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Menopause symptions affect women in different ways. Up to 7 in 10 women going through the menopause suffer from hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings while and 6 in 10 experience insomnia or vaginal dryness.
Most symptoms can be traced back to diminishing oestrogen levels and many of us are searching for hormone-free treatment alternatives to HRT.
We've rounded up 6 of the best hormone-free treatment options for some of the most bothersome menopause symptoms. From dryness to sleeplessness; hot flushes to hair loss, we've got you covered: no prescription necessary.
For Overall Wellbeing: Optimise Your Diet
Want a smooth ride through menopause? Then a healthy diet should be your top priority. You've probably been told to cut out cappuccinos, curries and Cosmopolitans, but what should you eat? Consuming plenty of plant-based foods rich in phytoestrogens, which mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body, may ease menopause symptoms. "Some research indicates a drastic drop in hot flashes for women eating a phytoestrogen-rich diet," says Dr. Axe, a clinical nutritionist and doctor of natural medicine.
Phytoestrogens are found in soy beans and soya products like tofu and tempeh, as well as lentils, chickpeas, oats and barley. Foods rich in essential fatty acids, zinc, calcium and vitamin E, such as almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, help fight joint pain, dry skin, brittle hair and vaginal dryness, whilst tryptophan-rich cottage cheese, oats and beans can ease mood and sleep problems.
For Mood Swings: Supplements
Evidence on the effectiveness of supplements is mixed. However, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, ‘alternative preparations' may reduce menopause symptoms by 50-60% (versus 80-90% for HRT). Popular herbal supplements include sage, red clover, black cohosh, pine bark and St. John's Wort.
Evidence is strongest for improvements in mood, sleep and overall quality of life. However, soy isoflavone and folic acid supplements have also been found to reduce hot flushes by up to 65%. Menosan Menopause Support, £12.09 for 60 capsules, is one of Amazon's bestselling supplements. It contains isoflavones derived from fermented soy, magnesium and hibiscus. Users typically report feeling brighter, more alert and more emotionally stable within a few days of taking their first tablet, with many enjoying better sleep and suffering fewer hot flushes.
For Insomnia: Exercise
You probably know you should be exercising three times a week, but here's one more reason to close that gap between intention and action: regular aerobic exercise (think running, swimming, dancing, cycling or even brisk walking) has been proven to improve sleep quality and mood in menopausal women, reducing the incidence of insomnia and depression. Don't fancy pounding the pavements? Researchers at the University of Washington say weekly yoga sessions can reduce the frequency of hot flushes by up to a third. Michele Pernetta, who is credited with bringing Bikram (‘hot') yoga to the UK in 1994, recommends her new Fierce Grace classes. Exercising in a heated room "in fact has the opposite effect on flushes," she says, "reducing rather than aggravating them."
For Hot Flushes: LadyCare
Could a magnet cure your menopause symptoms? According to 71% of LadyCare users, the answer is yes. The LadyCare is a small magnetic device which clips onto the front of your underwear. Marketed as a natural alternative to HRT, it's said to work by balancing the activity of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system - giving the regulatory parasympathetic nervous system a boost whilst curtailing any inappropriate ‘fight or flight' responses triggered by the sympathetic nervous system.
Menopausal hormonal fluctuations often kick these systems out of sync, resulting in physiological symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats. Most LadyCare users experience significant relief from hot flushes, water retention and bloating. Over time, such symptoms may be completely eliminated. Improvements in sleep, mood, skin tone and libido are also commonly reported
For Vaginal Dryness: Vagisan MoistCream
Plummeting oestrogen levels often result in vaginal dryness, which affects almost 60% of menopausal women. Vaginal dryness can make sex, exercise, urination, smear tests and even standing or sitting uncomfortable for many women. Oestrogen-based creams and pessaries, available on prescription, provide relief for some.
However, Vagisan MoistCream, an over-the-counter treatment described by users as a "first class treatment", provides a hormone-free alternative, boosting the suppleness of the vaginal and external genital area whilst soothing with nourishing lipids. It's formulated to help maintain a healthy pH level within the vagina, can be applied as a lubricant before sexual intercourse and is safe to use on an everyday basis. It can also be used in combination with HRT or alternated with hormone-based creams and pessaries.
For Hair Loss: Tricho 7 Daily Scalp Drops
40% of menopausal women experience hair loss or thinning. Why? Well, as oestrogen levels drop, our androgens - or male hormones - can cause our hair follicles to shrink. The result: strands thin. The growth cycle is also curtailed (translation: your hair may no longer grow past your shoulders). Philip Kingsley's Tricho 7 Daily Scalp Drops combine 7 never-before-combined ingredients: B6, zinc sulphate, azelaic acid, escalol, methyl nicotinate, piroctone olamine and green tea.
They work to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to DHT (the hormone responsible for thinning hair) and extend the growing phase of the hair growth cycle. Tricho 7 was designed to be used in combination with Tricho Complex vitamin and mineral supplements. In blind trials, 79% of women who followed the Trichotherapy Regime said their hair looked and felt fuller after 12 weeks.