Hormone Therapy: Side Effects and Alternatives

During menopause, you may experience changes to your body and health that may be unexpected, uncomfortable, and even confusing. To help you manage these changes, you should rely on your health care provider for guidance and to develop a plan for symptom relief. At AdvantageCare Physicians (ACPNY), your provider is your partner in discussing and making the right treatment decisions for you. Our whole-you care approach considers all of the factors that impact your health—physical, mental, and lifestyle. The goal of our practice is to create a care environment where you can have open, honest conversations about your menopause experience. And, that includes helping you make treatment choices, such as whether hormone therapy or alternative options are right for you.

Knowing You Have Options

A first step for many health care providers is to prescribe estrogen hormone therapy. It’s important for you to know that several alternative treatment options exist, mainly in the categories of herbal supplements and lifestyle changes.

What is Hormone Therapy?

One of the most significant physical changes experienced during menopause is a decrease in estrogen and progesterone production. With lower estrogen levels, you may develop common menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and more serious conditions like osteoporosis. Estrogen hormone therapy works by stimulating the ovaries to normalize estrogen levels in the body. Medical professionals often suggest this treatment to delay and reduce a wide range of menopausal symptoms.

Side Effects of Hormone Therapy

While hormone therapy is beneficial, it has the potential for side effects, including:

  • Bloating
  • Breast swelling or tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea
  • Vaginal bleeding

Hormone therapy dosage strength, interactions with other treatments, and health factors that include a patient’s age may also increase your risk of other conditions:

  • Estrogen-only therapy can increase the risk of uterine cancer.
  • Estrogen therapy with or without progestin can increase the risk of gallbladder disease.
  • Combined hormone therapy can increase the risk of breast cancer and heart attacks.

Alternatives to Hormone Therapy

Although no treatments are completely free of adverse effects, these alternatives may be better suited for you:

Herbal Supplements:*

  • Black cohosh: The root of this herb helps reduce hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Soy: This herb eases discomfort associated with hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Flaxseed: Ground flaxseed also helps ease the discomfort of hot flashes.

*Talk to your provider before starting these treatments.

Lifestyle Changes:

  • Diet: Eat foods with an abundance of vitamin D and calcium. Menopause can weaken your bones, and changes to your diet can help prevent symptoms of osteoporosis. Foods rich in phytoestrogens, like tofu, soybeans, and sesame seeds, can replace estrogen in your body.
  • Exercise: Maintaining a healthy weight can help to minimize menopausal symptoms. Improving your metabolism, energy levels, and joint health can greatly improve the way you feel physically and mentally. It can also help treat osteoporosis—especially weight-bearing exercises.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking is linked to early signs of menopause. If you smoke, talk to your provider about ways to quit.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol intake has been connected to breast cancer, and decreasing your consumption will improve your overall health in the long run.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture can help to limit the severity and frequency of hot flashes as well as stimulate your metabolism.
  • Wear loose and layered clothing: Loose-fitting clothes can make you more comfortable during menopause. And, dressing in layers makes it easier to cool down if you’re experiencing hot flashes.

What You Can Do Now

Even if you haven’t begun experiencing symptoms, it’s not too early to start the menopause discussion with your provider. And, if you are dealing with menopause-related discomfort, know that you are not alone. ACPNY sees and cares for the whole you, and we know the impact many of these symptoms can have on every aspect of your daily life. Schedule an appointment with your provider today to begin the conversation about what’s right for you.

 

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