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Hormone Replacement Therapy - Alternatives

Geraldine Moxon (53)* suffers hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, tearfulness and insomnia - the symptoms of a particularly unpleasant menopause. Only about one woman in five is lucky enough to escape these symptoms which can have devastating effect on the physical, mental, sexual and emotional health. For some women these symptoms will occur all at once. Research proves that post menopausal women are more prone to increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis (where the internal cavities of the bones become enlarged making them thin, brittle and porous and as a result, more prone to breaking).

So what's Geraldine to do? - Surely the answer is HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)?

Most frequently prescribed in the form of a combination oestrogen/progesterone pill, HRT therapy is taken by approximately 20% of women in the UK today. Designed to replace the hormones no longer produced by the body in the post menopausal woman its main attractions are that it prevents the symptoms from occuring and can reduce the risk of fracture in women likely to develop osteoporosis. Yet despite these advantages 50-60% of women give up taking HRT within a year.

Perhaps the reason is not only because HRT doesn't 'suit' everyone but also because HRT is now being linked to a range of side effects including an incidence of breast cancer as well as an increased risk of blood clots and pulmonary embolism (when a blood clot moves into the lung) and a threefold increase in the incidence of gall-stones, depression and mood swings. Originally thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, surprise findings in a US study involving 25,000 women seem to suggest the reverse is true.

So Geraldine is faced with a decision:

  • Ignore the symptoms and hope they go away
  • Visit her GP and opt for HRT
  • Find an alternative

There seems to be unprecedented choice about how Geraldine handles this event. Her choice will depend upon many factors including personal and family medical history, the nature and severity of her symptoms and also her motivation. She needs to understand that the alternative route is not as simple as taking HRT and she needs to be well motivated. That's not to say that the alternative route is not a good choice - it's just a little more complicated and not as easy as 'popping pills'.

The big advantage of HRT is that it helps with many of the unpleasant symptoms all at the same time whilst alternative remedies target a specific symptom. There is no doubt that many women report success for natural remedies in controlling symptoms but they must also consider the long term effects of the menopause. Geraldine will need to consider what she will do about the increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease if she does not go down the HRT route. Providing she does this then the natural alternative may in the long run, turn out to be her best choice.

But what about the phytoestrogen supplements that seem to be flooding the market just lately? Experts say that supplements may not have the same health benefits as the real thing. An editorial in The Lancet (April 2000) points out they may have toxic as well as therapeutic benefits.

So, Geraldine has decided to opt for the natural alternative. Where does she start? By examining the simplest aspects of her life:

  • Kick the bad habits. She needs to give up smoking and reduce her alcohol consumption to a maximum of two units per day. Both smoking and alcohol can trigger hot flushes and lead to an increase in bone density loss.
  • She needs to join an exercise class. Aerobic, weight bearing exercise is vital for building and maintaining bone density and countering heart disease. She needs to exercise for half an hour five times a week. A Norwegian study found that women who took regular exercise were less likely to suffer hot flushes.
  • She needs to kick the processed junk food and maintain a healthier diet. Good nutrition is vital in helping the body to make the best use of the hormones. She needs to cut out spicy foods, coffee and hot drinks all of which can trigger hot flushes. Caffeine also draws calcium from bones. Sugar acts as a stimulant and has a damaging effect of the production of natural oestrogen. Less fat (particularly saturated) and more fruit and vegetables, oily fish and the fibre in brown rice and wholemeal bread should be included. About 1.5 g of Calcium is required on a daily basis to maintain bone health. Milk and cheese products are a rich source of Calcium. Symptoms have been known to disappear completely with an alteration to diet alone.
  • She needs to relax more because relaxation techniques have been shown to be extremely beneficial in countering the frequency of hot flushes. She should visit a qualified hypnotherapist who will teach her simple, deep relaxation techniques.
  • She needs to make herself aware of what's out there to help her achieve her goal of a natural menopause assisted naturally without damaging side effects. She'll learn this by clicking the link below.

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Hi Jihan and everyone, I just found that I can join this message board - fun stuff! Finding Jihan and John has been a true blessing and thanks to Kathy B for leading me to them. May God continue to bless Kathy always!! and all God's blessings on Jihan and John. You have taught me to "never say never"...a big change from just accepting and dealing with what comes my way. I still "accept" but the "dealing" part is now with a different goal. Now I "never say never"!
lotsaluv, Veronica