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Article by Belle McCaleb

Avoid HRT Risks - Use Natural Alternatives Instead

by Belle McCaleb ND, RN, MSS-C, BSN, RYT

Despite common admonitions by the medical fraternity evidence confirms HRT is NOT safe. 

A March 2015 Cochrane Review1 (a highly respected research library) looked at the effects of using hormone therapy for at least six months and involved more than 40,000 women across the world. Overall there was no evidence that HRT provides any protect effects against death from any cause including heart disease and increased the risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, stroke and deep vein thrombosis. Luckily we DO have safe, effective natural approaches for the management of menopausal symptoms, bone health and cardiovascular health in menopause.

The vasomotor symptoms of hot flushing and sweating respond to a program of herbal medicines and gut/liver detox in the majority of cases.  The herbs used will depend on the individual’s symptoms and history but in general they target support of the sex hormones, adrenal hormones and nervous system.  There are numerous estrogenic herbs that calm symptoms including Shatavari, Dong Quai, Sage and Hops.  Progestagenic herbs may also be used such as Chaste Tree, Pulatilla, Black Haw and Wild Yam.  The nervous system can be supported with many herbs including St John’s Wort, Lemon Balm, Zizyphus and Lavender.  The adrenals make stress coping hormones and are often “fatigued” in menopause due to compensation for the lack of sex hormones.  Herbs that support adrenal function include Siberian ginseng, Withania, Rehmannia and Rhodiola.  A good multivitamin & mineral formulation containing the B vitamins, Zinc, Magnesium supports hormone balance

In addition I often find it benefits women to undergo a gentle gut and liver “detox” using special probiotics, prebiotics, anti-microbial herbs and liver support herbal formulas.  This is particularly indicated if they are waking with hot flushes and sweating in the middle of the night.  We know that both the gut and liver are heavily endowed with “Clock genes”. These genes “switch on” the cellular detoxification processes.  If the gut and liver are congested due to bacterial overgrowth or other reasons the increased detoxification processes in the middle of the night result in increased heat and sweating. 

Lifestyle & dietary considerations are very important in menopause.  Regular gentle exercise such as brisk walking, gentle yoga or Tai Chi help to restore the adrenal balance, encourage bone health and are great “stress and flush” busters.  Avoiding foods and beverages that affect the liver/nervous system/adrenals is also important.  These include coffee, alcohol, sugar and all processed foods.  These foods are also acidic, predisposing to osteoporosis. Increasing foods that support liver function and gut health are important including lots of bitter green leafies, beetroot, carrot, lentils, legumes and whole grains if tolerated.  Having a plant based diet is also alkalinising which lowers the risk for osteoporosis and other disease processes including cancer. 

Bone health in menopause can be further supported with a combination of nutrients such as moderate calcium & magnesium supplementation backed up by Vitamin D and Vitamin K2.  It is very important to check your Vitamin D status and supplement if under 120 (despite the “normal range” starting at 60, optimal levels are closer to 120).  Do not assume going in the sun is sufficient as we must activate D twice in our body and many folks do not have good genes for this. As previously mentioned exercise, particularly weight bearing exercise such as Hatha Yoga or a gym routine is essential. As is a diet rich in alkalinising plant foods such as green leafies and other vegetables.

Cardiac disease in menopausal women kills more women than cancer and should not be ignored.  While the issue of total cholesterol levels remains controversial it is important to maximise your protective cholesterol (HDL) again through diet (increasing Omega 3 fatty acids) and lifestyle (exercise in particular).  Herbal medicines targeting liver and cholesterol production (such as Fringe Tree, Dandelion Root) can be very beneficial as can herbs that support vascular & heart health (such as Motherwort and Hawthorne). Stress management is also very, very important for cardiac health.  Finally, it is useful to have a cardiac risk profile done through your GP or naturopath.  This includes checking cholesterol levels as well as inflammatory markers & homocysteine levels which are implicated in cardiac disease.

1* Boardman HMP, Hartley L, Eisinga A, Main C, Roqué i Figuls M, Bonfill Cosp X, Gabriel Sanchez R, Knight B. Hormone therapy for preventing cardiovascular disease in post-menopausal women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 3 . Art. No.: CD002229. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002229.pub4.


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7 Apr 2015

Article/Information supplied by Belle McCaleb

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.