Learn what your non-hormonal options are when treating your menopausal symptoms.
Last week, I wrote about the controversy over giving menopausal women hormone replacement therapy. As I discussed, it’s not without risks. So are you completely optionless if you decide not to take HRT? No! There are various other ways to treat menopausal symptoms.
How to Treat Menopause Symptoms without Hormones
Like I said in my earlier article, most menopausal symptoms resolve within four years. But for those whose symptoms are truly unbearable and actually decrease quality of life, we do have a few tricks up our sleeves. But because we won’t be replacing the estrogen levels that diminish with menopause and cause all those symptoms, we’ll instead try to tackle symptoms individually, starting with those symptoms that drive you the most crazy.
How to Treat Menopause without Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
So here’s a list of common menopausal symptoms and how you can treat them:
1. Dry vaginal tissue or pain with intercourse: As estrogen declines, it stops feeding our genital system, and this area becomes very dry--we call it “atrophic vaginitis,” because the tissue in the vagina literally atrophies a tad, frequently causing intercourse to become painful and unpleasant. I often suggest using extra lubrication during sex, including types with a warming effect. An over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer, such as Replens, used three times a week may also be helpful. But for some, those methods may not be sufficient. In those cases, there are various prescription intravaginal estrogen preparations you can use that are available as a cream, a tablet, and even as a plastic ring that is self-inserted. It tends to work very well, however, it can take up to eight weeks to start feeling a difference.
2. Mood swings: When estrogen levels drop, women just don’t feel well and often report having mood swings or depression. I hear this from women nearly every single day. In fact, it’s such a frequent complaint that I make sure to keep a box of tissues in my exam rooms just for this. Hormone levels can change our moods. We just don’t feel “right”. I do find that some anti-depressants seem to work well for my patients with mood changes, depression, and anxiety. These medications take four to six weeks to kick in, but they’re well worth the wait. Relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, acupuncture and counseling/therapy are other ways I try to treat my patients’ menopausal mood changes.
3. Osteoporosis: Estrogen builds bone. So when it drops, women often experience more of a bone mass decline. Screening for osteoporosis is currently recommended for all women age 65 and higher, or for younger women who have any big risk factors. For more information on how to treat this important health condition, refer to my osteoporosis podcast.