What is hormone replacement therapy?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment for menopause symptoms that involves taking synthetic hormones (which are made in a laboratory rather than by the body). HRT can be estrogen taken alone or estrogen combined with another hormone, progestin. Some women have found that HRT can relieve symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and some urinary problems. However, HRT is not for everyone. New information from recent studies suggests that for most women, the risks of using HRT may outweigh the benefits. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of HRT.
Are other treatments available?
Yes. Medicines such as estrogen cream, low-dose antidepressants, soy products and certain herbal supplements may help ease some menopausal symptoms. Discuss these options with your doctor.
What are phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are plant-based substances found in some cereals, vegetables, beans and other legumes, and herbs. They may work in the body like a weak form of estrogen. Researchers are studying whether phytoestrogens can be used to relieve some symptoms of menopause. They are also studying the side effects caused by these substances.
Many soy products, such as tofu, tempeh, soymilk and soy nuts, are good sources of phytoestrogens. Some studies indicate that soy supplements may reduce hot flashes in women after menopause. However, the results haven’t been consistent.
There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the use of herbs that contain phytoestrogens to treat symptoms of menopause. This is also true of pills and creams made with these herbs. In addition, not enough is known about the risks of using these products. Herbs and supplements are not regulated in the way that medicines are. Some herbs and supplements can be harmful when combined with certain medicines. If you’re considering using any natural or herbal products to ease your symptoms, talk to your doctor first.
Should I avoid certain foods or drinks during menopause?
If you have hot flashes, you may want to avoid spicy or hot foods and drinks. These can trigger hot flashes. Alcohol can trigger hot flashes, too. It also interferes with bone growth and calcium absorption. Women who are going through menopause should avoid or limit alcohol.
Can my diet affect how well I sleep?
The following tips can help reduce sleep problems:
- Eat regular meals at regular times.
- Avoid late-night meals and heavy late-night snacks.
- Limit caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, chocolate and cola drinks. Caffeine stays in the bloodstream for up to 6 hours and can interfere with sleep.
- Avoid alcohol. It may make you feel sleepy, but it actually affects the cycle of REM and non-REM sleep. This may cause you to wake up throughout the night.
Help for hot flashes
- Turn your thermostat down. Sleep in a cool room.
- Dress in layers, so you can remove clothing when you get too warm.
- Wear cotton and other natural fabrics that "breathe" so you don't get overheated. Use cotton sheets on your bed.
- Drink cool water or other beverages when a hot flash starts.
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Find out what triggers your hot flashes and avoid them. Spicy foods, alcohol, tight clothing and hot humid weather are some common triggers.
See a list of resources used in the development of this information.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff