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Q: Will bio-identical hormones help me with my menopause symptoms?

A: The combination of symptoms women experience during menopause can include mood swings, irritability, insomnia, hot flashes, fatigue, low libido and weight gain. And they can cause disruptions in your life, sometimes to the point that family members suggest seeing a doctor about the symptoms.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to reduce the symptoms of menopause. HRT can help clear mental fogginess, decrease the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, increase energy and help with mood swings, irritability and insomnia.

Bio-identical hormones are identical in molecular structure to the hormones women make in their bodies. They're not found in this form in nature but are made, or synthesized, from a plant chemical extracted from yams and soy. To find the right combination of HRT for patients, your doctor will work with a compounding pharmacy to deliver the correct HRT for you. They're available in a variety of forms, including pellets that are placed under the skin, creams and troches that dissolve under the tongue. These methods may have lower heart-related side effects than injections or pills.

Hormone replacement is not a guarantee, but it's effective in managing symptoms in about 70 percent of people. For those for whom it is effective, it's an option worth exploring if you're suffering from the frustrating symptoms of menopause. Women with a history of estrogen-induced migraines, clotting disorders, previous coronary events or breast cancer are not candidates for hormone replacement therapy and other options need to be looked at.

— Michael Pippin, M.D., gynecologist, CHI Memorial Women's Health Associates

some text Dr. Michael Pippin. Contributed photo
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