New review shows complimentary medicine to be just as effective as HRT
Menopause is the permanent end of menstruation and fertility, defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period. I t is associated with an estrogen deficiency and can cause an increase in vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes), genitourinary symptoms (vaginal dryness, sexual dysfunction, frequent urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence), and musculoskeletal symptoms (joint pain) as well as sleep and mood disturbance.
While hormone replacement therapy is highly effective in the treatment of postmenopausal symptoms, it is associated with health risks and is not considered first-line treatment according to the study’s abstract.
One of the most common symptoms of menopause is hot flashes. Around 75% of American women will experience hot flashes which can last from six months to two years. According to the review 20% of women who have hot flashes can experience them for up to 15 years.
Estrogen deficiency can lead to an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, severe depression and osteoporosis. Hormone replacement therapy is prescribed menopause based on the theory that the treatment may prevent discomfort caused by diminished circulating estrogen and progesterone hormones. However, HRT replacement therapy which is noted as the most effective for hot flashes in 80 to 90% of women notes the review it has been linked to cancer, heart disease, stroke, blood colts and many other serious health risks. According to researchers while pharmacological agents are available to treat postmenopausal symptoms, many non-pharmacological options are also available and may be equally effective.
A study in April of last year, which had combined the results of 17 previously published clinical trials revealed the results showed overall, that women who used soy isoflavone extracts had a 21 percent greater reduction in hot flashes compared with women given a placebo. Researchers also believe the isoflavons found in red clover could help reduce symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats, because of their estrogen like effects. A study published in the journal Menopause, 2011, had deemed that black cohosh was a safe and effective treatment for HRT.
The author of the review recommends these herbal treatments as there are no significant adverse side effects associated with them, as long as they are used in women who do not have a personal history of breast cancer, are not at high risk for breast cancer, and are not taking tamoxifen. However, herbal agents are not regulated in many countries, and therefore the contents of a given product vary from sample to sample, says the review.
Dr. Iris Tong, MD, director of Women's Primary Care at the Women's Medicine Collaborative, assistant professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and author of study states; "Up to 75% of women use herbal and complimentary medicines to treat their postmenopausal symptoms. Therefore, it is vitally important for healthcare providers to be aware of and informed about the non-pharmacological therapies available for women who are experiencing postmenopausal symptoms and who are looking for an alternative to HRT."
Jason Waugh, a consultant in obstetrics and maternal medicine and the lead for obstetric medicine in Newcastle and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Obstetrician & Gynaecologist states "Postmenopausal symptoms can be very distressing and it is important to review the advantages and limitations of the non-pharmacological treatments available as well as the pharmacological ones. Even simple behavior modification can make a difference to postmenopausal symptoms, including keeping the room temperature cool, wearing layered clothing, relaxation techniques and smoking cessation."
This review is published in January 11 in The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.