What is menopause?
Menopause ("the change of life") is the point in time when a woman's menstrual periods stop. The years approaching menopause are termed perimenopause. The Office on Women’s Health states that the average age of menopause is 51, but for some women it happens in their 40s or later in their 50s.
Throughout perimenopause and menopause, the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body fluctuate as the ovaries try to keep up with normal levels of hormone production. This fluctuation is what causes symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, sleep problems, bone loss, and problems concentrating.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT involves taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Women who do not have a uterus anymore take just estrogen. HRT can be very effective at relieving moderate to severe menopausal symptoms and preventing bone loss. But HRT also has some risks, especially if used for a long time. HRT benefits include:
- Reducing hot flashes, night sweats and related problems such as poor sleep and irritability
- Treating vaginal symptoms, such as dryness and discomfort, related problems such as pain during sex
- Slowing bone loss
- Easing mood swings and mild depressive mood
Herbal Treatments for Menopause
- Soy-soy contains phytoestrogens from plants that may act like the estrogen your body makes. If you are going to try soy, the best sources are foods such as tofu, tempeh, soymilk, and soy nuts.
- Other sources of phytoestrogens-these include herbs such as black cohosh, wild yam, dong quai, and valerian root.
Bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT) means manmade hormones that are structurally the same as the hormones the body makes. There are several prescription BHT products that are well-tested and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Often, people use the term BHT to refer to medications that are custom-made by a pharmacist for a specific patient based on a doctor's order. The advantages of these products over FDA-approved products is not clear, but they are options.