Hormone replacement therapy? Natural therapy options for menopause
Menopausal women often experience typical symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disorders and mood swings. In the past, however, hormones were often used. But then there was growing evidence that this therapy is associated with health risks and is far from effective for all women. In many cases, natural measures against menopause symptoms can help anyway.
Not every woman complains
Menopause is felt differently for every woman. While one does not experience any symptoms at all, the other suffers severe symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disorders and mood swings. As the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) reports on its patient information portal, the most effective treatment is hormone treatment, but even without therapy, the symptoms in almost all affected women subside over time and eventually go away on their own. Various natural therapy options are also available.
Numerous menopause symptoms
On average, menopause - the last menstrual period - begins at the age of 50. However, some women report the first signs of the onset of menopause at the age of 40.
Menopause is not a disease, but part of the natural aging process of women, in which the hormone balance changes - especially the proportion of sex hormones, progestogens and estrogens.
How the hormonal changes in the body are experienced is very individual. The first symptoms can appear with the reduced production of the female hormone estrogen (premenopause).
The list of menopausal symptoms is long: hot flashes and rapid heartbeat, sleep disorders, depressed moods, dryness and vaginal infections and urinary problems are just a few.
They all have a strong impact on the quality of life.
Hormone treatment with side effects
Hormone replacement therapy (HET) has long been considered the most important form of treatment. But then there was growing evidence of severe side effects.
For example, researchers from the United States reported last year that hormone replacement therapies can cause hearing loss in menopause.
And a study earlier showed that this treatment favors ovarian cancer.
The therapy was also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
The WHI study in particular prevented many from taking hormone therapy:
"As a result of the study, the evaluations of which have been published since 2002, hundreds of thousands of women had stopped taking hormone preparations or were not being treated appropriately because the prevailing assumption was that hormone replacement treatment (HET) consistently posed health risks," said the German Society for Gynecology and obstetrics eV (DGGG) in a message.
But two years ago, the authors of the WHI study pointed out in their publication of the specialist magazine "New England Journal of Medicine" the years of incorrect interpretations of their study data.
“The WHI study was conducted in women whose average age at the start of therapy was 63 years. Above all, the question should be clarified whether prevention of diseases of the cardiovascular system is possible even at this age, which is relatively old for the start of hormone replacement therapy, ”explains the DGGG.
“These were mainly study participants who had long since gone through the menopause. In addition, about one in two of these women had significant risks such as pronounced obesity and high blood pressure, or they were smokers; in some cases, pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or coronary heart disease existed. "
In addition, only one preparation, which is largely unusual in Europe, was tested in a dosage that was too high for the age group mentioned.
The WHI study did not raise the question of whether women with a healthy cardiovascular system could benefit from hormone replacement therapy during the menopause and whether health risks could arise from the treatment in this age group.
Nevertheless, the study data had been misinterpreted by the media, but also by doctors, so that general warning was given against the use of hormone replacement treatment in menopause.
Herbal ingredients and therapies
According to Dr. med. Martin Bäuerle, one of the leading doctors in the gynecology and obstetrics department at the Alb-Donau Clinic, Blaubeuren location, always depends on the individual case whether hormone therapy makes sense.
According to a message from "ADK GmbH for Health and Social Affairs", the expert explained at a health forum that herbal active ingredients and therapies are also being researched further.
Herbal preparations that are found in various foods, but also homeopathic preparations can be sufficient in individual cases, according to Bäuerle.
So chaste tree or black cohosh can regulate the hormone balance. And lemon balm, valerian or passion flower help with sleep disorders.
Herbal medicines can also be used to supplement the prescribed hormone therapy - always in consultation with a doctor, taking into account possible interactions.
It should be noted that herbal medications also have side effects and can interact with medications.
Balanced diet and adequate exercise
We recommend a balanced, low-carbohydrate diet, less meat, more vegetables and fruit.
In addition, many women feel better if they exercise enough - in the endurance area, such as walking and dancing, or with movement that can be integrated into everyday life.
"Dispensing with too many stimulants, such as nicotine, alcohol or coffee, basically supports every therapeutic measure," says Dr. Bäuerle.
In the event of extreme hot flashes, it is advisable to wear laundry made from natural fibers such as cotton or to dress using onion skin technology, i.e. clothing in several layers that can be put on or taken off depending on how hot / cold you feel.
Cool wash-ups, lukewarm half baths or alternating showers are often also suitable to keep the side effects of menopause somewhat in check. Massages and visits to the sauna are good not only for the symptoms, but also for the soul. (ad)