Side effects can restrict therapy with hormones

People's Pharmacy

October 07, 1997|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

I do not understand why everyone thinks estrogen is so wonderful. My doctor prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) a year ago and it almost ruined my life.

At first the symptoms were subtle. My hair started thinning and my libido gradually disappeared. After a few months I developed headaches and problems with my vision. My condition grew worse and I experienced dizziness and numbness in my hands and legs.

When I finally stopped the hormones I gradually got better, though my vision is not back to normal yet.

Is there any way to get the benefits of estrogen from an herbal medicine? How much tofu do you need to eat to eliminate hot flashes?

Estrogen and progesterone are not for everyone. Some women experience side effects such as nausea, breast tenderness, fluid retention, headache and depression. Blood clots are a serious complication and could account for numbness or pain in an arm or leg. The biggest question about estrogen is how much it increases a woman's risk of breast cancer.

Some women experience relief from hot flashes with black cohosh, ginseng, vitamin E or dong quai.

Researchers at Wake Forest University have found that 20 grams (less than an ounce) of soy protein daily can reduce night sweats and hot flashes. Tofu is not a good source of plant estrogen, but soy milk, texturized vegetable protein, miso and rye bread provide significant phytoestrogens.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send e-mail to PHARMACindspring.com.

Pub Date: 10/07/97

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