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Alternative Therapies for Menopause with Dr. Lila Nachtigall

What is menopause and what are its symptoms?

Menopause is the occurrence 12 months after your last menstrual period and marks the end of a woman's menstrual cycle.

Menopause is a natural biological process that can cause many symptoms, including:

  • Hot flashes - A hot flash is a very sudden feeling of having a fever that often leads to sweating. Hot flashes are the most frequent and tell-tale symptoms of menopause. In general, they become less severe as menopause passes.
  • Insomnia - During menopause, insomnia is likely caused by discomfort associated with hot flashes. It can also be caused by hormonal changes and mood swings or instances of depression.
  • Emotional instability - Many women are likely to experience depression during menopause. This is sometimes linked to a loss in essential hormones such as estrogen.
  • Anxiety - A drop in estrogen has a connection with emotional and mental well-being during menopause. During menopause, symptoms of anxiety vary from woman to woman.
  • Feelings of sadness and loss - Feelings of sadness and loss are also associated with hormonal changes during menopause. Many women compare this to feelings of intense grieving.

Generally, these symptoms are treated with HRT, also known as hormone therapy, menopausal therapy, and estrogen replacement therapy. In these instances, the doctor uses female hormones like estrogen and progesterone to treat common symptoms of menopause. It is the most effective for this condition which, up until about two years ago, was the only approved therapy for menopausal symptoms.

The FDA had only approved this treatment for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia.

An antidepressant to treat hot flashes?

About two years ago, a drug was studied which was similar to an SSRI, or a commonly prescribed type of antidepressant, which did not work as an antidepressant, but did in fact work to cease hot flashes. In low 7.5mg doses, Paroxetine, the drug in question used typically for depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders, did not have the same side effects of the higher dose antidepressants, but it did in many cases help with flashes.

The FDA has approved the aforementioned usage of Paroxetine as an alternative therapy for menopause. Although there are many over the counter substances that are used as alternative treatments, they are not approved drugs and those that have been actually studied don't work any better than a placebo. But if they are not harmful, and work for women, then there's nothing wrong with it.

Some studies have been conducted on over the counter soy-based products made from tofu and their effectiveness in managing symptoms, and that has been shown in studies to be effective against hot flashes, though not as effective as estrogen, but somewhat effective. Another study was done to see if it increased blood clotting and the good news is, it did not increase any clotting. 

What can I do about my menopause symptoms?

If you're suffering from menopausal symptoms, speak with your doctor to find out what kind of treatment is right for you. Check in with your doctor frequently to manage symptoms and report any changes in your physical and mental health during menopause.