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Hormone Replacement Therapy and Natural Alternatives for Menopause Symptoms

Many women hesitate to take Hormone Replacement Therapy. Learn about its risks and how Traditional Chinese Medicine can help with menopause symptoms.

Two middle-aged Asian women face each other to talk while sitting at a sofa.

Research shows that most Asian women view menopause as a part of the natural ageing process. This makes it easier for them to accept the challenges of menopause and believe their symptoms don’t require treatment like hormonal replacement therapy or HRT. 

Many women are also afraid of HRT after studies linked the treatment to blood clots, breast cancer, and heart disease. If these are real risks, why do doctors continue to prescribe them? 

Here are essential facts about hormone therapy and the natural remedies that you can explore as alternatives.

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy? 

Hormone replacement therapy involves taking medication containing female hormones. It compensates for decreased oestrogen production, effectively treating menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness

Doctors typically prescribe oestrogen-only HRT. But there’s a second type, combination HRT, which contains both oestrogen and progesterone or its synthetic form, progestin. 

Some online resources state that if the benefits outweigh the risks, hormone therapy may be advised if you are healthy and have the following menopausal symptoms:  
 

  • Moderate to severe hot flushes 
  • Vaginal dryness, itching, or burning  
  • Prevention of bone loss or fractures 
  • Menopause before age 45  

Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy 

Your healthcare provider will only prescribe hormone replacement therapy after weighing your risks. Your doctor will need to know your personal and family medical history, including your risk factors for the following:  
 

Oestrogen-progestin pill is linked to an increased risk of some of these conditions, but the topic needs additional research. Also, the risks, which vary from each person, can depend on the type of HRT, dosage, age, duration of HRT use, and family history. 

For instance, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports that hormone therapy is associated with a small risk of stroke and blood clots from deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The risk can increase with age and conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and obesity

However, ethnicity can also come into play. Asians have a lower risk of DVT, so the risk of blood clots from HRT may be lower, says an article in the Journal of South Asian Federation of Menopause Societies

Hormone therapy is an individualised treatment requiring periodic reassessment. Attend follow-up appointments if it has been prescribed. 

How Traditional Chinese Medicine Helps Menopausal Women

Young Asian doctor check the pulse of a patient.
Studies show that TCM can help improve menopause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.

Menopausal women who can’t take hormone therapy turn to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for symptom relief. 

TCM categorises menopause as a Kidney Deficiency and imbalance of yin and yang, so women need to nourish their Kidneys. TCM practitioners recommend consuming black-coloured foods like black beans, sesame seeds (hei zi ma, 黑芝麻), black fungus, and garlic. In addition, specific herbal preparations in capsules, powder, tea, or decoction can help restore the body’s balance. 

Registered TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling also says, “Many people prefer natural hormone therapy because it generally causes fewer side effects than synthetic hormones.” 

Phytoestrogens   

Physician Lim recommends plant oestrogens or phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms.

“Herbs such as white peony root (bai shao, 白芍) Chinese Angelica root, (dang gui, 当归), Anemarrhena asphodeloides (zhi mu, 知母), Radix bupleuri (chai hu, 柴胡), Chinese skullcap (huang qin, 黄芩) and horny goat weed (yin yang huo, 淫羊藿), contain phytoestrogens to help manage hot flushes during menopause.” 

TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling 

 
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant compounds that may have a weak oestrogenic effect on the body. Food like soybeans, flaxseed, lentils, and chickpeas contain phytoestrogens. 

A supplement like Menoease Pills contains soy isoflavones (isolated from soybeans), which may regulate hormonal balance. It may also help manage osteoporosis conditions during menopause. 

Physician Lim adds plants like false daisy (mo han lian, 墨旱莲) and glossy privet fruit (nu zhen zi, 女贞子) may “stimulate natural oestrogen effects without the adverse side effects that come with synthetic or animal oestrogen.” 

Chinese herbal formulas 

More research shows that Chinese herb formulations have the potential to alleviate menopausal symptoms They’re also considered gentler and safer on the body. 

  • Systematic reviews show that the Chinese medicine Kun Tai (坤泰) in a capsule can safely manage menopausal hot flashes with a lower risk of side effects. 
  • TCM physicians prescribe Liu Wei Di Huang pills (六味地黃丸) to relieve Kidney Yin Deficiency symptoms, such as a dry mouth and throat, hot flushes, and dry and itchy skin. A study suggests this herbal formulation can also alleviate postmenopausal osteoporosis development. 
  • You Gui pills ( 右归丸) are commonly used to treat symptoms of Kidney Yang Deficiency, such as cold limbs, frequent urination, and low mood. 
  • A study on mice suggests Yin Huo Tang (引火汤) alleviate menopause-like symptoms. 

Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine physician places acupuncture needles on a patient’s back.
Acupuncture can positively reduce hot flashes and improve sleep.

Research published in the Menopause journal suggests acupuncture can significantly reduce hot flashes and night sweats compared with no acupuncture. Furthermore, the benefit continued for the study’s participants at least six months after treatment.

Although uncommon, hormonal changes during menopause can cause nausea. If you’re experiencing this symptom, Physician Lim advises acupuncture at the nei guan (PC6, 內关) acupoint.

Live Your Best Life 

Menopause may be a natural process. But it doesn’t mean you must endure the symptoms, especially if the experience affects your quality of life. Instead, take advantage of the available choices. 

While hormone replacement therapy is the primary treatment for menopausal symptoms, TCM’s success in managing mild to moderate menopausal symptoms makes it a promising alternative to synthetic hormones. 

Work with your healthcare providers for a personalised approach to your menopausal symptoms. Talk to your doctor to determine if hormone replacement therapy is an option considering its potential risks. And consult with a registered TCM physician before taking any natural medicine. With their help, you can live your best life during menopause!  

Found this article on hormone replacement therapy helpful? Share it with someone who might be deciding on it.

References

  1. Mayo Clinic. 2022. Hormone therapy: Is it right for you? [online]  [Accessed on 14 April 2023]
  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2022. Hormone Therapy for Menopause. [online]  [Accessed on 14 April 2023]
  3. Journal of South Asian Federation of Menopause Societies. 2014. Menopause and the Asian Woman. [online]  [Accessed on 14 April 2023]
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017. Phytoestrogens Biomonitoring Summary. [online]  [Accessed on 14 April 2023]
  5. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2016. Chinese herbal medicine Kuntai capsule for treatment of menopausal syndrome: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. [online]  [Accessed on 14 April 2023]
  6. Plos One. 2019. Chinese herbal formulae for the treatment of menopausal hot flushes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. [online]  [Accessed on 14 April 2023]
  7. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2022. Yin Huo Tang, a traditional Chinese herbal formula, relives ovariectomy and empty bottle stimulation-induced menopause-like symptoms in mice. [online]  [Accessed on 14 April 2023]
  8. Climacteric. 2020. The treatment of menopausal symptoms by traditional Chinese medicine in Asian countries. [online]  [Accessed on 14 April 2023]
  9. Menopause. 2016. Acupuncture in Menopause (AIM) Study: A Pragmatic, Randomized Controlled Trial. [online]  [Accessed on 14 April 2023]
  10. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research. 2023. Study on the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis with quercetin in Liuwei Dihuang Pill based on network pharmacology. [online]  [Accessed on 14 April 2023] 

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