What should you do – and not do – to make your menopause more manageable? It’s a big question, and there’s no one right answer because every woman’s body and experience is different. However there are some facts that can help every woman find the right solutions for her. The HFC wants to lay out some information without judgement or ‘taking sides’ in questions that we believe every woman is best equipped to resolve for herself – with a little help from her friends, of course!
Lifestyle ‘treatment’ for menopausal symptoms
A good lifestyle can really reduce the effects of the menopause so this is just the opportunity many women need to improve their general health.
- Smoking – can both lead to an earlier menopause and actually trigger hot flushes, so it’s a great idea to look into smoking cessation aids when the menopause arrives.
- Alcohol – too much booze and wonky hormones can create horrible results – not only does alcohol increase the severity of hot flushes, it also increases the risk of breast cancer.
- Healthy eating – just as smoking and drinking can make the menopause worse, healthy eating can improve symptoms and general wellbeing. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D helps keep bones strong whilst low saturated fat and reducing salt intake can lower blood pressure which also reduces the intensity of hot flushes.
- Exercise – taken regularly can remove anxiety and deliver positive energy whilst also safeguarding against heart disease. Whether you walk or run, zumba or paddleboard, regular aerobic exercise can bring a host of benefits.
Many alternative therapies are popular with women who are trying to manage their menopausal symptoms. There’s very little scientific evidence to support these treatments although anecdotally many women say they are of great benefit. One thing is certain – they won’t have much effect on the health of your heart or the density of your bones.
- Acupuncture – research suggests that some women have less severe and less frequent hot flashes, although like many treatments this could be a placebo effect.
- Aromatherapy – while folk medicine has long used essential oils to treat the menopause, very little research has been done to examine the role of essential oils in menopause or any other condition. It’s important to use essential oils under the direction of an expert.
- Homeopathy – a range of homeopathic treatments are claimed to help some women with menopausal symptoms. As the NHS does not prescribe homeopathy you will have to pay privately for a consultation with a homeopath.
- Reflexology – some women say reflexology reduces their menopause symptoms, especially anxiety, but again, a blind trial revealed that women given reflexology and those given ordinary foot massages reported similar levels of reduction in their symptoms so this may be a placebo effect or simply a positive psychological response to being massaged in a relaxing environment.
- Supplements – a range of herbs such as black cohosh, red clover and soy are described as phyto-oestrogenic(they contain plant hormones that are claimed to mimic oestrogen) and it is suggested that they can relieve the symptoms of a hormonal imbalance. Evening Primrose is said to contain a hormone similar compound called a prostaglandin which is said to help regulate temperature, emotions and even sleep patterns. St Johns Wort is recommended to people who are suffering from symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
This is still considered to be the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms although it has become controversial in recent years as a result of concerns that it may increase the incidence of breast and ovarian cancers and the risk of heart disease. HRT is only available from a GP and you’ll be assessed and counselled about the benefits and risks of this treatment before you opt for it. Many women believe that HRT substantially improves their menopause experience especially if they have been experiencing hot flushes, mood disorders and vaginal dryness. HRT also maintains bone density for the period during which it is taken. It can be prescribed as a pill, transdermal patch, or a topical gel.
We hope this guide has helped a little – and the whole point of the Hot Flush Club is to explore the whole menopause experience from the inside, so we’ll be exploring every aspect of this guide in more detail of the months ahead.