Treatments and Remedies Benefits and Disadvantages of Each

Menopausal women are faced with many choices in terms of treatment or remedies for these problems. Some of the treatment choices are experimentally proven to be effective and relatively harmless, while other options such as herbs, teas, and dietary supplements have not been subjected to scientific experimentation and have not been proven to be without harm.

Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) is the often-used medically prescribed treatment for menopausal and postmenopausal women. Although some studies have indicated a decreased risk of CHD and osteoporosis with ERT use, others have indicated it may increase the risk of breast cancer. The Women's Health Initiative, which was designed to study the effects of ERT on the health of elderly women, stopped the ERT part of the research in July 2002. The preliminary result of that study showed the risk of CHD was, in fact, increased in women on ERT.

Scientific investigations have shown that physical activity, including aerobic and muscular strengthening exercises, not only prevent bone mineral loss, they also help alleviate many menopausal symptoms, including the increased percentage of body fat, abdominal-fat storage, hot flashes, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.

Phytoestrogens, which are present in foods such as soy, red clover, flaxseed, and other beans and legumes, are natural plant estrogen-type chemicals that can help replace human estrogen without some of the risk factors of ERT. Epidemiological observations indicate that in some cultures where soy is a staple food, women do not suffer from hot flashes during and

Hormone replacement pills are used by some women to reduce the symptoms of menopause. According to the Women's Health Initiative, women who use a combination of estrogen and the synthetic hormone progestin increase their risk of developing breast cancer and heart disease. [Stephen Chernin/Getty Images. Reproduced by permission.]

Hormone replacement pills are used by some women to reduce the symptoms of menopause. According to the Women's Health Initiative, women who use a combination of estrogen and the synthetic hormone progestin increase their risk of developing breast cancer and heart disease. [Stephen Chernin/Getty Images. Reproduced by permission.]

after menopause. The results of human experiments designed to study the effect of soy products on alleviating symptoms during menopause are new and inconsistent, but promising. In addition, the isoflavones in soy products are strong antioxidants and may be effective in reducing the risk of CHD in women of menopausal age.

Herbal supplements promoted by the supplement industry to prevent hot flashes, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and other symptoms of menopause have not been scientifically studied, and since the chemical composition of these supplements is not always known, they may contain harmful substances. Thus, these kinds of supplements are not generally recommended for menopausal women.

isoflavones: estrogen-like compounds in plants antioxidant: substance that prevents oxidation, a damaging reaction with oxygen herbal: related to plants iron: nutrient needed for red blood cell formation saturated fat: a fat with the maximum possible number of hydrogens; more difficult to break down than unsaturated fats calorie: unit of food energy energy: technically, the ability to perform work; the content of a substance that allows it to be useful as a fuel diet: the total daily food intake, or the types of foods eaten fiber: indigestible plant material which aids digestion by providing bulk constipation: difficulty passing feces

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