The hormonal changes of menopause can produce a wide variety
of symptoms, ranging from hot flashes and vaginal dryness
to anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Many of these symptoms
are undoubtedly caused by the natural decrease in estrogen
production that occurs at menopause; however, the human body
is so complex that other hormonal factors also play a role.
Menopause is not a disease. It is clearly a
natural process, but one that has fallen out of favor in modern
society. We consider it a condition requiring treatment. Women
no longer accept it as merely a part of life: the decrease
in libido, pain during intercourse, years of hot flashes,
and other uncomfortable problems that may accompany menopause.
This raises an important point: How close to nature do we
want to live? One of the most valued ideals of alternative
medicine is the desire to trust nature, but sometimes, we
may want to draw a line. For example, in nature, infant and
maternal mortality is high.This process of survival of the
fittest helps humanity as a species to be stronger, but it
is not something that a compassionate society can tolerate.
Thus, no matter what our ideals, we frequently find ourselves
tampering with nature. The treatment of menopause is simply
one example among many.
Conventional medicine recommends the use of
estrogen replacement to provide two benefits: eliminating
the symptoms of menopause and protecting against cardiovascular
disease. Estrogen replacement therapy is quite effective in
achieving these goals. However, like most medical treatments,
it creates counterbalancing risks. The most frightening is
the increased risk of breast cancer that appears to be associated
with estrogen replacement. The decision to use estrogen
replacement therapy should involve a careful examination of
the risks and benefits in consultation with a physician. Specially-modified
estrogens, such as Evista (raloxifene), appear to help osteoporosis
and reduce the incidence of breast cancer, but they do not
reduce symptoms of menopause.
Principal natural treatments
treatments may reduce menopausal symptoms. However, we do not know for
sure whether any of them reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or osteoporosis.
Widely used in Europe for menopausal symptoms.
The standard dosage of black cohosh is 1 to 2 tablets twice daily of a
standardized extract manufactured to contain 1 mg of 27-deoxyacteine per
May reduce symptoms. Soy appears to protect against heart disease and breast
and uterine cancer. However, it possibly may not be safe for those who
already have had breast cancer. The best dosage of soy is unclear. One
or two cups of soy milk or slices of tofu daily appear to be helpful. Various
products containing concentrated isoflavones from soy or red clover have
recently come on the market. However, although these supplements show promise,
more research needs to be done to establish the correct dosage and to verify
Other Natural Treatments
Vitamin E, vitamin
C, bioflavonoids, essential fatty acids, an extract of rice bran called
gamma-oryzanol, and the herbs licorice red clover, suma and chasteberry
are reportedly helpful against the symptoms of menopause. The herb dong
quai is also frequently recommended for menopausal symptoms.