Despite guidelines on proper HRT use, many still prefer to try natural menopause remedies. Here’s what the experts say about what works and what doesn’t…
Suffering from menopausal hot flushes, but unsure about hormone-replacement therapy (HRT), and confused about the natural menopause remedies on offer?
A recent report from the respected North American Menopause Society (NAMS) reviewed all evidence for non-hormonal therapies and its effects on hot flushes, which could also be applied to the often accompanying symptom of night sweats.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which combines sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques (like creating a bedtime routine), clinical hypnosis or hypnotherapy, certain low-dose antidepressants, and other prescribed non-hormonal drugs (which require specialist advice) get the NAMS seal of approval.
Professor Janice Rymer, a gynaecologist, comments, “We don’t know the mechanism by which these work, because we don’t really know what causes flushes. However, what they seem to have in common is that they all act on the nervous system.”
This may fit in with the thinking that, although the dip in oestrogen from menopause is somehow responsible, an over-reactive autonomic nervous system that controls things like breathing, heart rate, sweating and the fight-and-flight reflex, could possibly be the immediate underlying cause.
Could be worth a try
A cautious thumbs up goes to isoflavones; plant chemicals found in soya beans, soya milk and tofu; and isoflavone supplements such as red clover.
The only snag is that they don’t work for everyone. Your gut bacteria must be able to convert isoflavones into an active chemical called equol.
If you’re not an equol producer, you may still be plagued by flushes, no matter how much soya milk you quaff or how many supplements you take.
Weight loss and mindfulness-based stress reduction may also help, says NAMS, although the evidence isn’t cast iron.
What doesn’t work
Perhaps surprising to the many who swear by them, yoga and acupuncture, NAMS concludes, do nothing to quell flushes.
Avoiding trigger factors (hot rooms, drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks) doesn’t reduce the number of flushes either.
Even aerobic exercise gets a thumbs down as a hot-flush treatment, although, of course, it has numerous other benefits at midlife.
Unlikely to work
Herbal remedies such as black cohosh, thought to work by blocking oestrogen receptors; and the Chinese herb dong quai, which has question marks over safety, were also rejected by NAMS.
Chiropractic and nutritional supplements, like linseeds (flax), which contains oestrogen-like chemicals, evening primrose oil, omega-3s, vitamins, and pollen extract, are also dismissed due to inadequate evidence.
Disclaimer: You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.