Watering Down Hormone Therapy
Doctors reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the best therapy for menopausal related symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and depression may be a simple glass of water.
“We may have seriously overestimated the curative power of hormone therapy,” said Dr. Diana B. Petitti of Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena, writing in an editorial alongside the Baylor College of Medicine repot.
The study suggests that there is little that can be done with modern medicine to avoid the cycle of symptoms associated menopause. But more holistic approaches, like exercise, meditation, and yoga, may be beneficial for alleviating the symptoms.
The findings come as quite a shock to researchers as their initial hypothesis guided them to look for the benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) using estrogen and progestin.
“When we first started looking at the effects of hormone supplementation, we had expected to see dramatic improvements in women’s health. We haven’t found them,” said Baylor’s Dr. Jennifer Hays, one of the study’s authors.
Nearly two-thirds of the 8,405 women surveyed experienced a recurrence or worsening of symptoms after they stopped HRT, triggering what the doctors called a “second menopause.”
Sixty-three percent of those who suffered a recurrence reported handling their troubles with lifestyle changes that included drinking more fluids, increasing exercise and practicing yoga. And that seemed to help.
Dr. Petitti hasn’t completely abandoned the hope for HRT, opining that the recurrence of symptoms might have been caused the abrupt halt in treatment. She says that symptoms may be less severe if treatment is gradually reduced instead of stopping outright.
The number of women taking HRT sharply decreased from14 million to 11 million after a 2002 study revealed a significant increase in the risk of heart disease, stroke, and breast cancer.
That news also led to the Food and Drug Administration advising that hormone supplements only be taken in the smallest doses for no more than five years.
Baylor’s study will be the latest to shed doubt on the efficacy of HRT, leading Dr. Hays to conclude that the most effective treatment was drinking large amounts of water and increasing exercise.