Treating Perimenopause and Menopause Symptoms

by WV Marshall

The debate on how to address perimenopause symptoms has been a long one.

Is HRT the be all, end all?

Do herbal supplements really work or are they appealing because they’re natural?

How do you know what to do?

Listen to your body and talk to your healthcare provider.

Perimenopause and Menopause

Perimenopauseand menopause are natural phases of a woman’s life.

Some women (my mom, for one) are fortunate enough to experience mild symptoms that eventually go away.

But for some women, symptoms are severe enough that hormonal intervention is needed.

Menopause Hormone Therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is considered one of the most effective ways to relieve severe menopause symptoms.

And while it may offer protection against heart disease and bone loss, HRT isn’t completely risk-free.

So, when deciding whether HRT is right for you consider several factors, including your age, when you entered menopause and other potential risk factors.

HRT involves taking medication when your hormone levels drop.

The medication contains estrogen, progesterone or both.

This therapy has a checkered past.

Hailed in the 1960s as a way to retain one’s youth after menopause, HRT use peaked in the 1990s.

But a controversial Women’s Health Initiative study in 2002 linked HRT to cancer and cardiovascular disease – causing the therapy’s usage in the United States and the United Kingdom to plunge.

The WHI report since has been called into question, and more recent studies indicated that HRT has lower risks and more benefits for women who start treatment before age 60 and within 10 years of menopause.

Even though doctors prescribe HRT to ease menopause symptoms, hormone therapy isn’t appropriate for some women.

Hormone therapy isn’t recommended for women who have

  • cardiovascular disease,
  • breast cancer,
  • estrogen-dependent cancer or precancer,
  • liver disease, a known risk of developing blood clots,
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding that hasn’t been evaluated by a doctor, or a
  • sensitivity to components of hormone therapy.

Alternatives to Menopause Hormone Therapy

If you’re not a candidate for HRT, you may be able to manage menopausal symptoms with

  • a healthy lifestyle approach,
  • herbal or food supplements,
  • non-hormone prescription medications or
  • over-the-counter remedies.

Because perimenopause and menopause are part of a natural process, symptom management is the main focus of treatment therapies.

And while pharmaceuticals are available, the potential risk of side effects had led some women to seek out alternative therapies to use either in conjunction with or in lieu of conventional treatment.

Herbs and foods – such as maca, soybeans, black cohosh and flax seeds – are among the most popular menopause supplements, but most lack strong evidence to support their use.

As always, please consult your healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your routine.

Mayo Clinic recommends talking to your healthcare provider before taking any herbal or dietary supplements.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate herbal products, and some can be dangerous or interact with other medications you take, putting your health at risk.

Lifestyle Choices

Besides medication and natural treatments, the Mayo Clinic suggests making healthy lifestyle choices could help ease some symptoms of perimenopause and promote good health as you age.

Eat healthy.

The risk of osteoporosis and heart disease increases during perimenopause and menopause, and adopting a healthy diet is more important than ever.

Commit to a low-fat, high-fiber diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and include calcium-rich foods.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine if they seem to trigger hot flashes.

Be active.

Regular exercise and physical activity can help prevent weight gain, improve sleep and lift a mood.

Studies have indicated that regular exercise helps reduce hip fracture risk in older women as well as strengthen bone density.

Get enough sleep.

Try to maintain consistent sleep schedule.

Avoid caffeine in the evening because caffeine can make it hard to get to sleep, and avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can interrupt sleep.

Practice stress-reduction techniques.

Regularly engaging in stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation or yoga, can promote relaxation and good health throughout your life, but these techniques may be particularly helpful during the menopausal transition.

**But it boils down to this: **

To determine if hormone therapy is a good option for you, talk to your talk to your healthcare provider about your individual symptoms and health risks.

And make sure to keep this conversation thread going throughout the years.

If you are interested in learning more about herbal and food supplements, also talk to your healthcare provider since the supplements aren’t regulated and could have serious side effects or negative interactions.

mySysters is an app for women in perimenopause and menopause. Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day named mySysters the Best App for Women in Perimenopause and a Must Have App for Women.

The preceding information does not constitute medical advice or treatment.

Sources: Healthline (supplements): Healthline (HRT): Mayo Clinic (HRT): Mayo Clinic (Supplements): Mayo Clinic: (who should NOT use HRT):