Bio identical hormone replacement has become much more widely used today than it was a decade ago, as a growing number of people seek natural alternatives to conventional hormone drugs to correct hormonal imbalances. However, since BHRT isn't quite as common as conventional HRT, many individuals considering it have questions. Among the most frequent of these is whether BHRT, once begun, must be a lifetime commitment. The answer to that question depends on an individual's reasons for beginning BHRT, as well as his or her overall health and personal treatment goals.
Hormonal changes that begin to affect men (andropause) and women (perimenopause/menopause) at midlife are a leading cause of hormonal imbalances. BHRT is often prescribed to individuals who experience symptoms during this phase that impact their quality of life. Hormone levels are monitored carefully throughout therapy and adjusted as necessary to maintain optimal hormonal balance.
Many factors can contribute to midlife hormonal imbalances, some of which are temporary situations, such as stress, weight problems, a sedentary lifestyle and dietary issues, to name just a few. In cases where these factors are an issue, patients can often be weaned off of bio identical hormone replacement once these situations are resolved and hormone levels have rebounded sufficiently to ease hormonal symptoms. However, maintaining optimal hormone levels offers a number of benefits beyond easing a person through andropause or menopause, long-term benefits that BHRT users may wish to discuss with their physicians before discontinuing therapy.
Declining hormone levels at midlife and beyond increase a person's risk of a number of diseases and health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, depression, overweight or obesity and joint pain, among others. Estrogen therapy has been shown to lower disease risk in postmenopausal women, particularly risk of heart disease, high cholesterol and osteoporosis. Testosterone therapy in men with low levels of free testosterone can reduce risk factors for coronary artery disease, heart attack and depression. Maintaining optimal hormone levels also promotes a greater sense of well-being and vitality, improving energy levels and sex drive, as well as slowing skin aging and preserving muscle mass and strength.
Long-term use of synthetic hormone drugs is discouraged due to its association with serious health affects, with doctors advising patients to use the lowest possible dose and limit use to no more than two to five years. However, bio identical hormone replacement is markedly different from conventional HRT, using natural, plant-derived supplements that are identical to the body's own hormones. That greater level of compatibility allows bio identical hormones to be used just as efficiently as ones produced by the body, a difference that gives BHRT a better safety profile than conventional synthetic hormone drugs, allowing safe and effective long-term use in most cases.
Of course, bio identical hormone replacement is a very individualized process and no two patients are exactly the same. So ultimately, a decision on whether short-term BHRT or a long-term therapy is best suited to your health and wellness needs is one that must be made in close consultation with your personal health care team.