Complementary therapy for menopause symptoms

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Some complementary therapies may help with menopause side effects. Talk to your doctor if you are thinking of starting a complementary therapy. Always make sure you see a certified and registered therapist. Some therapies may be available on the NHS

Certain breathing techniques may help to control hot flushes. Acupuncture may also help. But check with your cancer doctor or nurse to find out if it’s safe for you first.

We don’t know how safe or effective herbal supplements with natural oestrogen in them are. If you have a hormonal related cancer doctors say you should not take them. Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal therapies or supplements. They may interfere with your cancer treatment.

Some women use evening primrose oil for menopause symptoms but there’s no solid evidence to prove that it works.

Complementary therapies

There may be some complementary therapies that women find help to control hot flushes. Some of these have been researched, but for others the evidence is only anecdotal (based on personal accounts rather than facts).

Some of these therapies may be available on the NHS; your GP can give you further details. If you would like to find a complementary therapist, make sure that they are properly qualified and registered. The British Complementary Medical Association has lists of registered therapists throughout the UK. Always talk to your cancer doctor before you start any complementary therapy.

Some therapies may interfere with your cancer treatment or with other drugs you may be taking.

Breathing techniques

Doing breathing exercises may help. Two research trials have shown that using a slow controlled breathing technique called paced respiration can be an effective way to manage hot flushes. The results showed that the number of flushes was reduced on average by 50–60%.

To develop paced respiration, it’s important to practise for 15 minutes twice a day. Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably without being interrupted while you practise the following exercise:

  • Keep your rib cage still and breathe in and out by using your stomach muscles (pushing out and pulling in your tummy muscles).
  • Without moving your rib cage, breathe in for five seconds and then breathe out for five seconds.

Once you’re confident in doing paced respiration, you can use it whenever you feel a flush coming on. You should continue with paced respiration until you feel the flush has passed.

There’s also a yoga breathing technique, known as the ‘cooling breath’ or sheetali, that can help to reduce your body temperature. Contact the British Wheel of Yoga to find a registered yoga teacher.

Acupuncture

This involves putting sterile needles through the skin at specific points in the body. There is some evidence that acupuncture may help reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes. Always ask your cancer doctor or specialist nurse if acupuncture is safe for you first.


Herbal therapies and other supplements

Always talk to your cancer doctor before you take any of the following or any other supplements. They may interfere with your cancer treatment or interact with other drugs you may be taking.

Plant oestrogens (phytoestrogens)

These drugs can have a weak oestrogen-like effect and may help improve menopausal symptoms. But there isn’t enough evidence about how helpful or how safe they are. Doctors advise women with hormone related cancers not to take phytoestrogens.

The two most commonly used plant oestrogens are black cohosh and red clover. Black cohosh contains phytoestrogens and may help improve flushes, although the evidence is inconclusive. Side effects include sickness (nausea), vomiting, headaches and possible liver damage.

Red clover contains chemicals called isoflavones, which are a type of phytoestrogen. There is less evidence as to whether or not it can help reduce menopausal symptoms. It may increase the risk of bleeding and should not be used by women taking medication to thin their blood (anticoagulants).

Evening primrose oil

Some women find evening primrose oil helpful for relieving menopausal symptoms, although it’s expensive and there’s no scientific evidence that it works.

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