Many women will experience a variety of symptoms associated with their perimenopause years. Perhaps the most commonly discussed symptom is hot flashes. Since estrogen therapy is not always an option, especially if you are at high risk for reproductive cancers or are at elevated risk for stroke or blood clots, you may want to consider alternatives. There are options other than estrogen therapy that can make your transition through menopause more manageable.
Consider Herbal Supplements
There are several herbal supplements that may alleviate hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. One of these is black cohosh. Since there are some concerns regarding taking black cohosh for an extended period, you may want to try the supplement for a few months and give yourself a break for several months. A similar sounding herbal supplement, blue cohosh, may be advertised as being useful for gynecological concerns. Unfortunately, blue cohosh has been associated with toxicity and it is important to avoid confusing the two supplements.
Wild yam is another supplement that is taken to reduce hot flashes. Wild yam by itself may not be useful in alleviating symptoms, but preparations that contain added progestin may have some benefits. Before trying any supplement, make sure you speak with your doctor about possible drug interactions, especially if you are taking medications that may raise serotonin levels. Antidepressants are one type of medication that frequently interacts with herbal supplements, increasing the risk of serotonin syndrome. Since the idea behind taking supplements is alter your hormones and alleviate symptoms, not all supplements are ideal if you have an elevated risk or previous history of reproductive cancers.
Try Plant-Based Estrogens
If you cannot take estrogen because of an elevated risk of cancer, it is not a good idea to increase plant-based estrogens in your diet. For women who are simply not an ideal candidate for estrogen therapy due to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risk factors, plant-based estrogens may be an appropriate alternative. Since it is difficult to consume enough phytoestrogens that would mimic hormonal therapy, eating a diet richer in soy products should be an acceptable alternative.
Talk with your doctor to be sure. Your doctor may want you to have periodic check-ups to determine if there is any correlation between increased phytoestrogens and changes in your blood work, blood pressure, or other markers associated with increased health risks. Some easy ways to increase the amount of phytoestrogens in your diet is to swap some or all of your milk products with soy milk. Learning to make your own baked edamame snacks is another option. Since you can alter the recipe to your liking, you can create sweet or savory snacks with an added boost of phytoestrogens.
Use Prescription Medications
Fortunately, the options for prescription medications to improve hot flashes are not limited to estrogen therapy. Some of the medications used for hot flashes were originally created to manage mental health concerns, such as depression. This can be off-putting for some women because they may feel like their doctor is implying their symptoms are imaginary. Do not feel this way. Since these medications have effects on the brain and central nervous system, they can often double as a method of reliving some types of pain and other symptoms that may be attributed to chemical imbalances.
If you are also dealing with depression or anxiety during perimenopause, you may find medications, such as venlafaxine, are effective at improving both problems. Venlafaxine works by increasing the availability of both serotonin and norepinephrine so they can reach receptor sites. Since there are multiple medications that are members of the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) class of antidepressants, each with their own mechanism of action, if one does not work, consider trying a different SNRI.
For some women, the perimenopausal years can last upwards of a decade. There is no reason to simply tolerate symptoms and hope they will pass. A combination of lifestyle changes and medical intervention can be used to improve hot flashes. For more information, contact a facility such as Bay Area Women's Care.