By: Red Hot Mamas
Published: June 25, 2010
Written by Jan Roberts* and sponsored by Natural Health International.
In Western society during the last 40 years, menopause, once unmentioned and borne in silence, has come to be regarded as one of the key life-events that might compromise women’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. With the increase in women’s life expectancy and their further expectation of retaining vitality and vigour for far longer than their mothers, women were initially offered a solution in the form of Hormone Replacement Therapy. However HRT is a fairly crude attempt to offset the decrease in natural hormone levels occurring at menopause by introducing a variety of synthetic or animal oestrogenic compounds and/or progesterone, at various levels, with dosage largely adjusted by a process of trial and error. Fortunately, many pharmaceutical companies are moving away from use of up to 200 different oestrogenic compounds to use of one or two which chemically mirror those naturally occurring in a woman’s body.
While HRT was initially embraced enthusiastically, by women wishing to avoid what they were led to believe was an inevitable decline in “their youth”, skin and hair texture, sex drive, memory and mood, with concurrent increase in hot flashes and night sweats – HRT has now been shown to come with potential risk factors. While there was still no conclusive opinion on the reasons for HRT’s potential to increase breast cancer and other side effects, many doctors have resorted to using bio-identical hormones and/or lower dosage forms. However whether the use of bio identical hormones will reduce the adverse effects seen with HRT is still open to debate and will only truly be known in the longer term.
Furthermore, even with lower dosages, unless a doctor is monitoring hormone levels over the woman’s full monthly cycle, and on a regular basis, both HRT and bio-identical hormone therapy rely on a trial and error approach which may take considerable time to fine tune. The other issues are: What form of oestrogen should a woman be given? When does she reach oestrogen saturation point? What happens when she has a history of breast cancer in the family? How does her oestrogen dosage affect the levels of hormones naturally occurring in her body? What about other hormone levels and aspects of her health which are also declining? The list goes on…
Not surprisingly, women (and many practitioners) have increasingly turned to natural alternatives, with plant-based solutions including Black Cohosh, Red Clover, Wild Yam and soy-containing compounds. While certainly lacking the potential side-effects, these phyto compounds still impact only one aspect of the overall physiological changes that occur during the pre and post menopausal periods, unless of course women are taking three different products! Efficacy is also an important consideration when dealing with natural alternatives. There are only a few products such as Remifemin that have conducted real clinical trials on their specific products and dosages. And while other companies may copy dosages, it is important to evaluate quality control procedures and product analysis methods which can incorrectly present a product as “the same” when in fact the only thing that is the same is the name of the herbal ingredient.
But most importantly, while many natural alternatives may reduce some symptoms, as a group, they have been clinically shown by the National Institute of Health to have little real effect on actual hormone levels. It is this decline in hormone levels at menopause that directly relates to a woman’s susceptibility to heart disease, osteoporosis and cognitive function and is why many MDs and Naturopaths, in an attempt to avert these life-threatening conditions, continue to prescribe bio identical hormones. Other options that have been offered to pre and post-menopausal women, such as calcium-supplementation, are further attempts to fix a symptom, when what is actually required is a much more holistic approach.
To read the rest of this article and learn more about holistic approaches to treating menopausal symptoms, please go to: www.naturalhi.com/rhm.
*Jan has spent almost 40 years in the health care industry, 20 of those working in the area of women’s reproductive health. She is a pharmacist with a postgraduate diploma in Clinical Nutrition and the Australian representative for Foresight the British Association famous for its work in promoting preconception health care. As co-author of the international best selling series The Natural Way to Better Babies …Better Pregnancy … Better Birth & Bonding … and Better Breastfeeding, Jan has presented ‘preconception’ and ‘wellness’ workshops and seminars to the general public and health professionals around Australia and NZ since 1987. She has made frequent appearances on radio and TV and is a regular contributor to various magazines and journals.