Why Worry About HRT?
With HRT hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons at the moment, it’s not surprising that many women are confused and worried about they’re going to to get through their menopause. Over the past few weeks, there have been stories about the nationwide shortage of HRT due to supply chain issues. These are predicted to continue until next year, forcing users to switch from brands that suit them to others which may not, or to come off HRT altogether. And in the news today we’ve been hearing that once again, there are concerns about the risk of breast cancer increasing significantly even 10 years after stopping HRT. It’s very hard to know what to do, and many women are starting to ask: “what’s the alternative to HRT?”.
Why Women Are Looking For Alternatives To HRT
As a Medical Herbalist, I’ve worked with hundreds of women struggling with their menopausal symptoms over the past 20 years. Some are already on HRT but just need a little extra help. Some have concerns about side effects, others are worried about the ethics around their manufacture, and the potential environmental impacts. And increasingly at the moment, women are coming to see me they simply can’t get HRT in the first place! Deciding how to manage any menopausal symptoms is a very personal decision, and whatever my patients wish to do, I support them unconditionally. But since we’re facing these issues at the moment, I’d like to explain a little about how herbal medicine can help.
Herbal Alternatives To HRT
Personally, I don’t believe that women were ever meant to become dependent upon HRT when they reach menopause, although I appreciate that it’s a lifeline for many of us. When we look at the way our hormones interact and balance themselves in order to keep us functioning day to day, it’s all incredibly intricate. Hormone balance is very easily disturbed by sudden trauma, chronic stress, nutritional deficiencies and a whole host of other factors. We’re all wonderfully unique and realising that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to menopause doesn’t work for everyone, is leading more women to try herbal approaches instead. Each Medical Herbalist will have a range of herbs used over hundreds of years to help women through menopause. I listen carefully to each woman as they tell me about what’s going on for them, and piece together what’s going on to cause their symptoms. I then blend together about 6-7 herbs to treat both the individual symptoms and the underlying imbalances at the same time. The medicine is personalised to the patient, and the prescription can be easily changed as time goes by, until she feels well enough to manage without it altogether. As well as the medicine, I also offer moral support, some health coaching and nutrition advice, all of which help patients to feel more in control of their situation. That in itself can be really empowering, especially for those who feel misunderstood by family, friends, and colleagues.
How Medical Herbalists Can Help With Menopause
I look at all aspects that may be influencing hormone balance during menopause, and of course, stress is often a huge factor. Many of my menopause prescriptions contain an adaptogen, which will help the body out of its stress response even when a stressful situation is still ongoing. The one I choose will depend on where the stress is impacting upon health. Shatavari is a good choice where low libido is a problem, or Eleuthro could be used where immunity is being affected. Nervines are another group of herbs which work well alongside adaptogens, but have a more direct effect upon the nervous system and mental health. I have a whole armoury which can quickly help deal with insomnia, anxiety, depression, brain fog and just about everything in between.
Many plants contain phytosterols which have a weaker hormonal action than HRT and help to gently fine-tune hormone balance. There are several different kinds, all of which work in a different way, and some are even used to make mainstream HRT. There are some forms which you can easily include in your diet, and others which are mostly found in medicinal herbs, but they’re invaluable in helping to address any imbalance at grass roots level.
Herbs For The Symptoms Of Menopause
So we use phytosterols to regain hormone balance, and nervines and adaptogens to work more indirectly, but we can also use herbs to target individual symptoms. You may have heard of using Sage to treat hot flushes, and it’s generally very effective for that but we have other herbs for other symptoms too. Motherwort is specific for the palpitations which can often come with menopause, and Black Cohosh is sometimes used to treat muscle and joint pains. I say ‘sometimes’ because it’s important to match the right herbs to the person, and that’s why an over-the-counter herbal remedy will work well for some women, and make others feel worse. That’s also why it’s a good idea to see a Medical Herbalist to have a treatment tailored to you, taking into account any other health issues, or medication you’re currently taking.
Menopause Success Stories
Herbal treatment works faster than you think! Here are just a few examples of how it’s quickly helped some of my patients
with their menopause:
· One lady going through early menopause was struggling with heavy bleeding and on the waiting list for a hysterectomy as a result. After just a few weeks of treatment, the heavy bleeding had resolved and she decided to cancel her surgery.
· A nurse I worked with recently was finding that her energy levels were being severely impacted because she was getting around 20 hot flushes and night sweats every 24 hours. Within 6 weeks, they’d all gone.
· Another had brain fog and fatigue which was affecting her performance at work, and to care for her family. This improved by 70% within 4 weeks.
So what’s the alternative to HRT? Herbs! They’ve been tried and tested over thousands of years, and generations of your family would have used them. Get in touch now to book your first appointment either in person or by telemedicine.