know that menopause also can cause a loss of libido and hair?  Panic attacks are not the cause of hot flashes (and vice versa), but they are usually ignored or discounted as ‘just’ being associated with menopause. Sagging skin (aka face drop) and upper body weight gain are often the clearest indicators of aging. There is a solution available today. 1,11-15

Our understanding of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone’s role in human biology is only getting started. Ongoing research has helped medical professionals to design therapeutic strategies for a whole host of symptoms and diseases. The knowledge scientists have gained over the past six decades, together with advances in research techniques, have allowed us to develop more personalized strategies to prevent and treat conditions when our bodies create less estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.1

The renewed confidence and improved mood generated by taking HRT is likely enough to convince most women to try it, but there is a litany of menopause symptoms that HRT can address, and help prevent many health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and many more.

Estrogen Therapy: Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy

  1. Vagina: Lessens vaginal dryness, pain, vaginal itching, and discomfort during intercourse.  HRT can improve vaginal atrophy (thinning of lining).

  2. Sleep: Improve sleep by decreasing anxiety, night sweats, and insomnia.2

  3. Sex: Make sex less painful, more enjoyable, and increase libido.

  4. Bladder: Strengthens the muscles of the bladder which can reduce the frequency of urinary tract infections, and the risk of incontinence and other bladder problems.

  5. Weight Loss: Counterweight gain, and assist in weight loss.

  6. Hot Flashes (Vasomotor): Reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and sweats that can significantly reduce the quality of life for many menopausal women. Hormone Replacement Therapy is the most effective way known to reduce hot flashes.

  7. Mood: Curtail the frequency and severity of mood swings and decrease depression.

  8. Brain: Improve concentration and focus are improved, and research indicates that estrogen treatment may reduce the long-term risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

  9. Anti-Aging & Skin: Positively affects anti-aging of the skin by increasing skin collagen content, thickness, elasticity, and moisture levels which results in the reduction of common skin changes associated with aging such as wrinkles or sagging.

  10. Heart Disease: Protection from heart disease. The most recent studies using micronized progesterone (the same type provided by Winona)  instead of medroxyprogesterone used previously suggest additional protection against heart problems.

  11. Breast Cancer: Reduced risk of invasive breast cancer. Recent studies using micronized progesterone suggest a reduction in cancers.12-14

  12. Colon cancer: Lower the risks of colorectal cancer. Fewer women develop colon cancer on hormone replacement therapy than those who are not on HRT.3,11

  13. Diabetes: Decrease the development of Type 2 diabetes.

  14. Mortality: Improve life expectancy in women during the 5 years of Hormone Replacement Therapy than those that are not taking HRT.

  15. Healing: Enhance wound healing, and reduce the incidence of wound complications.

  16. Stroke: Lower stroke risk.

  17. Muscles: Maintain and enhance muscle mass, and strength. Decrease muscle aches and pains.

  18. Migraines: Diminish migraine symptoms.

  19. Bone: Prevent bone loss that is accelerated at menopause. Fewer women have a bone fracture due to weaker bones with hormone replacement therapy because of reduced osteoporosis. The evidence of estrogen treatment to prevent bone loss is excellent.

  20. Wellness: Improve long term disease prevention. HRT promotes a better quality of life.

Reference: 3-15

While menopause does indeed mark a transition, it does not mean loss of control. With the benefits of hormone replacement therapy, equilibrium can happily return to normal. There is much to be gained in the decades that await during and after menopause. Who doesn’t want to live longer and age gracefully? But, if we want to live longer we should also try to look and feel good doing it!

Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone can improve sleep, protect memory & cognitive functions, and even reduce the incidence of  breast, uterus, ovarian, cervical, & colon cancers In combination, these hormones can also reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and many other side effects of menopause.1-5

While we can’t reverse the aging process, we can slow it down. The benefits of hormone replacement therapy is regarded as a cornerstone of anti-aging efforts.10 Currently, women can expect to live about ⅓ -½ of their lives in a state of sex-hormone deficiency (not enough estrogen, progesterone or testosterone) if they don’t take hormone replacements. This deficiency can lead to long term disease. That is a huge problem!

Skin aging, as well as decreased muscle, bone density, sexual desire, and intellectual activity, can lead to mood disorders osteoporosis, cognitive decline, dementia, heart problems, and painful sex. Bio-identical hormones can give you back the many benefits of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Hormone replacement can directly contribute to longevity, and lead to a significant improvement in your quality of life.

Personalized hormone treatments. For you.

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Personalized hormone treatments. For you.

Estrogen:

Estrogen is a group of steroid hormones that act to promote the development and maintenance of female characteristics. The main type of estrogen found in women is called ‘estradiol.’  Estrogens can bind to and stimulate estrogen receptors that are found inside most human cells.  Lots of other compounds can create a signal after binding to the estrogen receptors, including bioidentical medications and ‘bioidentical hormones.’ Bioidentical estrogen hormone compounds bind to an estrogen receptor and signal the same effects in your body. These compounds include some plant hormones and specialized, ‘bioidentical’ medications.

Bioidentical estrogen hormones are used for contraception, menstrual complications, or to treat menopause symptoms. During perimenopause estrogen naturally decreases but in a very irregular fashion, and can cause menstrual complications. Most women don’t recognize that the hormone fluctuations caused by perimenopause are the reason for their sudden changes in mood, weight, sleep, skin and so much more.

Taking hormone replacement therapy early can improve memory, concentration, and cognition. It may also help protect against long term health risks like heart disease, stroke, cancers, type2 Diabetes, and more. 

Winona provides estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that is chemically identical to the kind made by women’s ovaries, and is described as “bioidentical.” Shipped by Winona’s private pharmacies it comes as a pill, patch, or cream.15-22

Progesterone:

Once a woman hits her mid to late 30’s she can enter perimenopause, and progesterone production starts to decline. Once she reaches menopause, circulating progesterone levels are so low, they are similar to levels normally seen in men. Research shows that progesterone supplementation can improve brain function as well as breast, heart, cardiovascular and nervous system health and decrease the risk of uterine cancer.

Progesterone acts as a natural antidepressant, and can enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. It actually stimulates the brain’s ‘feel-good,’ center. So it makes sense then that when progesterone levels drop with menopause, anxiety can become a major menopause problem.5 Researchers have shown that progesterone appears to be the most potent anti-anxiety hormone for menopausal women.6,7

While there are many causes of anxiety – your kids, your job, or something else  – a progesterone hormone deficiency is the main factor leading to moodiness, brain fog, and depression during menopause. When excessive anxiety occurs daily it can become disabling. When progesterone levels are restored to normal with bioidentical progesterone HRT medication, women have noticed anxiety relief, decreased irritability, and less nervous tension.

Progesterone also helps with the sleep problems so often associated with menopause. After hot flashes, the next most troublesome symptom of menopause is delayed or interrupted sleep. Researchers found that taking progesterone at bedtime improved the quality of deep sleep.9 Not only will it make you sleepy, but progesterone can reduce the severity of night sweats, which can awaken women from an otherwise sound sleep.9-14

Testosterone:

Although many think of it as a ‘male’ hormone, testosterone is also an important female hormone that plays a critical role in women’s health.4 Testosterone maintains normal metabolic function, muscle and bone strength, urogenital health, mood and cognitive function.4 A deficiency in testosterone can lead to low sexual desire, arousal and orgasm.

Tiredness, depression, headaches, cognitive problems, osteoporosis and lean body tissue loss are additional complications from low testosterone.4 Testosterone levels peak in a woman’s ’20s and start to drop years before perimenopause. By menopause, most women’s levels are half of the peak levels.5 Winona offers DHEA, a testosterone precursor, to gently yet effectively replace the testosterone that can be missing in the menopausal woman.

History:

The-Benefits-of-Hormone-Replacement-Therapy-Aritcle-body

Before 2000…

It was common for women with menopausal symptoms to be prescribed estrogen supplements by their medical provider. Pills, patches, and creams were common estrogen therapies that proved to be very effective at reducing menopausal symptoms and preventing bone weakening and osteoporosis.

In 2002…

The first studies were published by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The WHI was initiated in 1991 and lasted until 2005. It was a unique study that enrolled more than 160,000 women, but the data was not properly evaluated, and many of the results of the study have been dismissed as inaccurate. 

The preliminary WHI study results raised the concern that estrogen treatment, or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), increased the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. This finding was the opposite of what was expected by researchers based on previous publications. As a result of the WHI report, and almost overnight, women stopped being prescribed estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone as a remedy for their menopausal symptoms.  

The results of the study adversely impacted the way doctors have prescribed menopause Hormone Replacement Therapy and how women think about Hormone Replacement Therapy for the past 20 years. This is an unfortunate result. As few as 5% of symptomatic menopausal women are currently offered bioidentical hormones as Hormone Replacement Therapy by their providers. We have written a summary of the WHI results (HERE), but want to stress that Hormone Replacement Therapy has numerous benefits and is proven to be safe and effective.

Risks of Estrogen Treatment:

  1. Breast: If there is a personal history, or very strong family history, of breast cancer, women should not take estrogen. However, it is very important to understand the actual risk.

  2. Endometrium: If there is a personal history, or very strong family history, of endometrial cancer, women should not take estrogen. There was no increased risk of endometrial cancer with Hormone Replacement Therapy in recent studies however, it is very important to understand the risk.

  3. Stroke: This can likely be reduced by using transdermal patches or creams rather than oral estrogen replacement.

  4. Pulmonary Embolism: The risk of pulmonary emboli is reduced by using a transdermal patch or creams rather than oral estrogen replacement.

Who Shouldn’t Use HRT: 

The benefits of hormone therapy are well understood, but your  doctor may decide HRT is not right for you if you have had;

  • Breast cancer

  • Endometrial (uterine)cancer

  • Ovarian cancer

  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding

  • Blood clots

  • Stroke

  • Liver disease

You also shouldn’t use HRT if there’s any chance you might be pregnant.

*If women experience unwanted side effects when taking HRT for the first time, these symptoms can usually be resolved by changing the type, dose or route of HRT (Oral tablet, transdermal patch, or cream). It is important that women are aware that, for the vast majority under the age of 60 years, the benefits of hormone replacement therapy outweigh any risks.

Personalized hormone treatments. For you.

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Personalized hormone treatments. For you.

Summary

Menopause is a normal phase of life and there are often-chronic symptoms that will appear during this time but the benefits of hormone replacement therapy will help you fight these symptoms. Winona encourages women to try various treatment options whether it is Hormone Replacement Therapy, diet or lifestyle changes (or all three) to identify what works best for them. Remember, menopause is a positive beginning, with the opportunity to take preventive action against major health risks associated with the decreasing hormones associated with menopause.

Whether experiencing severe or minor symptoms, women can embrace their evolving bodies by providing the nutrients their body needs like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Bioidentical hormones as HRT can enable them to move through this sometimes precarious phase with grace and wellness.  Let the Winona women’s health care experts work with you to replace the missing ingredients to help you feel, and stay young and healthy.

“This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”

References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/menopause/hrt-risks-benefits

  2. https://henpicked.net/hormone-replacement-therapy-hrt-can-be-good-for-you/

  3. https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/menopause/

  4. https://patient.info/doctor/hormone-replacement-therapy-including-benefits-and-risks

  5. Hormone therapy for reproductive depression in women. Post Reprod Health. 2014 Dec20(4):132-7. doi: 10.1177/2053369114557883. Epub 2014 Nov 14.

  6. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng23

  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25534509/

  8. Archer DF; Postmenopausal skin and estrogen.Gynecol Endocrinol. 2012 Oct28 Suppl 2:2-6.Epub 2012 Aug 1

  9. Doty RL, Tourbier I, Ng V, et al; Influences of hormone replacement therapy on olfactory and cognitive function in postmenopausal women. Neurobiol Aging. 2015 Jun36(6):2053-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2015.02.028. Epub 2015 Mar 10.

  10. Schierbeck L; Primary prev ention of cardiovascular disease with hormone replacement therapy. Climacteric. 201518(4):492-7. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2015.1034098. Epub 2015 Apr 16.

  11. Morch LS, Lidegaard O, Keiding N, et al The influence of hormone therapies on colon and rectal cancer. Eur J Epidemiol. 2016 Jan 12.

  12. https://breast-cancer-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/bcr1792

  13. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/98/5/1771/2536695 2013 by The Endocrine Society

  14. J Womens Health 1997 Newton, KM

  15. Henderson, BE, Arch Intern Med, 1991; 151: 75–78

  16. https://doctorlib.info/physiology/medical/263.html

  17. https://medlineplus.gov/menopause.html

  18. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/

  19. Estrogen receptor signaling mechanisms: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC6533072/

  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/

  21. https://www.healthline.com/health/progesterone-for-menopause

  22. https://www.medpagetoday.org/endocrinology/generalendocrinology/43123

  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4245250/

  24. https://www.healthywomen.org/your-health/progesterone/facts-to-know

  25. https://www.hotzehwc.com/2018/04/anxiety-relief-with-bioidentical-progesterone/

  26. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6684167/

  27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7663969/

  28. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1688192/

  29. https://www.healthline.com/health/progesterone-for-menopause

  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4116364/

  31. https://plattwellness.com/blogs/news/3-benefits-of-progesterone-for-anti-aging