Alternative Medicine for Menopause…
This week we’re looking at alternative medicine for menopause! Every woman should have the luxury of receiving individualised treatment and care when it comes to the menopause, they should be made aware of all the different options available which could potentially help their symptoms. This is not a realistic option for many due to the constraints and pressures on the NHS.
So, here at Fountain Retreats we aim to give you a comprehensive overview of the different options available, so helping you to self manage your symptoms. That could be discussing relevant lifestyle choices, HRT and then…there’s the minefield of the alternative world.
A Quick Disclaimer About Alternative Medicine for Menopause
Firstly let’s just say something very obvious – this is a huge industry and a competitive one. The most important thing to consider if you decide to go down the herbal or supplement route is to make sure you know exactly what you are taking, what the side effects are and will they react to any other medication you might be taking. Sounds basic advice doesn’t it, but the amount of people who trundle off to their local shop, buy a variety of supplements or herbs and don’t have an inkling of how they might be interacting is quite alarming
A few facts about herbs…
- Herbal medicines are made from plant parts such as the leaves, roots or flowers. These are active ingredients. Just because they are natural doesn’t mean they are safe to take and wont have side effects. Herbal medicines like conventional medicines will have an effect on your body, and can be potentially harmful if not used correctly.
- Herbs are treated as food supplements so aren’t subjected to the strict regulations of conventional drugs.
- In comparison to conventional regulated drugs there is little scientific evidence
- The choice can be confusing with many different strengths and contents available.
- Some herbs are not recommended for women who have had breast cancer as they have oestrogenic properties
A bit of advice…
Always consult a medical herbalist or a phytotherapist. They have the medical knowledge, skills and scientific understanding of plants plus they know what will interact with other medication you might be taking.
If buying over the counter always check the contents on the back and look out for the THR Traditional Herbal Registration logo (see below): This signifies these products are approved, you can be confident they have the correct dose of herb and that they are of a high quality.
So do they work…well due to the lack of scientific research and evidence you wont get many Health Care Professionals recommending them for obvious reasons. However, they definitely provide an option for women who choose not to go down the hormonal route, whether that be for personal or medical reasons.
But please do be cautious about what you are taking, don’t run into your local supplier grab half a dozen bottles and jars off the shelves in sheer desperation because various friends said they worked for them!
Note : Always remember that symptoms can change as you go through this menopausal transition so, the treatment you choose might need to change and be tweaked along the way
Some Examples of Herbs…
Can help with hot flushes and night sweats, mixed results so not as good as HRT and can interact with other medicines.
Another herb which can potentially help hot flushes but again watch out for interactions with other medication
St John’s Wort
Said to help relieve hot flushes and can help with mood swings. Again watch levels of dosage and interaction. Important message: anyone taking tamoxifen must not take this herb as it reduces the effectiveness of the tamoxifen.
Phytoestrogens and Alternative Medicine for Menopause…
There is growing interest in Phytoestrogens, these are plant substances found in the diet which have similar effects as oestrogens.
Basically, they have a similar chemical structure to oestrogen which binds to the oestrogen receptors in your body acting like hormone regulators.
There is a lot of research being done with phytoestrogens because in countries where they consume a diet rich in these isoflavones, eg Asia, there are lower reported levels of menopausal symptoms, lower rates of cardiovascular issues, osteoporosis and various cancers.
Naturally within our diets they can be found in…
- Cereals: oats, barley rye, brown rice, couscous and bulgar wheat.
- Seeds: sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, poppy, linseeds
- Pulses: soya beans and all soya based products
- Beans: chickpeas, kidney beans, haricot beans, broad beans, green split peas
- Soya, linseeds and red clover being the richest sources.
It would be very hard to emulate the Asian diet with their different plant sources but adding some of these foods to your diet can be beneficial. Effects will obviously be variable depending on type and quality of source.
Supplements and Alternative Medicine for Menopause…
The other option would be to use a supplement, again there are so many supplements on the market aren’t there which can become quite confusing! There is one supplement which we would recommend here at Fountain Retreats and that is Promensil. It is a recognised supplement company that has over 15 years of scientific based research on helping women manage their menopause. They
provide a range of supplements based on the standardised Red Clover isoflavones.
- If you are taking a phytoestrogenic supplement then you should not combine this with certain food supplements or HRT as they may interact.
- Phytoestrogens are not recommended for anyone who has had breast cancer.
- Remember this market is not regulated as strictly as main stream medicines.
Alternative therapies and Menopause…
Everyone should try and engage in some form of alternative therapy alongside having really good lifestyle choices – a fabulous healthy, nutritious diet and plenty of exercise. I know here I go again… but it is so important!
Which ones should you try… well, essentially that’s a matter of finding one which suits you. I would definitely recommend either doing weekly pilates or yoga, known for strengthening and toning, helping with the tone of that pelvic floor and providing essential rest and relaxation.
Reflexology, acupuncture, aromatherapy, positive mindfulness… all these therapies can provide excellent and much needed individualised therapy, with so many more out there. There may not be studies which can definitely say these therapies are beneficial to menopausal symptoms but anything you do which is restorative and relaxing will help those symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy…
It is now a recognised treatment option for helping with the vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats), with anxiety and low moods. It helps to reduce stress and can help with insomnia.
For clarity on any topic to do with the menopause including alternative therapies and remedies please look at the NICE guidelines : https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng23
'As with any information developed for Fountain Retreats the information in this post is accurate at time of posting and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to replace or substitute the judgement of any medical professional you may come in contact with. You should always seek advice from your health care professional regarding a medical condition’
About the author...
Author, Qualified Nurse
Ruth is a qualified nurse, gaining her registration and working at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
She is passionate about providing women and employers with evidence based information and support, helping women to make informed decisions about how to manage their menopause and so improve their quality of life.
She has been asked to contribute on several occasions on various media platforms including, Radio 4s Woman’s hour, BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Borders, the BBC Insiders Guide to the Menopause documentary with Kirsty Wark and BBC breakfast.
Ruth is married with three children, three dogs and a cat, loves cycling, playing netball and tennis, spending time with family and friends and has a great sense of humour.
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