Alternative Perimenopause Treatments

If you've been experiencing symptoms of perimenopause and you've received a positive diagnosis, you might want to consider some of these alternative treatments.

What about bioidenticals?

You may have heard Oprah, Suzanne Sommers and other celebrities touting the use of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). Bioidentical hormones are derived from plant steroids and chemically processed so that their chemical structure is the same as the hormones found in the human body.

FDA-regulated bioidentical hormones are available by prescription. However, those made at special compounding pharmacies are not approved by the FDA. These preparations are custom made for an individual woman’s hormonal need, often based on a saliva sample.

Advocates claim bioidenticals are natural, safer and more effective than the synthetic hormones used in conventional HRT. But the FDA states there are no studies to support such claims. Like HRT, BHRT may put women at risk for heart disease, stroke, breast cancer and endometrial cancer. The FDA states there is “no sound evidence showing that the side effects and risks of compounded BHRT drugs that use estrogen and progesterone as active ingredients are different than those of similarly formulated FDA-approved menopausal hormone therapy drugs.”

The jury is still out, but a study is under way at the University of Kansas to determine the safety of using "natural" or bioidentical hormones.

Alternative therapies

Much also has been written about herbal preparations and supplements to relieve symptoms. Many women believe that because herbals are natural, they are safe. However, like conventional medicines, herbals act biochemically to produce a response in the human body. They can have series side effects, and many can be dangerous if taken with either other herbs or medications.

Despite claims that herbal medicines provide relief from hot flashes, a clinical study funded by the National Institutes of Health found no significant difference between the number of daily hot flashes and/or night sweats in certain herbal supplement groups when compared to a placebo group. The herbal therapy groups studied included:

  • Black cohosh
  • A multibotanical supplement, including black cohosh, alfalfa, boron, chaste tree, dong quai, false unicorn, licorice, oats, pomegranate and Siberian ginseng
  • A multibotanical supplement plus diet counseling to increase consumption of foods containing soy

Some women claim to find relief from hot flashes taking vitamin E supplements. According to the Mayo Clinic, improvement may be minimal for mild hot flashes. But they warn that taking more than 400 international units of vitamin E supplements daily may not be safe.

For a list of the pros and cons of various types of treatments, visit the Endocrine Foundation’s website at http://www.hormone.org/Menopause/pros_and_cons.cfm.

Before embarking on any treatment or taking a product, consult with your physician.