Natural Alternatives to HRT | Living North

Natural Alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy

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With a reported national shortage of hormone replacement therapy, we look at some alternative treatments to control menopausal symptoms with the UK’s Leading Nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville

In pressing times like these, we predict we aren’t the only ones feeling reassured to discover that alternative treatments for menopausal symptoms are available. ‘You may have heard that there is a shortage of HRT drugs and that this shortage could last until 2020,’ Dr Marilyn Glenville explains. With over half of drugs brands out of stock across high streets nationwide, pharmacies have been unable to fulfil prescriptions. So we look at natural alternatives to hormone replacement therapy.

‘Because of the shortage, some women are being prescribed different forms of HRT because their original prescription is unavailable and it may not be a form that suits them,’ says Marilyn. But, there are natural alternatives out there to help you through, if you’re one of those affected.  

‘Remember that the menopause is just a transition, as women we are moving from one stage in our life to another,’ she says. It is important to consider that not all women experience such a miserable time during the menopause, symptoms can vary and some women sail through. 

Symptoms that your body is preparing for the menopause can start in the mid-40s (or earlier) and can include changes in the frequency or heaviness of your periods, premenstrual tension, mood swings and irritability. As your body produces less and less oestrogen, other symptoms may appear, including aching joints, depression and anxiety, lack of energy, joint pains, declining libido, weight gain, headaches and, most commonly, hot flushes and night sweats. Hot flushes and night sweats are among the most common and uncomfortable symptoms, and their frequency and severity can vary from woman to woman. Certain foods and situations can trigger hot flushes including spicy foods, caffeinated drinks, alcohol and stressful situations

‘Some women can experiences such extreme night sweats that they have to get up to change their night clothes two or three times a night, or even take a shower in the middle of the night,’ she explains. While your usual HRT medication would normally control symptoms like these, we’ve discovered several natural alternatives that will see you through the shortage.

Increase Your Intake Of Phytoestrogens
Women who eat a diet rich in phytoestrogens have significantly fewer hot flushes, up to half the amount experienced by women who eat few phytoestrogens, so make sure these are included in your diet and go for variety. Contrary to popular opinion phytoestrogens do not supply oestrogen but have a balancing effect on your hormones. Foods rich in phytoestrogens include flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds and walnuts.

What’s the science behind it?
The cells in your body have oestrogen receptors on them that act like a lock and Phytoestrogens act like a key that unlocks them to ‘stimulate’ them into activity. 

Get A Helping Hand From Herbs
There are a number of herbs that are helpful for the menopause including soya, sage, flaxseeds, hops and red clover. Sage has been shown to decrease hot flushes by 50 percent after four weeks and by 64 percent after eight weeks. It also helps with decreasing insomnia, irritability, anxiety, physical and mental exhaustion by up to 47 percent, which can all be symptoms of the menopause. Hops have been shown to help with both hot flushes and night sweats. 

What’s the science behind it?
Red clover is one of the most extensively studied herbs and research indicates that it significantly reduces vasomotor symptoms compared to a placebo. 

Balance Blood Sugar Levels To Help Your Mood
If you are suffering from increased mood swings, irritability and depression then taking measures to balance your blood sugar is absolutely crucial. This means not only thinking about the quality of the food that you eat, but also the timing. You need to completely eliminate added sugar and refined carbohydrates in order to see a marked improvement in your mood. The other important consideration is to eat little and often. This means not going more than three hours without eating.

What’s the science behind it?
If your blood sugar drops the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol will be released. It is the release of these hormones that gives rise to many of the symptoms relating to anxiety, tension, crying spells, depression and irritability. 

Look After Your Bone Health With Omega 3 and Vitamin D  
Aching and stiff joints are common before, during and after the menopause and this is caused by the decrease in oestrogen. Eat plenty of foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as oily fish, nuts and seeds or add in a good Omega 3 fish oil supplement containing at least 700mg EPA and 500mg DHA per day. Cut down or eliminate red meat as this can contribute to the production of ‘bad’ prostaglandins that will increase inflammation in the joints. Correct low levels of vitamin D by taking D3-cholecalciferol, rather than D2-ergocalciferol, which is not as efficient as D3 in helping to correct levels in the body.

What’s the science behind it?
Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids help create anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that can ease the pain and inflammation of swollen joints. As menopause approaches and a woman's estrogen levels begin to decline, it's particularly important for women to make sure they’re getting enough vitamin D, as it is essential for natural calcium absorption and strong bones.’

Read more about the menopause here.

Published in: September 2019

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