Menopause: how well do medications, chasteberry & Co. help?

Menopause: how well do medications, chasteberry & Co. help?

The menopause (climacteric) is a phase of hormonal changes in the body, which is particularly associated with reduced production of estrogen and progesterone. The latter belongs to the group of progestins, the so-called luteal hormones. For many women, the change is accompanied by various physical and sometimes also psychological complaints. These include  hot flashes , tiredness, vaginal dryness or  depressive  moods.

What are the options for alleviating the symptoms that can occur during menopause? From classic hormone replacement therapy to herbal remedies to lifestyle changes, we’ve looked at different methods of relieving menopausal symptoms.

In the case of severe symptoms during menopause, therapy with synthetically produced hormones can be carried out. As a rule, it is a combination therapy in which both estrogens and progestins, which include progesterone, are used. The medication is taken either in the form of tablets or capsules or locally, for example in the form of hormone gel or hormone patches.

Treatment with only estrogens (monotherapy) is less common, since this form of therapy can lead to proliferation of the uterine lining. The exception here is the local application of estrogen-containing ointments or suppositories to treat vaginal dryness.

Hormone replacement therapy can cause numerous side effects, such as water retention (edema) or  nausea . In addition, when hormone therapy is carried out over a longer period of time, the risk of certain diseases such as thrombosis or  breast cancer can  increase. The use of hormones during menopause is therefore controversial and should only be done after a thorough risk/benefit assessment together with the gynaecologist.

Bioidentical hormones are semi-synthetically produced hormones. This means that some of the substances needed to produce the hormones are obtained from plants such as soybeans or yams. This results in the naming “bioidentical”.

However, bioidentical hormones do not necessarily have fewer side effects than synthetically produced hormones. They are often created individually for affected women on prescription, so there is usually no official control. Intensive medical advice is therefore extremely important when taking bioidentical hormones.

Monk’s pepper  is used as a phytotherapeutic agent during  menopause  . The term phytotherapy is another name for herbal medicine.

There is scientific evidence for the effect of chaste tree during menopause, even if the studies are only partially meaningful due to the small number of people examined. In a smaller study with 178 participants, after three months of taking a chaste tree extract, some menopausal symptoms, such as mood swings and headaches, improved.

Unless otherwise prescribed, preparations containing monk’s pepper are taken once a day in the form of a capsule or tablet. In rare cases, side effects in the form of allergic reactions may occur.

Schuessler salts contain minerals such as magnesium phosphate or calcium fluoride in homeopathic doses, i.e. heavily diluted. The tablets are intended to help with menopause, for example, against hot flashes or to improve the function of the mucous membranes, which are thinned by the lack of estrogen.

Homeopathic remedies are also often used during menopause, especially for hot flashes,  sleep disorders  or mood swings. In addition to individual homeopathic remedies, complex remedies are also used. The combination of several active ingredients is intended to alleviate several complaints at the same time. However, the effect of Schuessler salts or homeopathic remedies has not yet been scientifically proven.

Jiaogulan is a gourd native to southern China. There it is also referred to as the “herb of immortality”.  The leaves are dried and can be drunk as a sweet-tart  tea .

In addition to saponins, Jiaogulan contains a high proportion of flavonoids. Both plant substances have a positive effect on health.  Animal experiments and experiments in the laboratory have shown positive effects on blood sugar or inflammatory processes in the body , among other things  . So far, there is no scientifically proven connection to the relief of menopausal symptoms. In addition, there are no studies on the observed effects in humans.

In Germany Jiaogulan is considered a “novel food”. Foods with jiaogulan are therefore not yet approved.

Various herbal remedies can be used for menopausal symptoms, which are so-called phytoestrogens. These phytochemicals are similar to estrogen in their chemical structure. Isoflavones from soya or soya extract are used particularly frequently for treatment, but also preparations from  red clover  or black cohosh.

A meta-analysis of 62 scientific studies on the effectiveness of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms found that taking soy-based phytoestrogens improved the frequency of hot flashes and problems with vaginal dryness compared to placebos. The results of taking remedies with black cohosh and red clover, on the other hand, were less clear – in some cases the symptoms improved, in others no effects could be determined.

However, the studies sometimes had qualitative deficiencies, which is why their informative value is limited. In addition, it has not been investigated whether long-term intake of phytoestrogens can cause side effects.

Extracts from pomegranate or capsules with pomegranate seed oil are repeatedly promoted as a means of relieving  menopausal symptoms  . Long-term studies on possible effects are not yet available. However, in a study by the Medical University of Vienna with 81 women over a period of three months, no improvements in hot flashes could be found by taking preparations with pomegranate seed oil.

Lady’s mantle belongs to the rose family. In addition to tannins and essential oils, the plant also contains vegetable progesterone, which has a chemical structure similar to that in the human body. As a tea during menopause, lady’s mantle is said to have a positive effect on the occurrence of hot flashes and mood swings.

The recommended daily dose is two to three cups of tea. The tannins can cause nausea in people with sensitive stomachs. Even if you have  high blood pressure  , the consumption of the drink should be clarified by a doctor, since lady’s mantle promotes blood circulation.

A healthy lifestyle can also help alleviate some of the symptoms during menopause. A healthy and balanced diet and drinking enough fluids help with skin problems. Since the energy requirement decreases during menopause and muscle mass decreases, a slight change in diet with less fat and sugary foods can also have positive effects here   – also to avoid weight gain.

Sport also helps to increase energy requirements and gain muscle mass. Physical activity also reduces  stress  and helps against insomnia. Special pelvic floor exercises can counteract bladder weakness.

Even with depressive moods, sport and a healthy diet can help to increase well-being again.

The psyche and soul also often need special attention during the menopause. Relaxation techniques, such as progressive  muscle relaxation , yoga, or meditation, are good ways to counteract irritability and nervousness, and to reduce stress. In the case of serious psychological problems, however, medical advice should always be sought.

Proper skin care during menopause is particularly important because the skin stores less water due to hormonal changes. As a result, it becomes drier and loses elasticity. Itching  can also  occur. Moisturizing wash lotions and the use of mild, moisturizing creams once or twice a day support the regeneration of the skin.

In addition, drink a lot. About two liters of water, juice spritzers or unsweetened teas per day are ideal during the menopause (and beyond). The use of sunscreen with a higher sun protection factor and avoidance of intense sunlight can also prevent the formation of pigment spots.

 

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