Hormone replacement therapy (or HRT) refers to the treatment of menopause symptoms by replacing the hormones that decline through the menopause. HRT is designed to help alleviate most perimenopausal symptoms, including hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, mood swings, urinary and vaginal discomforts, and joint pain.
Additionally, the increased risk of osteoporosis that is usually observed following the menopause may be mitigated by HRT. The NHS does state that some forms of HRT may result in a small increase in the risk of breast cancer however.
There are many forms of HRT available – most contain a combination of oestrogen and progestogen. Micronised progesterone is also used, which is chemically identical to the form naturally found in the body. Sometimes, testosterone is used in combination with these hormones to improve low libido associated with the menopause.
There's also a range of methods of taking HRT, including patches, tablets, implants and creams/gels.
Many women report experiencing weight gain following the use of HRT. Everyone is an individual and may respond differently, which is why there are different HRT options available. From an evidence-based perspective, there is no established link between the use of HRT and weight gain. If you do experience weight gain, it is likely to be caused by other effects of the menopause, not from taking HRT.
Often, women find that HRT helps them to maintain a healthy weight easier. One reason for this is that it replenishes oestrogen levels which can help to relieve weakened bones and sore joints, which would normally be barriers to taking regular exercise. If exercising hurts you feel less inclined to do it! So anything that alieviates discomfort is a benefit. Also HRT is proven to help with night sweats, and improved sleep can help with low mood and energy levels, which also have a bearing on our motivation to try and eat well and be more active. As mentioned in our blog about the memopause and weight gain, oestrogen plays a key role in determining where fat is stored in our body. Before the menopause it tends to be stored around the hips and thighs as opposed to the abdomen, which carries more risk as it affects internal organs. The oestrogen replaced by HRT may help to continue this distribution of fat to less risky areas, such as hips and thighs, into the menopause.
As Nutracheck is not a medical organisation, we cannot offer any recommendations regarding HRT and other treatments. For some women, HRT isn't a suitable option, and others may prefer not to take it. It's really important you speak to your GP to receive comprehensive advice, understand your options, and discuss whether HRT is the right choice for you.
Nutritionist Amy Wood (ANutr), MSci BSc Nutrition has a keen interest in the relationship between diet and health. Having been published in the European Journal of Nutrition, Amy is passionate about making evidence-based nutrition accessible to everyone and helping others to adopt a food-focused approach to taking control of their health.