Return to main guide:
Guide to Menopause
|When Should I Seek Treatment?
If menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, headaches, insomnia or night sweats start to interfere with everyday life, it is time to seek medical treatment. Some women for example find these symptoms make sleep difficult which leads to fatigue, irritability and an inability to concentrate. Medical attention should also be sought where menstrual cycle bleedings occurs more frequently than every 21 days or if bleeding is heavy and lasts longer than 7 days. These are not common symptoms of menopause and may in fact indicate uterine fibroids, polyps or endometrial cancer.
Not sure if those symptoms are menopause? See our menopause testing guide.
What Is The Treatment For Menopause?
Only 5 to 10 percent of women experience menopause or symptoms which cause significant problems. The majority of women never in fact require any medical 'treatment'. Where intervention is required, studies consistently show that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most effective treatment for the worst menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and vaginal dryness (atrophy). One of the most popular forms of HRT is estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). An estrogen pill or patch is prescribed with a synthetic form of progesterone (this helps offset the risk of estrogen induced endometrial cancer). The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend the lowest dose of estrogen for the shortest period of time. Studies show that the risk of breast cancer associated with estrogen replacement therapy does not appear until after 4-5 years of use (see breast cancer risk factors). Where a woman suffers more from vaginal dryness, urinary tract infections or pain associated with intercourse, a vaginal tablet or estrogen cream may be applied locally instead of by pill or patch. Where hormone therapy is not appropriate for a woman with hot flushes, her doctor may prescribe a low dose of anti-depressants such a paroxetine (Paxil), Venlafaxine (Effexor) or Clonidine (Catapres).
If a woman cannot take HRT for medical reasons or wishes to use more natural methods, there are alternatives:
• Women who suffer from vaginal atrophy may benefit from kegels exercise, or a vaginal moisturizer such as Replens and Silken Secret by Astroglide. Avoid using deodorant soaps or scented cosmetics in the vaginal area. Omega 7 supplements may also be helpful in supporting mucosal membranes to reduce vagina dryness.
• Regular weight bearing exercise helps to raise levels of DHEA hormones (the so-called anti-aging hormones) but also help to reduce stress and keep hormones in balance. This may help alleviate symptoms of menopause depression.
• Alternative therapies like meditation and yoga also help to keep the body relaxed (see books on alternative medicine). Essential oils like jasmine and chamomile are wonderful to add to a bath to aid relaxation.
• Homeopathic Sepia taken daily for one week can help reduce hot flushes, as can vitamin E.
• If you develop irregular periods, and worsening premenstrual syndrome (PMS), then check out PMS treatment guide for some prevention tips.
• Maca is a natural ingredient extracted from Peruvian root vegetables and has been used for hundreds of years to relieve hormone related symptoms. Research shows that maca helps raise estrogen and progesterone levels naturally. Taken regularly it can help manage hot flushes.
• Drink more spring water which helps to regulate body temperature, avoiding triggering hot flashes.
• Vitamin K2 can help with heavy bleeding associated with perimenopause. It also helps keep calcium in the bones and out of the arteries. AVOID K2 if you are taking blood thinning medication.
• Vitamin B Complex helps relieve stress, depression, mood swings and improves energy levels.
• A melatonin supplement in natural form can help alleviate sleepless nights and insomnia. Low levels are linked to weight gain during menopause.
• Herbal supplements such as black cohosh (Remifemin) are widely used in Europe to reduce menopausal symptoms. They produce a mild estrogen like effect on the body. However their long term safety has not been assessed. Do not take black cohosh for more than 6 months or if you are taking HRT or blood pressure medication. Some women claim hot flashes are reduced by taking Evening Primrose oil, but side effects can include bouts of diarrhea and nausea.
• Finally, be sure to read our article on the effects of menopause on the body. Knowledge is power.
Menopause is an excellent time for women to reassess their lifestyle. This is the time to assess if you are eating a healthy balanced diet and taking regular exercise. Maintaining a nutritious diet and exercising regularly will help reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis. For women who smoke, quitting is the most important thing they can do to reduce their risk factors for heart disease.