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Alternatives to HRT
|Herbs, Vitamins and Minerals|
|Soy and Phytoestrogens|
Many women choose not to use HRT, or to use it only for a short time. If you dont want to or cannot take HRT, there are a host of supplements including herbs, vitamins, mineraOn thls and homeopathic remedies that many women find helpful. If osteoporosis is a concern, there are ways other than the use of HRT to prevent and treat bone loss (Explore our in-depth osteoporosis segment). Changes in lifestyle, diet, and exercise are also beneficial.
For women who want neither natural nor synthetic hormone replacements, one alternative approach is herbs. When used wisely, herbs have few, if any, of the side effects of drugs. By using remedies that aid the menopausal process rather than attempting to stop it, herbs help us keep in touch with the natural process of menopause. Just as all foods have the potential for causing distress in some people, herbs are no exception and should be used with care.
|Herbal Allies: Introduction to Herbs: Discover the function and the name of herbs commonly used for female health issues. Discuss herbal remedies with a qualified herbal practitioner or naturopath before taking them, but do not summarily dismiss them because a medical practitioner has limited knowledge.|
Remedies for Menopausal Symptoms: Some women turn to vitamin and mineral supplements as well as herbal and homeopathic remedies for help. Learn more about natural approaches for specific health issues which can be used instead of, or in conjunction with, conventional HRT.
Soy products seem to help some women as they are high in phytoestrogens (plant compounds with estrogen-like activity) and may relieve some menopausal symptoms. However, the evidence regarding soy is conflicting. Clinical studies have shown that soy has little estrogenic activity in the brain and, therefore, doesn't help greatly with hot flashes and night sweats. In breast tissue, soy may stimulate the growth of breast cells and thus large amounts of soy may not be advised for breast cancer patients.
Although phytoestrogens have some estrogenic activity and may have some of the same effects as HRT, their long-term safety is not clear and has not been adequately studied. Some recent studies comparing specific herbal products to placebo in controlled clinical trials have shown little or no effect for ginseng, dong quai, evening primrose oil, or red clover on menopausal symptoms. Supplements of evening primrose oil (or equivalent) do provide gamma-linolenic acid which the body needs to make estrogen. And there is a long tradition of successful use of phytoestrogenic herbs such as black cohosh, St. John's Wort and chasteberry for hot flashes, night sweats and depressed mood.
Homeopathic medicines act in the same way as our system's defense reactions. They stimulate the natural defenses of the body in order to make them more effective, thus working with the body rather than against it. It is not the quantity of homeopathic medicine that counts but rather its presence that determines its activity. It is a method of individualized therapy. Pellets, tablets or drops are placed directly underneath the tongue and allowed to dissolve.
There are homeopathic remedies for symptoms associated with menopause such as PMS, irregular bleeding, restlessness, hot flashes, mental confusion, general fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, sadness and even aversion to tight-fitting clothes, necklaces and scarves around the neck. While easy to research and administer yourself, if a homeopathic treatment does not seem to work, you should consult a doctor trained in homeopathic medicine.
Aromatherapy is the art, and science, of using plant essential oils in the treatment of mind, body and spirit. Use of essential oils through massage, aromatic baths, hot or cold compresses or inhalation can have subtle, but very real, effects on the mind and on the body. Properly used, they are very safe, but some oils present hazards that anyone using them should be aware of. Even small amounts of oil can build up to a toxic level in the body over a period of time, and some of the oils are very poisonous and should be avoided under certain conditions such as pregnancy. Working with a qualified practitioner is recommended.
Aromatherapy offers a number of natural alternatives to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to stimulate estrogen production, regulate hormones and manage such symptoms as irregular menstruation, hot flashes, depression, and more.
|Aromatherapy for Menopause: For more in-depth information on using aromatherapy, visit our Aromatherapy for Menopause page.|
An excellent resource for self-treatment with aromatherpy is "Aromatherapy: an A-Z: The Most Comprehensive Guide to Aromatherapy Ever Published" by Patricia Davis. Available at Amazon.com
Exercise and excellent nutrition help prevent heart disease and osteoporosis, and the whole spectrum of vitamins, minerals and trace elements are even more important at this stage of life. Calcium supplementation is advisable to protect against osteoporosis. Susan Lark, MD found exercise helps "relieve and prevent many symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats." Here are some suggestions to stay healthy and feel well through menopause and beyond:
Ask your healthcare provider, qualified herbalist or naturopath about what you can do besides HRT to gain an understanding of the choices available for your personal journey.
Page uploaded September 2002 & Revised
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