Everything You Need to Know about Hormone Replacement Therapy

May 25, 2023 | Blog, Hormone Replacement Therapy

What is hormone replacement therapy?

Hormone replacement therapy, often abbreviated HRT, is when you take medication to replace estrogen in your body as production decreases during menopause or aging. While women most often use HRT in their 50s or 60s, the early signs of menopause can start a decade or two before that, so HRT can be used by nearly anyone needing to balance their hormone levels or manage certain symptoms. 

What types of hormones are used for HRT? 

HRT will most often include one  — or a combination — of three key hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The exact type of hormone used depends on the individual doing HRT and their symptoms, goals, current hormone levels, and overall health. For example, estrogen is used in women who suffer from the symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes or low libido, while testosterone may be used in men (or women) with hair thinning or loss of muscle mass. 

What are bioidentical hormones and how are they different from other types of hormones?

While some providers may administer synthetic hormones for your HRT treatments, we use bioidentical hormones here at 10X Health. While both types of hormones can accomplish the same goals, their unique makeup is slightly different. 

Traditional HRT hormones are largely synthetic, but bioidentical hormones are made from plant-based substances that mimic the hormones your body naturally produces. Many people prefer BHRT because it’s perceived as the more “natural” option. 

What are the benefits of HRT? 

HRT is most commonly recommended for women who experience specific symptoms of menopause or estrogen imbalance, like hot flashes, mood swings, irregular menstruation, and more, but the management of specific symptoms is just one of the many benefits of HRT to optimize your health.

HRT may be effective at improving sleep quality and quantity and boosting energy levels. It’s also a great tool for those looking to lose weight or gain muscle mass when hormones are affecting their metabolism or muscle recovery. Lastly, many women who do HRT report higher libido.

Are there any risks associated with HRT?

As with any health or wellness treatment, there are some risks to know when considering HRT, especially if you have a history of cancer or heart disease, and your healthcare provider can help you weigh any potential risks against the potential benefits before starting treatment.

Each person will respond to HRT differently, but in general, HRT may put you at an increased risk for things like high cholesterol, blood clots, infertility, certain cancers, or heart attack and stroke. 

How much does HRT cost?

HRT requires significant personalization to maximize the safety and effectiveness of the treatment, so there is really no “one-size-fits-all” program for HRT, and the costs associated with an HRT regimen depend on a variety of factors, like your goals, health history, hormone levels, and even your location. For example, if your current hormone levels are just below the recommended level, you may require a smaller dose of hormones than someone that’s at a much lower level.

At 10X Health, we take personalization very seriously and offer highly customized programs for our clients based on their unique genetic makeup, hormone levels, and goals. That’s why our programs all begin with comprehensive blood and genetic testing to establish a baseline and ensure we can be as precise as possible in our recommendations and dosing.

Is HRT safe? 

For most people, HRT is a perfectly safe and effective way to rebalance hormone levels in the body and manage symptoms of menopause or general imbalance. But, it’s important to remember that HRT requires oversight by a knowledgeable provider that understands hormones and can safely administer them. 

When choosing an HRT provider, be sure you do your research and ask the right questions to ensure you’re working with someone who will put your safety first and treat your unique situations and goals versus taking a universal approach. 

Who should consider hormone replacement therapy?

HRT is most often recommended for people who are experiencing certain symptoms associated with a hormone imbalance or menopause, but not all hormone imbalances will cause any symptoms at all, so HRT can be used in a few other cases, too.

While menopause usually doesn’t start officially until around age 45 or 50, hormone levels may begin to drop as early as age 30, so it’s a good idea for anyone experiencing symptoms to do a blood test and determine if hormones are the source of the issue. If yes, HRT may be the best option to manage those symptoms.

What are the symptoms of hormone imbalance?

There are a few telltale signs you may have a hormone imbalance that requires hormone therapy. For women, those signs are most commonly:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Low libido
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Frequent bladder or vaginal infections

For men, hormone imbalances present in a slightly different way and are often treated with a form of HRT called testosterone replacement therapy, since testosterone is the primary sex hormone in men. Common symptoms of hormone imbalance in men include:

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Bone loss
  • Increased body fat
  • Low libido
  • Bone loss
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Brain fog or problems with concentration 

Does HRT help with menopause? 

Absolutely! HRT is most often used to treat menopausal symptoms in women, so it’s a very effective option for management of menopause. 

During menopause, your body stops producing estrogen at the same rate, which can lead to a gradual decline of the hormone. While estrogen is generally associated with fertility and a woman’s ability to get pregnant, estrogen plays a lot of important roles in the body, so declining levels can cause uncomfortable symptoms and make it harder for your body to carry out certain processes. 

HRT aims to replace those missing hormones that your body no longer produces to get your levels back to normal and alleviate menopausal symptoms. 

How do you test for a hormone imbalance?

Testing for a hormone imbalance is done with a comprehensive blood test coupled with a gene test. The blood test can tell you exactly where your levels are at in comparison to a baseline value, and a gene test can help provide some additional context to explain any symptoms or inefficiencies you’re seeing in your body. 

Before starting HRT, it’s crucial that your provider knows where your current hormone levels are so they can give you an extremely precise dose that only replenishes what your body is missing. A blood test is the most effective way to do this.

How often should you check your hormone levels?

We recommend our clients take a new blood test to check their hormone levels every six months so we can evaluate how their body is responding to HRT and if we need to adjust the dose they’re given or any other part of their wellness program to reach the best possible outcomes.

What should I expect during hormone replacement therapy?

Each person experiences HRT in a slightly different way depending on their unique body composition, hormone levels, and treatment regimen, which is why we assign all of our clients a dedicated Wellness Advisor to guide them through the process of HRT and answer questions as they arise. 

Your Wellness Advisor as well as your provider will help set expectations for you based on your customized program and plan, which may include different administration options or potential side effects.

How is HRT administered?

HRT, in general, can be administered in a variety of ways, including pills, patches, creams, or injections. At 10X Health, we find that hormone injections of precise doses are the most effective form of treatment, so this is what we most often recommend to our clients.

We can administer injections at one of our offices, but we also teach you how to draw and administer hormones on your own time and in the comfort of your home or office so that you don’t have to rely on scheduling availability to get your treatments and stick to your recommended regimen.

Are there any side effects of HRT? 

As with any medication or health treatment, side effects may happen in some people doing HRT. Some of the more common side effects are:

  • Headache
  • Upset stomach (including vomiting, cramps, bloating, or diarrhea)
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Changes in sex drive or ability
  • Nervousness
  • Brown or black skin patches
  • Acne
  • Swelling of hands, feet, or lower legs (fluid retention)
  • Changes in menstrual flow, (including bleeding or spotting between menstrual periods)
  • Breast tenderness, enlargement, or discharge
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses

What should I do if I experience side effects?

If you experience side effects while taking HRT, be sure to let your Wellness Advisor or provider know right away so that your treatment can be stopped or adjusted. 

How long does it take to see the benefits of HRT? 

Since every person will respond differently to HRT, the time in which it takes to see the benefits or desired results will vary. Some factors that contribute to this timeline include your existing hormone levels, your dosage, and how well your body responds to treatment. 

In general, though, it takes four to six months for most people to start noticing the benefits of HRT. This is assuming you stick to your regimen and are consistent with treatments. 

Are there any recommended lifestyle modifications while doing HRT?

Your Wellness Advisor can help determine if you need to make any sweeping changes to your lifestyle while doing HRT, as these recommendations differ from person to person based on their customized program. In general, it’s recommended that those doing HRT take steps to care for their health in general, including eating a well-balanced diet, exercising consistently, getting enough sleep, and drinking plenty of water. 

Does HRT interact with any medications?

Since HRT is simply replenishing low levels of hormones that already exist in your body, drug interactions are not usually an issue to worry about. But, be sure to disclose any medications you’re taking to your provider and Wellness Advisor before beginning HRT, and they can help determine any potential interactions and weigh the risks and benefits with you to ensure your safety during treatment. 

How often should you get HRT? 

HRT is not usually a one-time treatment and is more effective when you commit to a hormone regimen long-term. When you do HRT, you are replacing hormones that your body doesn’t produce at the same rate, so if you stop HRT, those levels will drop again. 

It’s important to check your hormone levels regularly (every six months) to ensure that your current dosage is working effectively and make adjustments as needed to help you reach your goals. 

How to select a healthcare provider for hormone replacement therapy

Choosing the right provider for HRT is crucial to ensure you get the best possible results from treatment. You need to pick a provider that has experience administering HRT effectively and has significant knowledge of hormones and their importance within the body. 

Don’t be afraid to do your research and ask questions of any provider you’re considering. We recommend asking these questions:

  • Does the provider look at a comprehensive set of labs when making recommendations?
  • How much experience does the provider have in prescribing and administering hormone replacement?
  • Does the provider take a customized approach that is unique to you and your health?
  • Is the prescribed treatment based on precision dosing?
  • Is there a dedicated point of contact designated to guide you through the process?

At 10X Health, our team understands the importance of using data to back our recommendations and creating highly customized programs for our clients that will get them the best possible results and help them reach their goals. Whether you’re looking to manage symptoms or optimize your health and rebalance hormone levels, HRT is a very effective option, and our team has the expertise required to administer treatment safely. 

If you think you may have a hormone imbalance, reach out to the 10X Health team, and we’ll help put you on the path to a healthier, more optimized body through our gene testing, blood testing, and innovative wellness programs created specifically for you. 

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