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Are Natural Alternatives to HRT Safe?

Are Natural Alternatives to HRT Safe?

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By    |   Monday, 10 October 2016 11:47 AM


For years, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was routinely used to cope with the problems of menopause. Doctors even believed the treatment had additional benefits such as preventing heart disease and maybe even preventing dementia in the future.


But clinical trials linked HRT to an increased risk of many deadly conditions, including heart disease, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer, so many women turned to natural products to help control menopausal symptoms.


Some turned to phytoestrogens, compounds derived from plants that are similar in structure to estrogen and are found in a variety of foods, especially soy. Many alternative health practitioners tout them as safe alternatives to standard HRT to ease menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes or to protect against bone loss.


But are they safe?


Ivonne Rietjens, Ph.D., of Wageningen University in The Netherlands, and her colleagues analyzed previously published studies, and found that in addition to reducing menopausal symptoms, several potential health benefits of phytoestrogens have been reported.


Benefits included lowered risks of cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes, brain function disorders, and various types of cancer.


However, phytoestrogens are considered endocrine disruptors, which indicates that they have the potential to cause negative health effects, including infertility and increased risks of cancer in estrogen-sensitive organs such as the breast and uterus.


The researchers concluded that given the data on potential negative health effects, the current evidence on phytoestrogens' beneficial effects is not so obvious that they clearly outweigh the possible health risks.


"This implies that a definite conclusion on the health effects of phytoestrogens, positive or negative, cannot be made," said Rietjens.


It may be that the question of whether phytoestrogens are beneficial or harmful has different answers dependent on an individuals' age, health status, and even the presence or absence of specific gut bacteria. Additional studies are needed to provide clarity.


The study results are published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.


Recent research has discovered that in addition to decreasing levels of estrogen, rising levels of cortisol — a stress hormone — can cause hot flashes. According to gynecologist Jennifer Landa, the following methods can lower cortisol levels:


• Relaxation. A study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis found that hypnosis relaxation therapy lowered hot flashes and cortisol levels. In another study, women who suffered severe hot flashes were treated with relaxation therapy. After three months of treatment, their cortisol levels had dropped significantly, and their hot flashes had dropped from at least seven a day to only two.


• Acupuncture. A study published in the journal Menopause found that women who underwent acupuncture saw a larger decrease in the number and severity of menopausal symptoms after 12 weeks than women who received a placebo treatment.


• Herbs and Supplements. The Indian remedy ashwagandha root has been found to reduce cortisol levels, according to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. In addition, a supplement called phosphatidylserine was found to lower cortisol levels in as little as 10 days.


 

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For years, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was routinely used to cope with the problems of menopause. Doctors even believed the treatment had additional benefits such as preventing heart disease and maybe even preventing dementia in the future. But clinical trials linked...
natural, alternatives, HRT, hormone, replacement, therapy, safe
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2016-47-10
Monday, 10 October 2016 11:47 AM
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