Menopause brings its challenges and it can be worth looking at the different choices offered. HRT can have potential health risks, so you may want to consider your options. This post aims to give you some background information on the support offered by natural remedies for menopause.
Why Consider Natural Remedies for Menopause?
Using Natural Remedies for Menopause
I am in my early 50s and have personally used homeopathy for decades. As a professional homeopath, I have worked with many women over the years to offer support through this hormonal milestone. And now I too am having a chance to personally explore the benefits of using natural remedies for menopause.
There are thousands of homeopathic remedies, each with their own profile and realm of action. As homeopaths our job is to find the best remedy for an individual, to match their profile with that of the remedy. When you see a practitioner that individually tailored approach that considers you as a whole person. You might find my What Happens in a Homeopathy Session to be of interest.
I aim to create an overall plan for support. I usually prescribe a constitutional remedy to give the overall support, like an individually tailored tonic. Where helpful and appropriate we will also consider adding in extra remedies as herbal and homeopathic support, lifestyle and dietary advice. Whatever offers us the best chance of smoothing out that rollercoaster ride and supporting long-term health.
Can I Use Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes and Night Sweats?
These are perhaps some of the most commonly experienced symptoms women experience during menopause. Most of us will experience these to some extent. And we have a vast range of homeopathic and other remedies to choose from to find the best match for each woman. In our professional homeopathic materia medicas our remedies have long and detailed profiles. Here I have given a few summarised examples of homeopathic remedies I use to give you an idea.
- Carbo-Veg: flushes that lead to feeling faint. You may feel cold externally but have a sensation of heat internally. You will want fresh air and/or to use a fan. Feeling worse in hot, stuffy rooms and after hot drinks, spicy food and alcohol.
- Phosphorus: burning flushes with hot and sweaty head and hands. These may be triggered by anxiety or stress, hot food or drinks and you will feel better for company and reassurance.
- Pulsatilla: flushes and night sweats, feeling tearful with sometimes changeable symptoms that are better for fresh air and consolation.
- Sepia: usually chilly types where the flush travels up the body. You may feel tired, depressed and irritable, especially with your nearest and dearest. The flushes may be worse during the afternoon and evening, and before a period. Generally, you may feel better for fresh air and after activity or exercise.
- Sulphur: this can be a good remedy to try where there is an intense feeling of a flush of heat, especially around the head, where the skin feels dry. Worse for heat, stuffy rooms bathing, and on waking, and better for rest, avoiding extremes of temperature, fresh air.
As you can see from these examples, homeopaths select individualised remedies for each woman, based on how she experiences her menopause rather than the one-size-fits-all approach. If any of these feel very familiar, or you would like to talk through the help available, you can contact me. I work in Lewes in East Sussex, and in West Sussex, and also offer menopause support via Skype. Wherever you are based you can talk through your options for using natural remedies for menopause.
Menopause is a Natural Life Stage for Women
Menopause is a natural process for women and not an illness or deficiency disease. That is not to say that it does not present difficult symptoms and challenges for us – clearly it can. It is sometimes suggested that as our life expectancy is now longer, this would not have been part of our natural ageing process. Once we were no longer fertile and capable of producing offspring our work as women was done. Which is a rather limited perspective! In many more traditional cultures throughout the world, the older woman’s role has been to support the younger generations and to be a repository of knowledge and wisdom – wise women.
A woman’s hormone production and balance gradually change over time. The ovaries still produce reduced amounts of oestrogen for many years after the peri-menopause has started. There is also a form of oestrogen produced by our adrenal glands and in our body fat. In the case of a surgical or pharmaceutical intervention it will be a more dramatic step change in hormonal levels. Either way, there is still a huge amount you can do to support yourself with natural remedies for menopause.
Why Can Menopause Feel Such a Struggle?
If it is a natural process, then why can women feel that they are having a rough ride on a hormonal rollercoaster? Physical symptoms like night sweats interrupting sleep. Hot flushes engulfing us during the day. Joint, pain, mood swings, anxiety, feeling fuzzy headed and changes in memory, and more can all conspire to make us believe that we are ill or going mad.
Perhaps the simplest way to look at it might be that it is a question of balance. Our pace of life, constant exposure to stress, diets that don’t do us many health favours, a lack of exercise and so on may mean that our bodies are pushed into a place where we are surviving rather than thriving.
A few simple steps towards looking after ourselves can often help us in restoring balance. Not just hormonally, but for our general health. These are good steps to take at any point in our lives.
Menopause: Hormonal Balancing Designed for Life
Just in case you didn’t know how wonderfully you have been designed as a woman let me share some good news with you. Although it may be the case that you are reading this and do not feel wonderful right now – you are!
Our hormones are chemicals produced by our body to help regulate activity of certain cells or organs, for example sex hormones or growth hormones. Our natural reproductive hormones are an exquisitely balanced and interactive system. They do not act independently but affect and are affected by many other hormone-related functions, such as blood pressure, cell growth, and immune responses. We are one big chemical soup!
There are three forms of oestrogen and the most potent, oestradiol, is at its highest levels during our reproductive years. Once we have moved through this phase of our lives, and as oestradiol levels reduce, we have back up supplies provided in the form of oestrone. This is produced by the adrenal glands and in fat tissue. With the ovaries possibly still producing small amounts of oestradiol we are equipped with all the hormone producing capacity we need. The third form of oestriol is the weakest and is converted from oestradiol and oestrone by the liver.
Put very simply, we have a natural system in place that provides the strongest form of oestrogen when it is needed if and when we have children and follows through with a back-up source of more gentle oestrogen as we move into our wise women years.
This reduces our lifetime exposure to the stronger and more potentially carcinogenic form of our own oestrogens. We do not need and are not designed to have the strongest form of oestrogen circulating in our systems at the same levels needed for fertility all our lives.
You have been designed to have everything in place – all that you will need over your lifetime. It is, I believe, a question of balance. And taking a natural health approach to menopause is all about supporting a woman to arrive her at own place of balance. For now, and in her future.
Why Look for Natural Remedies for Menopause?
Isn’t HRT Safe?
If HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) is being offered by the GP, why not just take it? Why bother with natural remedies for menopause?
In 2001 when I was in my fourth and final year of training to be a homeopath, I chose to write my dissertation was on women’s health. I covered many aspects of the drug and surgical treatments offered to women and have continued to specialise in women’s health at menopause to this day.
I could remember some high-profile legal cases of women who had developed thrombosis, suing the pharmaceutical companies that made the Pill they had been taking. This contributed to a change in the way the Pill was prescribed. Previously, it had been given to older married women who had had their children and were in a stable relationship and wanted contraception. In light of the cardio-vascular risk profile with increasing age, the Pill was now prescribed more frequently for younger women and less for older women.
What I began to question was quite simple. If the hormones in HRT and the Pill are the same, why would it be safe to prescribe the same drugs in a different packet (as HRT) to older women?
The answer the pharmaceutical industry and many doctors will probably give you is that the doses in HRT are lower. In which case that should all be fine then shouldn’t it? The trouble is that studies show that there is a risk of cardio-vascular side-effects, and my belief is that we may be more sensitive to these powerful chemicals as we age, so less is needed to produce side-effects.
Incredibly, more than enough was known about the hazards of taking HRT from the initial trials decades ago. Sexual Chemistry, Understanding Our Hormones, The Pill and HRT by Dr Ellen Grant is an excellent source of information on the scientific rationale behind the health concerns, trial data, the side-effects and issues involved for both the Pill and HRT. All the information we needed was there, but it was not until the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Study in the USA, that a note of caution was finally sounded. In the land of litigation, this trial was stopped early because the results indicated that they could not possibly continue to ethically medicate women with HRT, because of the increased risks of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
You can read more in my post HRT – the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. One could say that HRT has been clinically proven to be unsafe for some women.
But I Have Friends Who Feel Great on HRT!
Our main sex hormones are natural steroids and they are powerful chemicals. Most forms of HRT, whether standard or bio-identical are steroid medications – pharmaceutically designed and manufactured to mimic or replicate your own hormones. It is a powerful and blunt instrument.
Many of us will know women who “feel great” on HRT. For those that take these steroids, some will feel good on it and for the meantime, may not be experiencing side-effects. Oestrogen has been described as the ‘happy hormone’, and not all will experience the potential side-effects. However, somewhere in their future, those that do will probably feel far from happy.
You can take take a drug to “feel great” but like all drugs (whether it be HRT or cocaine), it will come with a price tag – check it is one you are prepared to pay. There are kinder ways to support yourself and your health at this life-stage and beyond – you do have choices.
What if I Have Been on HRT for 15-20 Years and am Scared to Stop?
Some years ago, I used to meet women who had been given HRT and had been taking it for a long time. Back when HRT was launched, I believe the medical profession was, by and large, swept along by the enthusiasm generated by the pharmaceutical industry. I am sure many doctors and the newly created HRT nurses were mightily relieved at last, to have something to offer the women coming to see them.
But this has meant that a great many women were prescribed HRT without being fully alerted to its dangers. They may even have been told that it was actually good for them – for their heart and bones. The side effect profile suggests it cannot really be beneficial for your cardio-vascular health. Logically that does not make sense. You can read about how I believe the long-term and genuine benefit to bone health has been over-estimated in my blog HRT and Osteoporosis: What You Need to Know.
Years on they may feel they are dependent upon HRT. Afraid to stop because of the oestrogen withdrawal symptoms they may experience. The irony being that many in this situation will now be pressured by their GPs to stop taking HRT as some doctors are thankfully now more concerned about the health risks of long-term HRT use.
Just a word of caution here – if this is you, don’t just stop cold turkey. Speak to your GP and/or consultant about reducing the dosage gradually. And there are strategies and natural remedies for menopause that we can use to support you in the withdrawal process.
Taking a Natural Approach to Menopause
Menopause is not a deficiency disease. But it is a great spin on a natural life stage if you are in the business of selling HRT. I believe HRT offers women a poisoned chalice. To drink from this cup not knowing if you will be lucky enough not to experience side effects. And when you eventually must stop, you may still experience oestrogen withdrawal symptoms.
I see many women looking for support at menopause. Some have never wanted to go down the HRT route or could not because of their or direct family medical history. Others may come to see me because they have been on HRT and are worried, or just feel that it does not suit them, or they are still experiencing symptoms.
When we talk about menopause we are talking about a transitional time in every woman’s life, unique to them. Finding ways to support them as they move through that process.
Taking a more natural approach and using natural remedies for menopause, dietary and lifestyle changes has the potential to support and improve your experience of menopause as well as your general health.
Natural Remedies for Menopause – You Have Choices
There is so much to draw upon in-between the two more extreme ends of the spectrum – HRT and/or suffering. You have choices around the kind of remedies and support that feels right for you at menopause and beyond.
I hope you have found this blog on natural remedies for menopause to be helpful. Especially if you are having a difficult time at the moment. If you are interested in menopause coaching or therapies, in clinic in West or East Sussex, or via Skype, you can book an initial free mini-consultation to see if my approach might suit you, please do contact me.