The use of HRT during the menopause can be controversial. Before a decision is made, many women seek information on what else they can use. Here, our menopause expert Eileen Durward explores the alternatives to HRT, helping you reach an informed decision on the type of treatment that is right for you.
There are many drugs prescribed or recommended by your doctor which can be used to relieve the symptoms of menopause. For example:
Non-hormonal drugs which reduce the symptom of hot flushes brought about from menopause are available.
Moisturisers and non-oestrogen lubricants can be used against vaginal dryness.
There are also drugs to protect against diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease and to lower cholesterol, which are more likely to be contracted once the production levels of oestrogen have dropped.
Soy has similar properties to oestrogen, although the effects on the body are not as strong. Soy has been seen to decrease the frequency and intensity of hot flushes, lower cholesterol, slightly increase bone density and benefit blood vessels in the same way as oestrogen.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing stress
For women who start the menopause after the age of 45, or women who are not affected by the symptoms of the menopause, HRT is not necessary. However, whether taking HRT or not, it is important to stay healthy. This includes:
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, a balanced diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables with a limited alcohol intake and no smoking. Other strategies may be implemented to reduce the risk of for example, osteoporosis and heart disease.
Managing stress is vital for staying healthy. Managing stress can also help relieve the symptoms of the menopause. Techniques such as yoga, acupuncture and meditation are beneficial in the management of stress.
Many women look for natural remedies as an alternative to HRT. Such remedies include:
Sage – a member of the Lamiaceae family native to the Mediterranean region. It is used to control the effects of menopause and is used to regulate mood.
Black Cohosh - a member of the buttercup family, native to North America. It is widely used to treat the symptoms of the menopause.
Acupuncture – this is an ancient form of Chinese medicine which involves stimulating certain points on the body to correct any imbalances. It has been shown to relieve the symptoms of the menopause, particularly hot flushes.
Tai Chi – this is a Japanese martial art which has become recognised as an effective way of controlling the symptoms of menopause, relieving muscle tension and reducing the onset of osteoporosis.
Yoga – this is a Hindu discipline which involves breathing exercises and controlled body positions to relax the body and mind. Many women who have employed Yoga techniques have experienced the benefits. It strengthens the body so it is able to cope with the symptoms of menopause and it elevates mood.
You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.