So many women that we speak to tell us the same thing - they went to the doctor when they started experiencing symptoms of menopause (whether they knew that’s what it was or not), and they were told to go on HRT.
It’s important to point out before we go any further, that we don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking HRT. If that’s what you’re happy with and it works for you, that’s wonderful. However, there are lots of women who don’t want to go down that route.
Nonetheless, if menopausal symptoms are feeling overwhelming, or even just annoying, then it can feel as though there’s no alternative. The question is, is there?
What is HRT?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is often prescribed to menopausal women to help ease the symptoms of menopause. It works by artificially replacing the hormones that a woman's body no longer produces naturally.
There are two main hormones used in HRT:
Some women take both, others are given oestrogen-only HRT, although the NHS notes that this is usually only in the case of a hysterectomy.
HRT is usually taken either in tablet form, as skin patches, in the form of a topical gel, as an implant which lasts up to five years, as a vaginal cream, pessary or ring. It is also either taken in a cycle or continuously.
Why do some women want to avoid HRT?
Some women simply don’t like the idea of taking HRT, and want to try to let their body do its thing naturally with as little medical intervention as possible. To some extent this will depend on your personal preferences, and to some extent it might be affected by how extreme your menopausal symptoms are.
However, for some women it is deemed unsuitable, most notably if you have a history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, womb cancer or other hormone-sensitive cancers. However, that’s a very generalised statement, so it’s always best to discuss your options and the particulars of your situation with your doctor or your oncologist.
For example, one of our MPlus models, Penny, took HRT after she had a medical menopause caused by cancer treatment, and decided it was the right path for her.
What are potential alternatives to HRT?
Different people find that different things work for them, and it’s ok to explore a little to find your rhythm.
Dionne, who we interviewed about her menopause experience, favoured diet, saying:
“Create a pharmacy at home using nutrition. I never thought I would be so focused on food, but I really think it helps navigate the menopause journey. I have noticed that sugar makes me itch and that tofu is like collagen for me.”
“I just take supplements and try to control it like that.”
Diet to ease menopausal symptoms
Diet is always a good place to start when it comes to influencing our overall wellbeing, not because you’re being unhealthy in the first place, but because it’s such a rich source of opportunity when it comes to meeting our body’s needs. Our nutritional needs change over time - we know that when we’re unwell for example we will crave some things and not others.
In the initial instance, a generally healthy diet as well as reducing alcohol, caffeine and refined sugar intake can help with how we’re feeling overall. Caffeine and alcohol in particular can make things like hot flashes feel worse.
The other thing you can explore with your diet is phytoestrogens or plant hormones. They are plant-based compounds that mimic oestrogen in the body, and there is evidence to suggest that they reduce the frequency of hot flushes in menopausal women. Foods that tend to be high in phytoestrogens include things like soy beans, tofy, wheat and oats. You can find a more comprehensive list in our free menopause guide.
Phytohormones can also be used in skincare products - more on that in a moment.
Complementary therapies for menopause
Spa treatments and complementary therapies are another way to help manage some of the unwanted consequences of menopause, either alongside medical support or in their own right. Either way, the’re always a good way to help you feel good, which can only be a wonderful thing. While there’s no limit on which therapies and treatments you can benefit from, these are some of the ones that have stood out amongst the women we work with:
- Acupuncture: Some women have found that acupuncture can help with hot flushes, sweating, mood swings, sleep disturbance, skin and hair problems caused by hormonal changes.
- Reflexology: Reflexology is one of our favourite treatments and is a great way to help ease anxiety and improve your mood.
- Aromatherapy: Essential oils are a powerful tool when it comes to wellness, which is why we include them in our MPlus menopause skincare collection.
- Massage: Anxiety is a commonly cited issue amongst menopausal women, and massage can go a long way to easing that, even temporarily.
Naturally occurring oestrogen in skincare
As mentioned, plant hormones including phytoestrogens, are known to help ease menopausal symptoms, which is why we have included them in our MPlus skincare collection. With a greater focus on menopause, more research is beginning to be done, and there is an increased use of phytoestrogens in products in general.
There are lots of natural sources of oestrogen that we can draw on to help balance hormones during menopause. For example, we often use soy, evening primrose oil, sunflower seeds and geranium oil, all of which are great for the skin in their own right but are also super powered with phytohormones.
Finding what’s best for you and your wellbeing
What we are generally finding is that for many women there’s no such thing as a single solution. Menopausal symptoms can occur at any time over a 20 year period, often fluctuating in intensity. How you manage those symptoms can be a bit of trial and error, but the point is that there are options available and lots of women do manage it without going on HRT.
While some people find that one or another form of treatment works for them, many find that a combination of medical and holistic therapies help to calm menopause symptoms and then go on to become a very healthy and supportive way of life.
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