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  • Writer's pictureHannah Foster-Middleton

The effects of low oestrogen

My Journey with HRT



As a woman of 54 years of age who experienced menopause in her 40’s it is normal to not feel like you did in your 20’s or 30’s but to feel ”out of whack” or “not quite myself” is a tough thing for any doctor to treat. And being told that how I felt was just a sign of aging by my gynecologist was to me unacceptable. After all I am only 54 and not 94 years of age. My main complaints were irritability and low energy. Finding it increasingly difficult to curb episodes of rage that came out of nowhere certainly was not my usual personality and neither was lack of motivation. I knew that I could feel better than I did but was not sure how and obviously was not giving my doctor a great deal to go on. I suggested that maybe I needed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) but as I had started menopause more than ten years previously this was not considered a viable option for me. However I persisted and I am so grateful I did. HRT has reversed or improved so many other symptoms that because they have crept up on me so insidiously I had not realized were not normal. Doing my own research also led me to understand how it can help with other medical conditions I had been diagnosed and treated for and was both shocked and disappointed that HRT had never been considered as a treatment for so many apparently unrelated conditions. I then thought about how many other women are needlessly suffering and wanted to relay my personal account in order for them to start asking their doctor questions.

Firstly it is important to understand that HRT is not for everyone and that there are certain conditions that will preclude you from treatment and as with all treatments whether pharmaceutical or natural there are side effects. Blood tests need to be done regularly to ensure everything is within normal range as too high levels of certain hormones and vitamins etc. can be toxic.

I will cover my subjective symptoms first as these are practically impossible to quantify with any medical test but nonetheless extremely important to my overall sense of wellbeing. My irritability and rage vanished within the first 2 weeks of starting treatment. This was a huge relief because I did not like the person I had become. People annoyed me most of the time for no reason. My lack of patience and crankiness was so bad I even considered rehoming my dog as so much of my bad mood was being directed at her. However, I adore my dog, she had done nothing wrong except be a dog and now the thought of not having her appalls me. I am back to being a fun and even tempered dog mum and friend thank goodness.

You don’t know you have mental fog until you don’t! This was a remarkable and welcome change. I don’t need caffeine or any other stimulant to be able to concentrate for long periods of time. I can read a book for hours without having to reread several lines because I couldn’t keep up with the content. Having mental clarity also improved my motivation for other activities I enjoy making my quality of life immeasurably better. I no longer feel like an old woman.

Stamina and muscle power were restored without a single exercise workout. These had become so diminished that carrying a basket of laundry upstairs was a dismal affair. I would heave the basket one step at a time and have to stop on the second floor to catch my breath before I could continue to the third floor. This change was a very happy surprise and also occurred after only 2 to 3 weeks of treatment. I had just assumed I was unfit and berated myself for not hitting the gym which by the way I hate. I have always been an active person but not a gym rat so when one day I found myself not only carrying the full laundry basket up two flight of stairs but I ran and was not out of breath!!!!!! I have improved muscle tone and definition without ever lifting a dumb bell. That to me is a miracle and a very welcome one at that.

My skin was itchy ALL the time everywhere. I would scratch myself until I bled thinking that maybe I had allergies or some psychological condition. No I did not. The itching stopped almost immediately and little did I know that itching is a symptom of low oestrogen. Why this isn’t talked about I do not know but it should be. It affects your self-esteem, your choice of clothing and will cause people to stare at you while you are absent mindedly scratching as you talk to them. As the scars and scabs fade my self-esteem improved. I can wear a dress or skirt and not worry about bloody scabs on my legs. I feel more feminine and who doesn’t want that!

My skin was crepy! You know that dry wrinkly skin the elderly get, well it vanished. My hair and nails grow faster and are stronger.  I have a more youthful glow now so much so that when I returned to my doctor for a follow up she thought I was a different person. I looked better, had more energy and even spoke with a happier tone. She admitted that she thought I was depressed and wanted to prescribe anti-depressants initially but having experienced very low episodes of depression in my life I knew this was not that. To surprise your doctor so dramatically made me glad I was so insistent to try HRT. Even she agrees it was the right move.

Now onto the objective symptoms that HRT has improved and is known to treat. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis many years ago and suffered many broken bones but was only offered medication for that instead of HRT that can treat so many other conditions like my high cholesterol, high blood pressure, vaginal dryness and low libido. Random joint pains are a thing of the past. I am not afraid to do things anticipating pain like an old woman.

HRT is a wonderful option for women going through menopause as it can alleviate the hot flashes that make you feel like you are having your own personal summer and keeping you and your spouse awake most of the night. With the reduction of hot flashes and irritability and improved sleep and mood, how many marriages could be saved? HRT also reduces the risk of dementia. Who doesn’t want that?

 Please speak up to your doctor and discuss if this is an option for you. With the improvement of so many things it seems crazy that so many suffer needlessly. And please do not settle for the “it’s just aging” response. You don’t have to feel old as you age. I am so glad I pushed for HRT despite being told by 3 doctors that I was not a suitable candidate. As a side note, low vitamin D levels can also affect mood, energy and mental clarity so be sure to get your levels checked regularly and do not take too much as this is toxic. There are plant based HRT alternatives available but be aware that these are unlikely to be prescribed by your doctor.

 

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