Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a group of hormonal medications that are used to treat symptoms of menopause. These symptoms can include hot flushes, night sweats, brain fog, vaginal dryness, reduced libido, bladder problems, cognitive problems like forgetfulness, and feelings of depression or anxiety.
Hormone therapy is a safe and effective treatment for lots of people. But for those who are unable to take HRT, for example if you're at higher risk of breast cancer, or if you want to try some alternative therapies in conjunction with HRT, we've outlined the different options and alternative treatments.
Some of the non-hormonal options and natural remedies available for treating and managing menopause symptoms include diet changes, lifestyle modifications, therapeutic treatments and herbal remedies. And some of these lifestyle and dietary changes will have a knock-on impact in preventing other long-term health conditions.
Anyone affected by menopause symptoms should try eating a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding trigger foods
When it comes to diet, there are some foods that can trigger hot flushes and other menopause symptoms. It is important to work out what these foods are for you and avoid them as much as possible. Red meat, spicy foods, and processed foods can all be particularly troublesome. To help manage your symptoms, try reducing or eliminating these types of food from your diet.
Caffeine, fatty foods, and fast foods can also be triggers – so if you find yourself suffering from menopausal symptoms after eating these things, it could be worth cutting down on them too. Reducing the unhealthy foods you consume can also help prevent weight gain which lots of women experience during menopause.
Alcohol consumption should generally be avoided or cut down during menopause and perimenopause as it can aggravate symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia, and can also act as a trigger for hot flushes. If you do choose to drink, stick to no more than one or two drinks per day.
Make sure you're getting enough nutrients in your diet to look after your bone and heart health
Lower hormone levels in postmenopausal women can affect bone health and heart health. Make sure your diet is rich in beneficial nutrients that will help protect against things like heart disease and osteoporosis. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight will also be beneficial for your overall long-term health and quality of life.
Some of the important nutrients you should focus on include omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and vitamin D, phytoestrogens and fibre. A diet rich in these nutrients is important for heart health, bone health and overall health and wellbeing.
Scientific evidence shows that foods rich in omega-3, such as oily fish, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds, have anti-inflammatory effects and can reduce the risk of heart disease and blood clots. It's also important for menopausal people to get enough calcium in their diet to look after bone health. Lack of calcium combined with reduced oestrogen levels can lead to bone loss and cause osteoporosis. Good sources of calcium include dairy products and leafy green vegetables.
Vitamin-D is equally important in keeping bones strong. Foods rich in vitamin D include eggs, oily fish, mushrooms and fortified cereals. You should also try to spend time outdoors in the sunshine to boost vitamin D. Maybe this is the perfect reason to book a holiday somewhere sunny?
Phytoestrogens and fibre are important during menopause and perimenopause as they can help regulate hormone levels and reduce hot flushes, night sweats and other menopause symptoms. Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds found in soy products like tofu and tempeh as well as sesame, linseed and lentils. Good sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Keeping active with regular exercise helps manage menopausal symptoms
Lots of people report weight gain during menopause or whilst taking HRT, so eating a healthy, balanced diet and doing regular exercise is important to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of any adverse effects of menopause.
Whilst exercise itself has not been proven to reduce hot flushes, regular exercise is important for maintaining a healthy weight during menopause which can help reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flushes. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important to reduce the risk of heart disease and different types of cancer including breast cancer, colon cancer and endometrial cancer. Exercise, especially weight bearing exercise, can also strengthen your bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal people.
Regular exercise is important for mental health and wellbeing, and helps by boosting mood and lowering risk of depression. Yoga and meditation can be beneficial in helping to manage stress and anxiety levels.
Alternative therapies and holistic treatments have helped lots of people manage symptoms
Therapeutic treatments routed in Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as acupuncture and reflexology, work well as complementary therapy for menopause and may offer relief from some of the physical and emotional discomfort associated with menopause and perimenopause. Acupuncture is believed to help balance hormones, while reflexology can help to relieve menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disruption and feelings of anxiety and low mood.
It’s important to take care of your mental health during menopause. Make sure you're taking regular time for yourself, and do things that make you feel happy and relaxed. Having a strong support network of friends and family can help too – talking through your experiences can be incredibly beneficial. Mindfulness, behavioural therapy, relaxation therapy or techniques, and aromatherapy are other alternative therapies that can help ease the cognitive symptoms of menopause like brain fog, mood swings, feelings of anxiety and depression, and poor sleep quality.
Herbal treatments and natural remedies can also help manage menopausal symptoms
Finally, some herbal remedies such as black cohosh, red clover and evening primrose oil have been used for centuries to treat menopause symptoms. The question as to whether these remedies are effective is still up for debate, but some people swear by their ability to reduce hot flushes and generally manage menopause symptoms.
Herbal therapies have gained in popularity over the years, with many people adding natural supplements to their daily regimen. However, it is important to understand that these treatments should be used with caution and research. Generally, herbal therapies lack the strict regulation of prescription drugs and may vary in quality and safety.
There can also be risks associated with interactions between herbal therapies and other medications you're already taking (including hormone therapy). To stay safe while using herbal supplements, make sure to talk to your doctor about the products you are thinking of taking and discontinue all use of herbal extracts two weeks before any major surgery.
You should always speak to a doctor or healthcare professional about non-hormonal treatments to stop hot flushes and manage menopause symptoms.
To make sure the alternative treatment options will provide the best health benefits for your personal circumstances, speak with a menopause specialist about the therapy, herbal treatment or dietary changes you want to try. If you're a Fertifa Patient, get in touch with our menopause experts and doctors via our app.