The new studies keep coming--Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may increase a woman's risk of developing insulin resistance and Type II diabetes. HRT may increase a woman's risk of breast cancer, and long-term HRT use may boost the odds of one of the most dangerous types of breast cancer by as much as 85 percent. Many naturopaths and alternative healers, myself included, have been saying it for years:
Most women don't need HRT.

• HRT artificially continues menstruation, spotting and cyclical bleeding. HRT can cause incomplete shedding of the uterine lining. If there is persistent bleeding, then there is increased risk of endometrial cancer.

• HRT still increases risk of breast and bone cancer even when progesterone is added. Endometrial cancer is still a risk, too, although some studies show decreased risk when progesterone is added to estrogen. The Center for Disease Control reported back in 1991 that for a women on HRT for ten years, the risk of cancer of the uterus or breast goes up 30 percent.

• HRT increases appetite, causes fluid retention, aggravates mood swings and localizes fat deposits on the hips and thighs. Many women get PMS-like symptoms, including simultaneous depression, agitation and menstrual migraines.

• HRT can destroy vitamin E in the body, thus actually increasing the risk of heart disease.

• HRT increases growth of uterine and breast fibroids. Estrogen dependent fibroids stay actively stimulated.

• HRT worsens mood swings.

• HRT should not be used by women with high blood pressure, breast or uterine fibroids, high cholesterol, chronic migraines or endometriosis.

Some hormone driven cancers stem from poor liver function when the liver does not process estrogens safely. Avoid HRT if you have a history of breast, bone or uterine cancer, or thrombosis (abnormal blood vessel clots). Both gall bladder and liver disease tend to increase with HRT use. Many physicians advise against its use if you have diabetes or during pregnancy.

American medical opinion, however, still regards HRT as having more advantages than drawbacks, even in the light of the newest studies. Women are regularly counseled that they should be on HRT for life, a practice that contributes enormous profits to some drug companies.
Understanding Estrogen

There are three kinds of estrogen: estradiol, estrone and estriol.

Estradiol is the primary estrogen produced in the ovaries. Estrone is formed by the conversions of estradiol and is thought to be the cancer-inducing form of estrogen. Estriol is formed in large amounts during pregnancy and is protective against breast cancer. High levels of cancer-protecting estriol are found in Asian women and vegetarians.

Estriol is widely used in Europe as a breast cancer protective but not in the u.s. The natural reduction of estradiol and estrone in the body later in life is thought to help protect a woman from breast cancer and other kinds of postmenopausal cancers. A major problem with Premarin (a widely prescribed hormone replacement drug made from pregnant mare's urine), some other HRT drugs and synthetic estrogens, is that these drugs are largely formed of estradiol and estrone. Medical scientists are aware of this and add progestin as a balancing factor, as in the drug Provera.

Yet even with this addition, breast cancer risk does not decrease and the risk of uterine cancer increases.

Along with the changes in menopause is the assault on female hormone balance (this happens in men, too) from man-made estrogens. Recently, scientists have added estrogen-containing pesticides, meats and dairy products to the growing list of breast cancer culprits.
Hormone Balancing Therapy--Not HRT

How can you safely ease menopausal symptoms and protect against disease?

The best option, in my opinion, is a combination of phyto-hormone (estriol) rich herbs that can help a broad spectrum of a woman's needs during menopause. Around the world, in every culture throughout history, plant hormones have helped support women through the discomforts of menopause. Plants like soybeans and wild yams, and herbs like black cohosh, ginseng, licorice root and dong quai, have a safety record of centuries to help eliminate menopausal symptoms. Remember: herbs are foods that enter the body through gentle enzyme activity like foods to safely balance hormones. Drugs do not.
Quitting HRT

Give your body a chance to make the change. Pay attention to how you feel. Most women take from six to eight weeks to gradually wean from HRT.

Start adding your chosen whole herb formula while gradually decreasing your HRT dosage. I have heard from hundreds of women who were glad they made the change to whole herbs for menopausal symptoms. Work with a natural health physician or practitioner for best results.

For specific programs for menopausal symptoms, visit

"Hormone Replacement Therapy Heightens Insulin Resistance After Menopause,", January 9, 2002.

"HRT and Breast Cancer Deja Vu," The John R. Lee, M.D. Medical Letter, February 2000.

"HRT May Quadruple Your Risk For Deadly Cancer," Health Science Institute e-Alert, February 21, 2002.

Page, Linda, N.D., Ph.D. "Dr. Linda Page's Healthy Healing Guide to Menopause and Osteoporosis." Healthy Healing Publications, 1997.

Beckman, Nancy. "Phytoestrogens: Plant Chemicals That Have Estrogenic Activity" HerbClip-American Botanical Council, March 1996.


By Linda Page, N.D., Ph.D.

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