Menopause is the permanent end of a woman’s menstrual periods. Menopause can occur naturally or be caused by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. A woman is said to have completed natural menopause when she has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. For American women, this typically happens at around age 51 or 52.
Some symptoms that women experience as they age are related to menopause and decreased activity of the ovaries. Other symptoms may be related to aging in general. For decades, menopausal hormone therapy was a widely used treatment for menopausal symptoms, but findings from the Women’s Health Initiative raised serious concerns about the long-term safety of menopausal hormone therapy. Natural products or mind and body practices are sometimes used in an effort to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Here are 4 things to know if you are considering a complementary health practice for menopausal symptoms:
- Mind and body practices such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong, hypnosis, and acupuncture may help reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms. Researchers looked at mind and body therapies for menopausal symptoms and found that yoga, tai chi, and meditation-based programs may be helpful in reducing common menopausal symptoms including the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, sleep and mood disturbances, stress, and muscle and joint pain.
- Many natural products, such as black cohosh, soy isoflavone supplements, and DHEA, have been studied for their effects on menopausal symptoms, but scientists have found little evidence that they are helpful. There is also no conclusive evidence that the herbs red clover, kava, or dong quai reduce hot flashes.
- Natural products used for menopausal symptoms can have side effects and can interact with other botanicals or supplements or with medications. For example, United States Pharmacopeia experts suggest that women should discontinue use of black cohosh and consult a health care provider if they have a liver disorder or develop symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal pain, dark urine, or jaundice. Also, concerns have been raised about the safety of DHEA because it is converted in the body to hormones, which are known to carry risks.
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.