After the announcement of the dangerous
hormone replacement therapy side effects that were found to
occur in healthy women, the six million American women that were
using the estrogen/progestin combination are now trying to figure
out possible hormone replacement therapy alternatives. For some
women, discontinuing hormone replacement therapy will be no problem,
but for the women who have been taking estrogen/progestin for many
years now, it has become a way of life for them and there is need
for a hormone replacement therapy alternative. Doctors and medical
groups were not prepared for the number of questions and concerned
patients after news of the unanticipated event. Doctors were forced
to take their phones off the hook because they did not yet have
the answers for what their patients should do.
Hormone replacement therapy had become such a common prescription
that every year 70 million prescriptions were written for hormone
replacement therapy that doctors encouraged almost every woman that
had not had a hysterectomy to use when beginning menopause. The
American College of Obstetricians has just issued guidelines on
the most popular hormone replacement therapy alternative medicines
to treat menopause.
If you are currently taking hormone replacement therapy, you are
advised to contact your doctor immediately
and to find a hormone replacement therapy alternative.
- Soy and Isoflavones (plant estrogens found in beans,
particularly soybeans) - High isoflavone intake (about
50 grams of soy protein per day) may be helpful in the short
term (2 years or less) as a hormone replacement therapy
alternative in relieving hot flashes and night sweats. Taken
over the long term, it also may have beneficial effects
on cholesterol and bones. While safe in dietary amounts,
the consumption of extraordinary amounts of soy and isoflavone
supplements may interact with estrogen and may be harmful
to women with a history of estrogen-dependent breast cancer
and possibly to other women as well.
- St. John's Wort - If used as a hormone replacement
therapy alternative, this drug may be helpful in the short-term
(2 years or less) to treat mild to moderate depression
in women (when given in doses of less than 1.2 milligrams
a day.) A recent study showed it is not effective in treating
severe depression. It also can increase skin sensitivity
to the sun and may interfere with prescription antidepressants.
- Black Cohosh - May be helpful in the short term
(6 months or less) to treat hot flashes and night sweats.
It seems to be an extremely safe hormone replacement therapy
alternative, although studies have been small and brief,
none longer than six months.
- Chasteberry (also known as monk's pepper, Indian
spice, sage tree hemp, and tree wild pepper) - This
may inhibit prolactin, a natural hormone that acts on
the breast. It is touted for breast pain and premenstrual
syndrome. There are very few studies used as a hormone
replacement alternative in menopausal women. A study
of women with premenstrual syndrome found they reported
improvements in mood, anger, headache, breast fullness,
but not bloating and other symptoms.
- Evening Primrose - This plant produces seeds rich
in gamma-linolenic acid, which some experts believe is the
nutritionally perfect fatty acid for humans. Although evening
primrose capsules are taken for breast pain, bladder symptoms
and menopausal symptoms, there is little or no evidence
that they work as a hormone replacement alternative. The
one high quality study of effects on hot flashes found that
evening primrose was no better than placebo.
- Dong Quai - A study aimed at reducing hot flashes
found that dong quai as a hormone replacement therapry
alternative was not better than placebo - although the
4.5-gram dose used in the study was lower than that
typically given in Chinese medicine. The herb is potentially
toxic. It contains compounds that can thin the blood,
causing excessive bleeding, and make the skin more sensitive
to sun, possibly increasing skin cancer risk.
- Valerian Root - This has traditionally been used
as a tranquilizer and sleeping aid. But the U.S. Pharmacopoeia,
which sets manufacturing standards for medicines, does not
support its use, and there have been reports of heart problems
and delirium attributed to sudden withdrawal from valerian.
- Ginseng - Most of the many types of ginseng
(including Siberian, Korean, and American, white and
red) are promoted for relieving stress and boosting
immunity. A study of menopausal women by the leading
ginseng manufacturer found the product did not relieve
hot flashes but did improve women's sense of well-being
if used as a hormone replacement therapy alternative.
Analyses of ginseng products have found a troubling
lack of quality control: some contained little or no
ginseng, contained large amounts of caffeine, or was
tainted by pesticides or lead.
- Wild and Mexican Yam - There are no published reports
that show wild and Mexican yam cream is effective in helping
menopausal symptoms. The hormones in wild and Mexican yam
do not have any estrogenic or progestational properties,
so they are not expected to help women with these symptoms
or be used as a hormone replacement therapy alternative.
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