Thursday, July 7, 2011

Addressing Menopause, Part 2: Traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

In American culture, menopause is treated like a disease because of common problems associated with the normal hormonal changes. It can, however, be a fresh phase of life with new opportunities that a woman's wisdom of experience can direct. During this series we will examine menopause in the U.S. and look at past and current medical treatments as well as naturopathic therapies.

Part 2 - Traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

In the case of menopause Western medicine typically turned to synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) given solely in a pill form, and physicians who adhere to generally accepted standardized protocols still use this form. However, we know that when given orally, hormones need to be absorbed in the digestive tract, get processed by the liver, and then go out to the bloodstream. This causes decreased levels of absorption, decreased levels of free hormone, and more chance of negative effects of hormones occurring. 

Many women are unaware that synthetic hormones are not the only choice for balancing their hormones. Naturopathic physicians opt for bio-identical (“natural”) hormone replacement therapy (nBHRT) and alternative routes of delivery, such as transdermal (cream form).  nBHRT, like its synthetic counterpart, requires a physician’s prescription and the hormones differ in that nBHRT is derived from plants rather than chemicals. 

Synthetic formulations are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and packaged into specific, standard doses. Conversely, nBHRT is prescribed in person-specific doses and compounded (i.e., assembled) by a pharmacist.  A variety of dosages available, the alternate routes of administration, and the combining of more than one substance into one easy-to-take product offer better patient compliance and results. 

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Medicine is based on the belief that the human body has an innate healing ability. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) teach their patients to use diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting-edge natural therapies to enhance their bodies’ ability to ward off and combat disease. NDs craft personalized and comprehensive treatment plans that blend the best of modern medical science and traditional natural medical approaches to not only treat disease, but to also restore health. 

Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, a ND helps facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. It is the ND’s role to identify and remove barriers to good health by helping to create a healing internal and external environment. 

NDs treat all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family healthcare. Among the most common ailments they treat are allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, adrenal fatigue, cancer, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. NDs are trained to utilize prescription drugs, although the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents.

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