*Private healthcare schemes do not cover HRT as a treatment option, but please refer to your membership handbook for more information about other support available.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) might come to mind when talking about the menopause, with a lot of online information focussing on this as the main menopause treatment. However, for some women HRT isn’t for them, some might not be able to take it, and for others it might be a case that they’re unaware of the alternatives.
Nikki Porges, registered nurse in AXA Health’s 24/7 health support line for members, outlines what else is available, other than HRT, and helps to dispel some myths surrounding menopause treatments.
HRT is the only treatment
This is a misconception, as alternative treatments and therapies are available.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for example, can help some of the symptoms or can be an alternative for those women who can’t take HRT. It can help with any low moods or anxiety caused by the menopause, as well as insomnia and some physical symptoms such as joint pain.1
There are also non-hormonal medicines and pain relief, as well as herbal remedies, that can help with blood pressure2, low energy and hot flushes; particularly for those women who can’t take hormone treatments or choose not to.
Plant extracts such as St John’s wort may help reduce night sweats and red clover can be used to help alleviate symptoms associated with the decline in oestrogen production3. It’s however worth highlighting, that research studies have shown red clover needs to be taken for 6 months before any main relief is felt.
It’s also worth noting that many herbal remedies haven’t yet been scientifically proven to work, with a lot more research needed in this area to determine effectiveness.
Make sure to check with your GP before taking any remedies or herbal supplements, as some can react with other medicines you may be taking. Treatment options are on an individual basis and can be discussed with a GP to determine what is right for you.
Lifestyle and diet don’t make a difference
You might not think it, but our lifestyle choices and what we are eating can help minimise the effects of the menopause.
To support your heart health, try to keep saturated fat and salt intake low in order to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Also eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, to help strengthen the bones.
Royal Osteoporosis Society state foods rich in calcium include:
- Milk or milk drinks e.g. hot chocolate (skimmed/semi-skimmed/whole)
- Calcium fortified soya milk
- Yoghurt (low fat fruit, plain & calcium boosted soya)
- Steamed or fried tofu4
Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium from the foods that we eat so it’s important that there is a balance between the two. We mostly get vitamin D from sunlight throughout the year (we should spend at least 15 minutes, 3 times a week in the sun) and from foods such as oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals and breads.
>Find out more about which vitamins you need in our article: How much vitamins, minerals & supplements do women need?
With hormones changing and oestrogen levels dropping, there is also an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. So, a healthy diet is essential during this time including plenty of vegetables and fruit, green leafy vegetables, lean proteins, wholegrains and legumes.
Staying active and exercising regularly can help too. Not just physically but also mentally, as exercising can help some women who are experiencing stress and anxiety feel more positive.
Sleep and taking some time for yourself to relax can equally play an important role. With mood swings potentially taking hold, practicing some mindfulness can work wonders in keeping you in good mental health.
All treatment is the same
There definitely isn’t a one-size fits all approach when it comes to treating the symptoms of the menopause.
Every journey is different with some women experiencing completely different symptoms to their friends; so treatment plans need to be unique and tailored to each woman individually.
It might sound obvious but talking to others going through the same process can really help. Getting support from loved ones can help to eliminate any feelings of loneliness or there might be support groups at work, in the local area, or online, where experiences can be shared.
Friends and family too can help support or just be there to listen when you need them.