Is Hormone Therapy Just a Crutch?
The word “crutch” has negative connotations, implying weakness or lacking.
A crutch means something is broken.
Menopause is not a place where something is broken or wrong – it’s simply a time of life where we have much lower levels of hormones in our bodies, Replacing those hormones can help get us to feeling awesome.
Sometimes I have a patient who feels like they have failed if they really need to use hormones to feel better. I gently remind them that that a diabetic person doesn’t feel bad about needing insulin.
Whenever I recommend hormone therapy to help people feel like themselves again, I often get asked, “Will my body become hooked on the treatment, and not be able to work well on its own again?
I have a few answers to this question that I thought I would share with you this week.
Hormones are a shortcut
First of all, I like to think of hormone therapy as a shortcut to feeling better, usually pretty quickly. There are lots of ways to stay in hormonal balance, including eating well sleeping enough and exercising regularly and appropriately for your body.
However one thing I often say is that “As the building gets older, it needs more maintenance.” In other words, I had a time in my life where I didn’t need to take any vitamins, supplements or hormones and everything worked great!
Now time has gone by, and I find that using vitamins, supplements and hormones supports my body’s ability to function at its very best. Over time, with a lot of trial and error, I have dialed in a pretty good formula for what works best. I have to keep monitoring it though and make adjustments as I get older.
Hormones are not all created equal
The second general comment I have is that not all hormone-producing organs are created equal. For example the thyroid gland often has declining function as we get older. This affects everything from mood to skin to the gut to metabolism. It may be true that supplementing with thyroid hormone can feedback on the brain and lower the signal to the thyroid to make its hormones.
However, when thyroid medicine is stopped, your body goes back to whatever it would have been producing without taking the medicine. In other words, supplementing with thyroid hormone does not lower your body’s ability to make the thyroid hormone. If you need and don’t take this kind of hormone supplementation, you are simply not giving your cells what they need.
The adrenal glands are another tricky subject (on which many entire books have been written). It might seem paradoxical, but when you use adrenal hormone supplementation it can actually take the load off of your adrenals and allow them to heal from the great deal of stress that we put on them nowadays.
You have two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney and each of them is about the size of a walnut. They are small but mighty; you can’t live without them. The longer we live in a more stress in our lives, the more likely our adrenals need some support.
Well here’s the thing for me: I’m in menopause! That means my ovaries are pretty much all done producing estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
My ovaries are not going to regain their hormone producing function. This is not a personal failure on my part, although most women have experienced some kind of “body betrayal” at one time or another as we get older.
It’s clear to me that whether we choose to replace hormones up to the level of someone in their 20’s or just back to the levels that make us feel good, hormones can be a great way to feel our best for as long as possible.
Among the many benefits of hormone therapy, I want my bones to stay strong so I don’t end up needing a real crutch.