As promised, this week’s column is a continuation of some work I have done in the interest of women’s health.  My last column discussed the perils of pre-menopause and menopause for women and the need for hormonal balance.  We also explored the Women’s Health Initiative, a landmark study that was cancelled last summer due to the health risks associated with HRT (hormone replacement therapy).  Being blessed with early menopausal symptoms myself, I have a vested interest in finding the healthiest ways to get my body in shape for the rest of my life and maybe you too can benefit from my curiosity.

For obvious reasons, women everywhere are drawn to studying natural alternatives to HRT.  There are several viable alternatives, but why don’t we hear about them without doing a lot of digging?  Why don’t our mainstream medical professionals tell us about the natural alternatives?  I do not particularly subscribe to conspiracy theories and generally furrow my brows when I hear them; however, just a little bit of common sense will make you think about this issue.  Mainstream medicine remains skeptical about natural alternatives to HRT because there is very little published data available to doctors about the efficacy of intrinsic natural hormones like progesterone, for example.  There is little data because there are very few clinical trials.  There are few clinical trials because there is no funding.  There is no funding because most funding for clinical trials is done by pharmaceutical giants with the hope and promise of billions of dollars in return from patents owned by them on the drugs being studied.  Natural hormones cannot be ‘owned’ under a patent, so the injection of millions of research dollars by the pharmaceutical companies simply will not happen.  Synthetic HRT is extremely profitable to the pharmaceutical companies, so they push doctors to prescribe the drugs manufactured by the sponsoring companies.

Without the clinical data available, women are forced to come upon information about natural alternatives as best they can.  There are very few double-blind, randomized studies on alternative therapies.  This negates their promise in allopathic physicians’ minds in many cases.  Having made that disclaimer, here is some information on what have been for me very beneficial alternatives to HRT.  Many women have used these therapies for many years very effectively, and I suggest that you explore them for yourself and discover what works best for you.

In 30 clinical trials that they performed, researchers from George Washington University and Columbia University found that black cohosh and foods that contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) are effective in reducing hot flashes and night sweats.  Black cohosh is an herb traditionally used by Native Americans to treat a variety of gynecological disorders.  Other sources for phytoestrogens are flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, soy, clover, and alfalfa.  Phytoestrogens contain among other things chemicals called isoflavones which act like weak estrogens in the body.  They are used primarily to reduce cholesterol, protect against heart disease risk, help prevent osteoporosis, and decrease anxiety, according to nutrition expert Ann Louise Gettleman.  Black cohosh has been used widely in Germany for over 50 years in the treatment of hot flashes.  Studies were performed there in the 1980’s to prove its effectiveness.

One of the components of HRT is progesterone.  The problem with it in HRT is the form that is present.  As stated above, naturally-occurring substances cannot be patented, so synthetic forms of hormones were developed to make the cash register ring.  Progesterone in a natural form is very beneficial to the body, and should be investigated by every pre-menopausal and menopausal woman.  Find Dr. John Lee’s books, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause and What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Pre-Menopause.  These books give detailed and sometimes quite technical information about natural progesterone.  Natural progesterone starts with a plant extract and through several steps is converted to a substance that has the same molecular structure and properties as the progesterone produced by the body. It is used in a cream form which is applied to the body usually in the throat and face area for maximum absorption.  According to the Health Science Research Institute, some of the benefits of natural progesterone are that it helps use fat for energy, facilitates thyroid hormone action, is a natural antidepressant, is a natural diuretic, normalizes blood sugar levels, restores libido, helps prevent endometrial cancer, and helps protect against breast cancer.

It is much easier sometimes for someone to give us a magic pill and take away our personal responsibility for our own good health.  The maze of alternative therapies can sometimes be staggering, but at the end of the maze is a healthy, wholesome life that is uncomplicated by synthetic chemicals that do us harm.  There is no magic pill and the responsibility for your health lies with you.  Do some extra work and discover what is going on in the realm of natural alternatives to HRT.  Treat your body well.