Alternatives available to estrogen for women going through menopause

Monday, March 05, 2018 10:46PM
Acupuncture is one of many alternatives to estrogen therapy for women going through menopause.

The symptoms of menopause - hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia - can range from mild to severe.

But many women are wary of taking hormone replacement therapy because it carries risks.

Local experts discussed several non-hormone alternatives that can help ease those symptoms.

Some women may start earlier than others.

Cedar-Sinai Medical Center's Dr. Chrisandra Shufelt directs the Women's Hormone and Menopause Program and said the average age for menopause is 51.

She said she encounters many women who have concerns about hormone replacement therapy.

"It's a personal choice whether or not you want to take estrogen and it's based on risk," she said.

While healthy women - who aren't at high risk for heart disease or cancer - may be able to take estrogen therapy safely, there are non-HRT medications she recommends for hot flashes.

One is a drug called gabapentin.

The other is an anti-depressant recently approved to treat hot flashes.

"That medication is a seratonin-based medication and its generic name is called paroxitene," Shufelt said, "It's used daytime or nighttime."

But before she prescribes, she asks all her patients to start with lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet and losing a few pounds.

Another drug-free treatment with science behind it is acupuncture.

Alejandra Espinoza, who gets acupuncture for menopausal symptoms, said it's been very effective for her.

"I love it because I don't have to depend on medication, " she said.

In a Cedars-Sinai study, researchers found acupuncture was 40 to 50 percent effective in treating hot flashes and even more effective in treating other menopausal symptoms such as insomnia.

"I am sleeping at least seven hours a night which wasn't happening before," Espinoza said.

Experts said it's important to make sure you get the help you need.

"No one has to suffer in silence and you should talk to your doctor about menopause," said Shufelt.
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