Alternative Menopause Treatment Options
The most effective treatment for hot flashes is prescribed estrogen. However, the risks and benefits of this therapy must be carefully considered by a woman and her physician.
Because each woman experiences menopause differently treatment is directed toward the particular symptoms that are present. While “natural” menopause remedies may be effective, there is a lack of research on the safety and effectiveness of many of these remedies. A physician should be consulted regarding symptoms that are new or of unknown cause.
Plant Estrogens (Phytoestrogens and Isoflavones)
Isoflavones are chemical compounds found in soy and other plants that are phytoestrogens, or plant-derived estrogens. They have a chemical structure that is similar to the estrogens naturally produced by the body, but their effectiveness as an estrogen has been estimated to be much lower than true estrogens. Their estrogen potency has been estimated to be only 1/1000 to 1/100,000 of that of estradiol, a natural estrogen.
Non-prescription products that have been used to treat hot flashes include phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), black cohosh, and vitamin E. However, studies that attest to their effectiveness and long-term safety are lacking.
Some women report that vitamin E supplements can provide relief from mild hot flashes, but scientific studies are lacking to prove the effectiveness of vitamin E in relieving symptoms of menopause. Taking a dosage greater than 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E may not be safe, since some studies have suggested that greater dosages may be associated with cardiovascular disease risk.
Black Cohosh is an herbal preparation that has been popular in Europe for the relief of hot flashes. This herb is becoming more and more popular in the U.S., and the North American Menopause Society does support the short-term use of black cohosh for treating menopausal symptoms, for a period of up to six months, because of its relatively low incidence of side effects when used short term. However, there have still been very few scientific studies done to establish the benefits and safety of this product. Research is ongoing to further determine the effectiveness and safety of black cohosh.
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