Does bio identica​l or body identical hormone replacement really work?

On my way to work on 28 December 2018


The link between HRT and cancer

Many years ago, I think sometime in 2001, there was a lot in the press about the dangers of HRTageingand it was credited with a rise in cases of female cases of cancer. HRT was predominantly linked with breast cancer but possibly also ovarian cancer. HRT was an animal welfare issue also because of the ruthless way that the hormones were harvested from the urine of pregnant mares. I was in my early thirties at the time but kept one eye and ear on the story and chatter.  Thinking back now, I believe that I had made a mental decision to go on HRT. It seemed like a no-brainer.  However, I am not sure why I thought that going on HRT was a no-brainer. I say that because I had little knowledge. The only thing I was sure of about menopause at the time was that it signalled the end of a woman’s ability to have babies and possibly a sketchy idea about hot flushes based on observing the behaviour of some female colleagues at work circa 1994. For more information about this, see the following link https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/hormones-and-cancer/hrt-and-cancerw

Weighing up the risks: What is the best route? Plant-based BHRT or should we tough it out? Does plant-based BHRT actually work and is it the best for us anyway?

Fast forwarding to 2016 I knew I had a decision to make and today generally it would appear that medication is plant based for the most part and much safer combined with the need to alleviate the worst symptoms of menopause so women in midlife can enjoy day to day good health and wellbeing. There are some people that argue that as BHRT is mainly plant-based, it is less effective at best or useless at worst.  I only mention that by way of attempting balance.  I don’t know enough about it but will hopefully share what I glean once I know more. Personally,  I hate the idea of having to take pills for the rest of my life but I had to weigh up whether it would be worth taking the pills compared to osteoporosis and other effects of menopause and ageing.  In my case, my main menopausal symptoms are hot flushes/night sweats and insomnia so on the face of it I knew that things could be much worse. However, I want to be able to look after myself and remain independent should I live to be much older so protecting my bones as much as possible from osteoporosis is a concern.

My attempt at making homemade HRT using supplements from Holland & Barrett

I experimented with lots of supplements including Agnus Casta. It was hit or miss.  I remember feeling very good on Angus Casta but I decided to stop taking it in favour of others and my reason is a story for another day. I noticed that by and large the supplements did not work.  I have never been able to predict when I get hot flushes or other symptoms and the supplements by and large have been a waste of money because save for the Agnus Casta, none of them worked.  I wrote three blogs as I pondered going on HRT.  You can find the first one by clicking the following link https://www.theyoyochronicles.com/weight-loss-blog/bioidentical-hrt-for-weight-loss-to-do-or-not-to-do-part-1/

The LadyCare Magnet

According to The Lady Care website, this magnet is proven to reduce or completely eliminate menopause symptoms in over 71% of women.  It is manufactured in the UK and with a 5 year guarantee is a natural alternative for menopause and there are over half a million users in the UK alone.  I first heard about this in my menopause groups but was sceptical until I watched a programme on the BBC by Kirsty Wark in which she interviewed a lady who had used the magnet to alleviate extreme hot flushes.  The lady still got the occasional hot flush but was very pleased as they were extremely infrequent compared to the debilitating volume she had put up with previously. I decided to buy the magnet and put it to use immediately.   Sometimes I felt better and other times things remained the same but I pressed on and kept using the magnet even though sometimes I found it a nuisance.  For instance once working late in the office, the magnet fell out as I was going up and down the stairs and I remember wondering what I would do if it got picked up by a colleague.  On another occasion at work, a female colleague that I had confided in about it picked it up for me.  I think the magnet works best for lovers of Bridget Jones knickers, snug trousers wearers, legging wearer or tights – the thicker the better.  You take a chance with less sturdy underwear.  The long and short if that after trying it out for months, I got fed up, accepted that fact that I was one of the 29% that the magnet was not going to work for so I packed it away.  

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy/Body identical hormone replacement therapy

I went back and forth with this for such a long time but by the end of 2016, I was minded to take the plunge and tried to arrange an appointment with a clinic in Portland, USA.  Unfortunately for me, they had no appointments before the time I was scheduled to fly back to the UK so the search for a clinic continued in the UK at the beginning of 2017.  In the end, I settled on a well-known doctor in the field, Dr Roked and by March I arranged an appointment to see her at the Omniya clinic in Knightsbridge, London.https://www.omniya.co.uk/about/meet-the-team/  Let me tell you right now that this treatment is not cheap. The figures involved made my eyes water and the prospect that I have to pay out like this for years to come as the NHS cannot/will not provide the service is scary. As I get older, I always think about the following saying when making decisions about my health and wellbeing:

 “If you think your good health is expensive, try poor health” 

I went ahead and arranged an appointment which took place at end of March just before I left the UK to go on holiday to Saipan.  This meant that I put all the gels, creams and tablets away in London pending my return as I wanted to completely relax while I was away and not try to figure out how to use them correctly.

Getting to grips with the BHRT package that included pills, creams and a gel

On my return from holiday, I deep dived back into work so it was not until towards the end of April that I looked again at the package from Omniya.  Oestrogen was in the form of a gel and I had to apply one pump on my shoulder/s. Then there was testosterone cream and I had to apply one pump of cream to my feet/foot.  Then were the tablets – one tablet of DHEA, one tablet of high strength vitamin D and then the progesterone tablet that had to be taken 2 hours after my evening meal or one hour before my evening meal.  I already have my routines in place for cleansing my face, cleaning my teeth or doing something or the other to my hair so I had to work really hard to fit this into my routine.  I had lots of vitamin D left over from Holland & Barrett so I stopped taken these all together but carried on as much as possible with my usual supplementation otherwise.

The BHRT high is followed by a low

I would be lying if I said that I did not resent the regimen especially in the beginning as there was no change. Given a chance, I would much rather spend my precious me time experimenting with makeup, hair and beauty products. Shallow I accept, but hopefully some ladies can relate to me. Then sometime in or around late May I noticed that I would fall asleep in front of the TV just like I used to do when I was in my thirties.  Wow!  My BHRT was working! Who knew that HRT was a cure for insomnia!  Hooray! I still was not sleeping for 8 hours each night which is what I would want in an ideal world but I was getting about 6.5 hours of sleep consistently and feeling better and better.  The anxiety about whether or not I would get any rest each night was beginning to recede and it felt wonderful.  As I was getting rest, I turned my attention to my workouts.  I started to add on miles and log them.  It felt great – until after one particularly long run.  I was so tired after the run that I took off my running shoes and crawled into bed where I dropped off to sleep in my gym clothes.  I then woke up at about 4.30 am and could not get back to sleep.  By the time I got to work, I was back to my hold habit of propping myself up with coffee and just like that the beautiful BHRT spell in which I enjoyed nightly refreshing sleep was broken.  I was back to having unpredictable sleep.  I was disappointed but kept on with the regimen hoping that my sleep pattern would return like the proverbial junky chasing her first high.

Apparently, HRT is available on the NHS

Following a lively discussion in one of my Facebook groups, I found out that some UK GPs are giving patients prescriptions for BHRT. I also found out that what I had been referring to as BHRT or Bioidentical HRT is also known as Body Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy.   I decided to speak to my GP and she reminded me that HRT had always been on offer at my surgery.  I remembered the conversation but for a variety of reasons that I am not going to address at this point, I had decided to do my own research which led me to Dr Roked.  My GP asked me to come in and I was sent off to take some blood tests.  I then had to go back to Dr Roked at Omniya for some information which I shared with my GP surgery.  When I did attend the appointment with a lovely female locum GP, she explained that the NHS took a one size fits all approach to HRT leading me to believe that whatever they did prescribe would be a blunt instrument compared to what I was getting from Dr Roked at Omniya.  I shared the blood test result with Omniya but doubt that it was helpful because of the time of day that I had it.  By this time my supply of creams, gels and so on was about to run out so I arranged another appointment.  Dr Roked asked a few pointed questions.  One, in particular, amused me and I chuckled quietly to myself with a perfectly straight face (I hope!) because it was the most delicate of questions about my libido.  Dr Roked doubled my dose of testosterone.

There are times when for whatever reason that I have forgotten to take some or all of the HRT regimen.  Because they are time specific, I don’t try to for instance apply testosterone cream or oestrogen gel beyond the morning.  The same applies if I forget to take oestrogen at night.  I had hoped that doubling my dose of testosterone would give me better muscle definition and banish cellulite.  It has not.  I have not noticed improved sleep specifically either. However, I have had an insanely busy latter part of the year that included moving to a new home and some major life-changing events – all stories for another day.  My new home is a tip and I would love to turn it into a beautiful oasis but have not had any time to spare.  This drove me bonkers at first but I think I am now taking it all in my stride.  I love blogging so my inconsistency has made me a bit sad, but I am taking that too in my stride too PLUS – I have been banking mini-blogs on my Instagram profile which I hope to develop into fuller pieces in due course. You can access by clicking the following link https://www.instagram.com/theyoyochronicles/

Is exercise the best HRT for me?

The one thing that has been semi-consistent has been my exercise regime.  Obviously, I would have loved to say that at the end of 2018, that I have been super consistent but that would be a lie.  Having said that, my lack of consistency has been helpful because for the first time, it has shown me that my symptoms are worse when I don’t exercise.  Even on days when I have forgotten to use my HRT regimen, I feel good and lots of times am completely hot flush free provided that I am exercising. If you check my Instagram page you will see that a lot of lovely meno ladies who responded to my question about the effects of exercise, report the same on my Instagram post, dated 10 October 2018.   I have cleaned up my diet for the most part and by cleaned up, I mean that I rarely ever have processed sugar.  At work I was drifting back to the dangerous sweeteners, but now I am back using stevia only.  I drink alcohol infrequently.  I gave myself and allowance of 4 alcoholic drinks for 2018 and so far still have one drink to go.  It is no judgement against those who drink.  When I do drink, I like sweet calorie laden cocktails.  I never developed a taste for wine, champagne, beer and so on.  As I struggle with keeping my weight stable, I think that it is a good thing.  By and large, my portion sizes are better and for the most part I don’t crave unhealthy food or larger portions.

Is improved sleep hygiene the key as opposed to HRT/progesterone?

The other thing that has made a difference is an improvement in my sleep hygiene.  I used to watch TV until as late as possible every day.  I have made some changes and now aim to be in my bedroom at 10 pm either reading or winding down in some way shape or form.  I don’t keep any electronic devices in my room save for a radio which is unplugged to avoid any blue light.  I plan to invest in some blackout curtains in due course once I am more settled in my new home. At one point it was working so well that I would wake up before my alarm went off and catching my 6.30 am exercise classes has become a lot easier.  Now that I know the benefit for me personally with exercising, I find myself wondering whether or not to continue with this expensive regimen.  I don’t know whether my improved sleep is down to the regimen or down to improved habits around sleep.   I had a third appointment with Dr Roked in December. My appointment had to be over the telephone because work is so busy.  Following the appointment, my cream, gel and pills arrived by post and should take me to March next year when Dr Roked has suggested a further face to face appointment.  I discussed the chicken and egg issues concerning my improved sleep hygiene and exercise regimen.  Dr Roked advised that BHRT like most things is not a magic bullet and works best in conjunction with good life practices.  On my part, the main reason I will continue with the regimen is that I am hoping that it is protecting my bones.  There might be one other benefit or effect I am experiencing depending on your point of view but I cannot explain that without explaining some of the big life changes that have experienced in the last few years.  That would be too much to attempt to unpack in this blog so I am afraid that will have to be a story for another day.

My weight loss in 2018 can be summarised in two words: epic failure!

As we now race towards the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, it would be fair to say that 2018 has been an epic fail as far as weight loss is concerned.  I started 2018 4 lbs way from BMI 25 but am ending it 14 lbs away from BMI 25. Sigh!  I weighed about 151lbs when I went to Saipan but my stressful reintroduction to work saw me quickly gain 10lbs on my return to the UK.  At some point before Christmas, my weight dropped down to 157 lbs but I quickly plateaued and bounced back up to 161 lbs. I stopped losing weight consistently when I came off the metabolic weight loss plan but I feel unwilling to go back to it.  I think I explained why in an unpublished blog post so I will either explain next time or post the blog and add a link to this in my next blog post. Do you have any comments, suggestions or advice for the meno community having read this blog? if yes, please share them in the comments and/or join me on my social media channels.

Until then it’s

#NoToTheYoYo

#YesToAstableWeight

#NoTimeToPauseForMenopause

#YesToAstableHealthyWeight

#Menologues

Julie

Author Julie

Lawyer (co-founding partner/solicitor of a legal aid practice), blogger, feminist, lover of fashion & beauty. I believe that there are two types of people - the living and the dead. Age has nothing to do with it.

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