There are two major feminine concerns that face adult women through their lifetime. The first is problems that occur prior to the menstrual cycle. This is termed Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS. The second is the cessation of menstruation in the mature female or menopause. A major milestone in a mature female’s life is menopause when periods cease.
For the past 40 years or more, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been used to manage unpleasant symptoms that commonly occur around the menopause. This hormone replacement therapy has been in the form of estrogen medications or estrogen medications combined with synthetic preparations of progesterone, which are called progestins. Unfortunately, the disadvantages and limitations of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have become apparent in recent research, where it is now known that HRT can be potentially dangerous.
In general terms, modern scientific literature shows that the use of hormone replacement therapy by conventional means may have many more risks than benefits for the woman who is going through the transition of menopause or perimenopause. While the menopause can precipitate unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes, lack of psychological well-being and urinary problems, the real significance for the post-menopausal years is the onslaught of age-related disease, such as breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, thin bones (osteoporosis) and age-related declines in brain function.
There is no doubt that major hormonal changes occur around the menopause, but the idea that menopause is merely a deficiency of the female hormone estrogen is a misleading, naive concept. This concept has been accepted, perhaps inappropriately, by many women. The recent scientific information on the safety and effectiveness of certain kinds of conventional hormone replacement therapy is “spine-chilling.” It appears that certain combinations of conventional hormone replacement therapy may actually cause breast cancer and other diseases.
While this type of conventional therapy may help reduce symptoms in the menopause, it does not fulfill its promise of protecting mature females against heart disease or mental decline with age. In fact, some studies show that quality of life is not enhanced by taking conventional hormone replacement therapy. For these reasons, many mature women are seeking natural and viable alternatives to hormone replacement therapy, at least in the context of attempts to control unpleasant symptoms around the menopause, by simple and gentle means.
In my book entitled “The Menoplan” (www.wellnesspublishing.com), I point out that there may be natural pathways. I have pointed to the importance of positive lifestyle for health in the menopause and the use of natural substances for improving a mature woman’s experience during the menopause.
In recent medical literature, scholarly physicians have examined the evidence behind the use of many dietary supplements for the management problems surrounding the menopause or altered menstrual function. The science of nutritional support for menopause and PMS using dietary supplements is emerging with much strength and there are an increasing number of evidence based studies now showing variable benefits of a number of natural agents in the management of menopause.
There are hundreds of thousands of women who have achieved help with their menopausal transition with natural substances including soy isoflavones, black cohosh, chasteberry, L-theanine, red clover extracts and selected vitamins. I have written extensively about the benefits of soy Inclusion in the diet in the menopausal female in my two books “The Soy Revolution” (Dell Publishing, Random House, NY, 2000) and “Soya for Health” (Mary Ann Liebert Publishers Inc., NY 1994).
Dietary supplements are best applied with positive lifestyle changes, but several scientists have indicated that some natural substances do present viable alternatives to hormone replacement therapy and they may improve troublesome symptoms in the menopausal female such as hot flashes.
I add the word of caution that our legal system does not permit the sale of dietary supplements with disease prevention or treatment claims. That said, many physicians, including a growing number of “conventional” gynecologists, are using dietary supplements in patients with the intent of disease prevention and/or treatment; and most specifically they are using them in the management of the menopause.
In my approaches in the natural pathways to healthy menopause and menstrual function, I have proposed several natural agents that I believe have good scientific agreement for health benefits. Considering the management of the menopause transition, most scientific support lies with the use of soy isoflavones and black cohosh, which form major ingredients and constituents of the product Menoplan. There is good scientific agreement that red clover which contains isoflavones similar to those found in soy, may help with hot flashes and other symptoms in the menopause. Red clover is found in Menoplan™
Promising information exists on the benefits of certain vitamins and the use of evening primrose oil and/or dong quai for menopause and PMS ‘though much of the support for the use of these natural substances is anecdotal in comparison to the studies with soy, red clover, and black cohosh, I believe that these constituents are valuable in PMS and menopause as nutritional support.
I have stressed consistently that it is incorrect to see any dietary supplement as a”magic bullet” for menopause, PMS or any other condition or disease. Certainly dietary supplements must not be used as a substitute for a healthy diet. In several of my writings I have focused on the major public health initiative presented by Syndrome X, sometimes called the metabolic syndrome. Syndrome X is the combination or being overweight, having high blood cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, all linked by the underlying insulin resistance. This entity of Syndrome X has emerged is an important issue now that it may cause irregular menstruation and polycystic ovary syndrome, especially in young females.
In my book “Combat Syndrome X, Y and Z…” (www. wellnesspublishing.com I present a concept that Syndrome X has far-reaching health implications beyond its obvious role, in the causation of cardiovascular disease. I have indicated that menopause may “load the gun” in terms of health problems for some women and I fear that Syndrome X may “pull the trigger” in many mature females.
The natural way to a healthy menopause involves the change of adverse to positive lifestyles together with the appropriate use of simple, gentle, natural substances. For this approach, I recommend dietary supplements and if such things are not effective then women may consider the options of hormone replacement therapy. These issues are best discussed in a doctor-patient relationship because there us no doubt that some women will benefit primarily from hormone replacement therapy in a conventional manner. However, it is apparent that such benefits are often outweighed by the documented risks of this form of conventional medical management (HRT).
Deciding to take hormone replacement therapy with drugs is one of the most important decisions in a woman’s lifetime, especially in relationship to menopause sometimes in relationship to PMS. There is growing evidence that natural substances can provide benefits for the nutritional support of the menopause and many doctors consider these dietary supplements to be quite valuable in these circumstances.