Women produce less of the two sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, as they get older. Many suffer unpleasant or distressing symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, loss of libido, headaches and mood changes.

A general practitioner or gynaecologist might suggest a fairly effective remedy – a treatment known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

But HRT can raise one’s risk of both breast cancer and heart disease. The risk is small, but some may think it is a small price to pay for banishing night sweats and getting one’s sex drive back.

For some, however, this is a worry. Others find that HRT doesn’t agree with them or might cause bloating, swollen ankles, headaches, breast tenderness and bleeding.

Another available option is known as bioidentical hormone therapy. Like HRT, it involves taking hormone re­placement, but the chemistry is slightly different. Bioidentical hormones are identical to the ones the body is used to, one’s physiological hormones, and are usually better tolerated than non-bio-identical synthetic hormones.

Many people do not realise that the hormones supplied during HRT are not exactly the same as the ones made by the body. The research carried out so far suggests that bioidenticals are safer. In bioidentical clinics, patients receive a personalised treatment. Patients undergoing bioidentical treatment have regular tests to find out how much of the different hormones they have in their blood already and then get a personalised prescription to achieve and maintain a healthy level if necessary.

Each prescription is made in a tightly regulated and overseen laboratory known as a compounding pharmancy.

Many women report they feel much better on bioidentical hormones.

Bioidentical hormone therapy is now available in Malta at St James Hospital’s Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Clinic, Burmarrad.

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