Hot Flashes, Hormones and Help For Menopause

by Symptom Advice on August 17, 2011

“You’ve haven’t lived until you’ve broken a sweat in 10-degree weather,” says Bruns, laughing.

Her psychological discomfort was almost as unsettling as the physical symptoms of perimenopause, the period preceding the onset of menopause.

“I was caught up short. I was so young and now I was grappling with that ‘old lady’ thing,” says Bruns, now 52, a Ridgefield resident.

Each day, 6,000 women enter menopause, defined as a woman’s final period. but unlike their mothers or even older sisters, they are less likely to be prescribed hormone replacement therapy. in the 1990s, hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, was the standard treatment to relieve hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

Between 1999 and 2002, about a quarter of all women older than 40 were taking hormones, according to the National Women’s Health Network. but a 2002 study, since challenged, linked HRT to higher rates of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke, changed the dynamic.

Today, most menopausal women don’t undergo hormone replacement therapy, says Dr. Amy Johnson, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Hartford Hospital.

Despite the hot flashes, night sweats and just plain sleepless nights, like many women Bruns decided to go it alone, endure perimenopause and menopause without hormones.

“I never thought about hormone replacement therapy because information about HRT was all over map,” Bruns says.

Although Bruns’ symptoms were annoying, they weren’t debilitating. they never got to the point where they prevented her from raising her family or re-entering the workforce.

“My symptoms weren’t keeping me from anything,” she says. “I had a lot of distractions. Raising three teenagers and going back to work.”

Alternative Therapies

While Bruns eschewed hormone replacement therapy, she tried everything else.

“I was a complete consumer,” says Bruns. “I took black cohosh. I tried mega-doses of vitamins. I rubbed wild yam cream into my thighs. I purchased every book on menopause. if nothing else it kind of helps you know you’re not alone.”

There are myriad over-the-counter remedies, but results vary. Some women swear that black cohosh or other herbs have helped ease symptoms. in many cases, studies have proved inconclusive or researchers suspect the placebo effect. whether you’re considering adding phytoestrogens, herbal supplements or vitamins to your diet, the bottom line is first check with your health care provider.

Here’s what’s available, according to the North American Menopause Society.

Black Cohosh: This over-the-counter herb has shown some ability to ease hot flashes, but the jury is still out. a couple of small trials show some benefit. Larger trials show no benefit, Hartford Hospital’s Johnson says.

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