Many women opt for alternative therapies when it comes to helping them cope through menopausal symptoms.
Plant estrogens or phyto estrogens are products such as soy and tofu. These products are often consumed in the belief that it may help with relief of vasomotor symptoms.
These plant based products may work as a placebo and help with alleviating up to 50% of the vasomotor symptoms. However some of these products have side effects and need to be taken cautiously.
Soy contains isoflavones which may help reduce vasomotor symptoms. Only food forms are recommended such as tofu, tempeh, cooked soy beans, isoflavones concentrates such as soy milk and soy burgers.
Some studies have shown that taking:
50 – 150 mgs of isoflavones daily for 6 weeks, can decrease hot flushes by 50%. Some other studies have also shown that isoflavones may reduce cancer in bladder, colon, prostate, breast and skin however more research is needed. There is also a possibility of isoflavones moving calcium into bones but data on osteoporosis is limited.
Soy products are not recommended for anyone with kidney stones or thyroid conditions. Increased soy consumption may increase bleeding issues and breast cancer risk.
Black kohosh may help alleviate vasomotor symptoms, mood swings and sleep disturbances. It is also said to work as an anti-inflammatory, however data is limited.
As there are no food sources available, it is usually taken as a tablet of 20-40 mgs. Too much of black kohosh (above 900 mgs) is considered an overdose. It can be fatal to the liver.
Black kohosh should not be given to women with breast cancer, uterine cancer or endometriosis and those with allergies to aspirin.
Ginseng is said to increase estrogen levels thus improving stamina and energy levels. It is also said to improve mood and vitality with a possible improvement in sexual dysfunction.
However its common side effects include easy bruising, diarrhea, insomnia, raised blood pressure and raised heart beat.
Many menopausal women use gingko to improve circulation both to peripheral parts of their body and the brain. It is also supposed to have anti-oxidant properties.
Gingko can interact with blood thinning drugs such as warfarin, heparin and aspirin.
Dong Quai is a Chinese herb that many women use to improve circulation as it said to be a blood tonic. It is also said to be a diuretic (helps with water retention), analgesic (pain killer), anti-inflammatory and an anti-spasmodic (anti cramps).
Many women with painful, irregular periods and mood changes that is related to the periods take dong quai. However it should not be given together with gingko as it aggravates blood thinning. Some studies show associated increase in breast cancer risk. It may also be photosensitive in certain women.
St John’s Wort
St John’s wort is mainly used for mild to moderate depression. When added to black kohosh, it may improve mood and smoothen menopause related mood swings
However St John’s wort may increase blood pressure and strokes. It has to be avoided in epileptics. It may also increase photosensitivity.
Red clover contains isoflavones, magnesium, calcium and a lot of other minerals. However it also contains coumarin which is a blood thinner. It is used mainly in vasomotor symptoms. Red clover in excessive doses can cause headaches, nausea and abnormal uterine bleeding. Women who are on diabetic medication should take red clover with caution.
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)
Many women going through the transition take EPO to help ease their menopausal symptoms. EPO contains linoleic acid (LA) and gamma linoleic acid (GLA). These are essential fatty acids that help with energy, skin lubrication, reduces plaques (blocks in the heart vessels), and helps with premenstrual or menopausal symptoms in doses of 3000 – 4000 mgs per day.
Diabetics and those with hypothyroidism may have problems converting LA to GLA. Epileptics should not take EPO. EPO should also not be given with non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs.
It may cause an increase in weight, nausea, diarrhea and interfere with the immune system.