Homeopathy and the Menopause
What is the menopause?
Menopause is the time when, as part of the natural ageing process, a woman’s periods become irregular and then stop. This ‘change of life’ generally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 years, but can happen earlier or later than this for a variety of reasons. Medically, a woman is described as ‘postmenopausal’ when her periods have stopped completely for one year or more.
What happens during the menopause?
As your body approaches the menopause, the ovaries gradually become less active, producing less oestrogen and progesterone. As the level of these hormones falls, the menstrual cycle is disrupted. Exactly how the periods are affected varies from one woman to another; most commonly there is less bleeding and longer gaps between each period, but some women experience heavier, longer-lasting periods. This transitional phase, when many women seek healthcare advice, may be referred to medically as the ‘perimenopause’.
How do I know whether I am going through the menopause?
When the levels of oestrogen and progesterone fall during the menopause, this automatically causes the level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to rise. Your GP can arrange for a simple blood test which measures your FSH level, confirming whether or not you are going through menopause.
What symptoms might I experience?
More than 8 in 10 women sail through the menopause symptom-free or experience only mild symptoms, but some women experience debilitating symptoms that interfere with their lives.1 Menopausal symptoms may begin up to five years before the periods finally stop and usually last for one to two years. Most commonly, these include hot flushes, night sweats, headaches, mood swings and a lower sex drive.
“Homeopathic treatment man help with hot flushes and sweats, tiredness, anxiety, sleeping difficulties, mood swings and headaches.”
What is HRT?
The conventional medical view of menopause is that it is a disease that needs to be treated, in which women become deficient in oestrogen and progesterone. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) provides artificial forms of the missing hormones in the form of pills, patches or creams. If menopause is viewed in this way (rather than as a natural change in body function) replacing the missing hormones with artificial ones seems a logical solution. However, recent research has shown that this is not a risk-free option.
What’s the problem with HRT?
HRT was originally developed to help women experiencing debilitating menopausal symptoms, but later became much more widely used when doctors also began prescribing it for healthy postmenopausal women to protect against osteoporosis and heart disease. As more and more women used HRT for longer periods of time, there was growing concern amongst doctors about its safety.3
Two large studies have since demonstrated the dangers of HRT and led to significant changes in the way it is prescribed.
Overall the health risks of taking the most common form of HRT outweigh the benefits.4
A major US research project involving over 16,000 women looked at the effects of the most commonly used form of HRT – pills known as ‘combined HRT’. In 2002, this trial had to be stopped early because of the health risks to the women involved. The researchers concluded that although this form of HRT gives protection against osteoporosis and bowel cancer, these benefits are outweighed by an increased risk of breast and uterine cancer, heart attack and stroke.4
In 2005, results of the NHS-led ‘Million Women Study’ confirmed the link between breast cancer and combined HRT, with researchers estimating that 20,000 cases of breast cancer over the last decade have been due to HRT use. It was also found that oestrogen-only HRT carries a significant risk of endometrial cancer.5
The UK government’s medicines watchdog (MHRA) now advises that when HRT is prescribed ‘the minimum effective dose should be used for the shortest duration’ and that ‘because of the associated risks,’ HRT should no longer be used routinely for preventing osteoporosis in women over the age of 50.
Homeopathic treatment for the menopause
Homeopathy is a system of medicine which is based on treating the individual with highly diluted substances given in mainly tablet form, which trigger the body’s natural system of healing. Based on their experience of their symptoms, a homeopath will match the most appropriate medicine to the patient.
The menopause is a natural process but sometimes our bodies get out of balance and need help to restore good health. Homeopathic treatment has been shown to be effective for hot flushes and sweats, tiredness, anxiety, sleeping difficulties, mood swings and headaches. In a study carried out at an NHS Well-Woman clinic in Sheffield, 81per cent of 102 patients reported improvement of these menopause symptoms after homeopathic treatment.2
Diet and exercise are important too
As the body changes through menopause, it is important to make appropriate changes to your lifestyle. After menopause, there is a loss of bone density (increasing the risk of osteoporosis) and a woman’s pre-menopausal protection from heart disease is gradually lost until the risk is similar to that of a man. It therefore makes sense to adjust your diet and exercise regime to promote healthy bones and lower the risk of heart disease. Your homeopath may be able to offer advice in this area or refer you to the appropriate nutrition and exercise specialists.
What is homeopathic treatment like?
Your homeopath will make an assessment of your symptoms including the physical, mental and emotional effects of the menopause. How you feel, your personality and how you respond to your environment are important too. All these factors are considered by your homeopath in finding the right medicine for you.
“81per cent of 102 women at an NHS Well-Woman clinic in Sheffield, UK reported improvement of menopause symptoms after homeopathic treatment”.
How to find a qualified and registered homeopath
A homeopath with the AROH designation is your guarantee of a fully qualified healthcare professional who is fully insured and has agreed to abide by a strict code of ethics and practice.*
To find a homeopath, contact The Australian Homeopathic Association www.homeopathyoz.org
PLEASE NOTE THAT IN ANY LONG-TERM OR CHRONIC ILLNESS THE ADVISE OF YOUR MEDICAL HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL SHOULD ALWAYS BE SOUGHT
1 British Medical Association Menopause fact sheet, July 2006. www.bma.org.uk.
2 Relton C, Weatherley-Jones E. Homeopathy Service in a National Health Service community menopause clinic: audit of clinical outcomes. Menopause Int, 2005; 11 (2) 72-3.
3 Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – latest data from the Million Women Study and Women’s Health Initiative trial: MHRA statement, 19 April 2007. www.mhra.gov.uk.
4 Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results from the WHI randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 2002; 288: 321–333.
5 Million Women Study Collaborators. Endometrial cancer and hormone replacement therapy in the Million Women Study. Lancet, 2005; 365: 1543 51.