Hormone Therapy: Is it Safe?

Whether to do hormone therapy and how to do it are decisions that will significantly affect your health and longevity.

Okay.  Moment of truth.  If you read the first two articles in this section, you understand that the loss of the sex hormones causes certain hormone system imbalances leading to metabolic imbalance, which accelerates aging, undermines your health, promotes degenerative diseases, and causes you all kinds of problems and discomfort along the way.

So, how can you keep estradiol and progesterone in your life for all the good they do you?  Of course, you don’t want to die early and feel lousy in the process!  But, I know you are asking, “Is hormone therapy safe?”  After all, you’ve heard the “news” about hormone therapy causing cancer, and being risky.  And, your doctor has told you it’s only safe to do hormone therapy for a short time, just to help you cope with your symptoms, and then, only if you absolutely have to, and then, using the lowest possible dose.  You’re thinking, “Really, hormone therapy must be risky.”  The truth is:  


Hormone therapy has risks.  So does not doing hormone therapy!

You have to balance the risks and benefits.  Let’s start by considering the risks and benefits of the current “standard of care.”  Today’s standard of care is to treat the symptoms of menopause with hormone drugs using the lowest possible dosage for the shortest period of time.  Aside from its reliance on hormone drugs, which have been proven harmful, the standard of care is misguided since it focuses only on the symptoms of menopause and does nothing to treat the hormone imbalance and inevitable metabolic imbalance that undermine a woman’s health.


Treating symptoms with drugs does not prevent degenerative diseases or the numerous health conditions that precede them.

It’s really that simple. Please don’t get caught up in and confused by all the flap about the Women’s Health Initiative. The WHI, tested only hormone drugs, not bioidentical hormones. Whether or not hormone drugs are safe or have side effects, and how long it might be safe to take them are not the real issues. Hormone drugs do nothing to treat the hormone system imbalance and inevitable metabolic imbalance caused by menopause. Therefore, hormone drugs are not the solution to restoring hormone and metabolic balance and keeping you healthy and feeling well.


“So, if hormone drugs aren’t effective or safe, what can I do?”

The answer is, use bioidentical hormones in a bioequivalent manner.  What does that mean?  Well, first of all, you have to understand what bioidentical hormones are.  Unlike hormone drugs, they actually have a chemical structure identical to the natural hormones they are restoring. That’s why they are called bio-identical.

In the context of menopause, bioequivalent manner means the way that most closely mimics how the body naturally produced estradiol and progesterone prior to menopause.


What’s the Story With Bioidentical Hormones – Are They New?

Most women think that bioidentical hormones are something new. They aren’t. I’ve been using them for over 20 years to treat my patients (thousands of them), my family, and now, myself!  In fact, doctors have been using bioidentical hormones in a bioequivalent manner for decades to treat permanent hormone deficiencies such as Type 1 diabetes, hypothroidism, and Addison’s disease.

So, no, the use of bioidentical hormones is not new. But, for most doctors, using them to treat menopause is. Why? There are a number of reasons, and not very good ones, like confusion and the vested interests of the drug companies. But, the main reason is, that doctors are just coming around to viewing menopause as a permanent hormone deficiency that should be treated the same way they treat other hormone deficiencies. Once they do, the use of bioidentical hormones to treat menopause is a “no-brainer.”


But, Wait, What About Breast Cancer?

The fear of breast cancer is the biggest concern raised by women and physicians about “taking hormones” for menopause. This concern stems primarily from studies like the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study.  The WHI did show an increased risk of breast cancer in women taking hormone drugs.  Along with the estrogenic drug they were also taking a daily high dose of a progestogen (progesterone-like drug), in what is called a “continuous combined” manner.

There are numerous factors at play in the breast cancer/hormone therapy equation that include: the type of hormone used, whether bioidentical or drug, the dosage, and the manner of administration, whether continuous combined or “cycling” – taking the progesterone during part of each month versus all month long. What I can tell you with certainty is:

There is no scientific basis for concluding that, done correctly, restoring a woman’s sex hormones in menopause would increase her risks for breast cancer. In fact, it is very likely that it reduces breast cancer risk!

You need to know the facts about bioidentical hormones – how they work, and how to use them effectively and safely. To do so, you need to understand the importance of the bioequivalent administration of bioidentical hormones. The fact that the hormones you take are bioidentical is not enough.  To be both effective and safe, hormones must be restored correctly – in a bioequivalent manner. Doing it wrong can be just as risky, perhaps, more so, than not treating menopause at all.


Let Me Teach You About How to Do Hormone Therapy Effectively and Safely

Everything you need to know about hormone therapy – what to do and what NOT to do – is in my Menopause Power Course and Take Charge Guide.  I explain why taking hormones orally, taking progesterone daily, and using hormone creams that you rub on your skin are both ineffective and dangerous.  I will also explain, step-by-step, how I rebalance my patient’s hormones using a system I have perfected over more than 20 years.  Then, you can make your own informed decision about what’s best for you.  To get your complete Menopause Power Program, just click here.


To your health and happiness,

Diana Schwarzbein, MD