Jade Acupuncture Clinic

Alternatives to HRT

Perimenopause and menopause are natural stages in a woman’s life, and not a disease. For many women, however, symptoms experienced during these life stages can be severe enough that they seek treatment to minimize the impact of the symptoms on their quality of life. Currently, the primary Western medicine treatment for these symptoms is hormone replacement therapy, (HRT).

While HRT can be effective in lessening the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause for many women, there are serious health concerns associated with HRT. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a 15 year study, brought to light some of the problems with HRT. In fact, WHI ended a study on HRT prematurely due to the health risks of HRT. Side effects of HRT include headaches, nausea, breast pain, and increased risk of blood clots, gallstones, fibroids, uterine cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and stroke. Many women are open to and actively seeking safer approaches for alleviating the symptoms experienced during perimenopause and menopause. 

Common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include irregular vaginal bleeding, breast swelling and tenderness, mood swings, irritability, lack of concentration, sleep disturbances, water retention, weight gain, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, and osteoporosis. 

Studies have shown that Chinese medicine is a safe and effective treatment method for women who are looking for relief from the symptoms of menopause. Both acupuncture and Chinese herbs can successfully alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, osteoporosis, and insomnia. A qualified practitioner of Chinese medicine can create an individualized treatment plan for the management of the symptoms, and help women have a trouble-free menopause.

Diet plays a very important role in maintaining health as we age, and this is particularly true as women go through menopause. A diet containing soy and foods with a high calcium content are highly recommended. Women should also eliminate sugar, refined grains, soda pop, caffeine, a high salt content, and alcohol as best as they can from their diets. Women should be aware of which foods seem to trigger uncomfortable symptoms for them, and use caution when eating those foods. Dietary suggestions are not meant to be unreasonably restrictive for women, but to promote health and alleviate symptoms in a manner that is safe, free of cost, and under the control of each individual.

Exercise has been shown to be very effective in helping women live healthier lives, and can help ease the symptoms of menopause. While vigorous exercise is not appropriate for all women, even gentle exercise, such as tai chi or walking, can be of great benefit to women. Women should try to engage in some form of exercise at least three times per week.

Women have the option of using meditation and relaxation techniques to reduce stress and alleviate symptoms of menopause, such as insomnia and hot flashes. This approach is available to all women at no cost and without risk. Simply incorporating deep breathing into their daily routine may be of great benefit to women.  

There are a number of other possible options that women may consider when looking for alternatives to HRT. Some, such as calcium and vitamin D supplements, have been shown to be of great benefit to women, and are highly recommended. Others, such as vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and valerian, may be inexpensive, reasonably safe, and relatively harmless to try, although their effectiveness remains uncertain. Still other products, such as melatonin, black cohosh, vitex, and progesterone creams have less certainty of being safe and effective, and should be used with caution.

Although the most widely used approach to cope with the symptoms associated with menopause is HRT, women should be aware that they have safer, very effective options available to them, and choose carefully and wisely when deciding on a treatment approach. 

Copyright 2008 by Jeri Petz, MSOM, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM), Dipl. OM (NCCAOM)
Jade Acupuncture Clinic Ltd.