Hormone Replacement Therapy Q&A
3. What else can I do to prevent menopause symptoms?
There are several alternative remedies you may want to try to reduce menopause symptoms such as hot flashes or night sweats:
Soy: Soy seems to be an effective, short-term treatment to quell hot flashes and night sweats. It can be difficult to get enough soy from food, so many women use a soy protein powder in fruit shakes. However, soy may be potentially dangerous for women with a history of estrogen-dependent cancer of the breast, uterus, or ovaries.
Black Cohosh: Growing evidence shows that this ancient Native American remedy is effective in controlling some menopausal symptoms. Black cohosh is an herb that contains plant estrogens.
One three-month study of 976 postmenopausal women found that those who took 40 mg of black cohosh daily reduced menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, and insomnia compared with those who didn't take the herb. Those findings were presented in 2002 at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society. Another study published March 28, 2002, in the Journal of Women's Health and Gender-Based Medicine found that black cohosh extract, marketed as Remifemin, reduced menopause symptoms in 70% of women.
However, overall reviews of published studies on black cohosh and soy have found that research is limited and inconclusive. Another issue to consider is that the manufacturing of herbal supplements is not uniform. It is impossible to know if what you are purchasing in the health food store has the same components that scientists have studied and described using in research.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants, including Prozac and Effexor, have been shown to reduce hot flashes. One study in The Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at how well Prozac reduced hot flashes in 81 women with a history of breast cancer. Those taking Prozac reported 50% fewer hot flashes compared with a 36% reduction among women taking a placebo.
Lifestyle changes: Women can also reduce hot flashes by:
- Dressing in layers, so they can remove clothes as needed
- Wearing natural fabrics, such as cotton and silk
- Keeping room temperatures cool or using a fan
- Sleeping with fewer blankets
- Drinking cold beverages rather than hot ones
- Limiting intake of caffeine and alcohol
- Eating smaller meals
- Not smoking
- Using relaxation techniques such as yoga
- Getting regular exercise
For vaginal dryness or lost libido, here are a few options that may help:
Alprostadil: This liquid heightens sexual sensation when spread on the genitals. It is made with prostaglandin E, a naturally occurring substance that has been used for years to treat erectile dysfunction in men. In one study of postmenopausal women, those given alprostadil had increased blood flow to the genitals after applying the liquid, while few of the women who used a placebo did. All then watched erotic videos for 30 minutes. The women who used alprostadil said they had a "high" or "very high" level of sexual arousal and satisfaction. Some women actually had spontaneous orgasms during the experiment.