Hot flushes treatment: Cool ways to halt menopause symptoms
Hot flushes treatment: Cool ways to halt menopause symptoms
2:03 AM on 12th May 2011
The onset of the menopause is not a prospect any woman relishes and, this week, scientists delivered even more bad news — women are developing symptoms younger and suffering from them for longer than previously thought.
Until now, the average age for a woman to go through the menopause in Britain was 52, and in most cases the symptoms would be done and dusted within three to five years.
However, after following 400 women in their 30s and 40s for 13 years, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S. found that, for some women, the dreaded hot flushes or night sweats which often accompany the menopause can last for as long as a decade.
Ways to cool down: Scientists say hot flushes can last for a decade
Worse, women are starting to develop them at the relatively tender age of 45.
The symptoms of the menopause, which as well as hot flushes include mood swings, difficulty sleeping, irritability and vaginal dryness, are caused by falling levels of the hormone oestrogen.
Despite being one of the most common symptoms of the menopause, affecting three in four women, the causes of hot flushes are still largely unknown.
One theory is that changes in hormone levels, especially falling levels of oestrogen, put the body’s temperature regulation system out of kilter.
Mistakenly thinking the body is overheating, it boosts blood flow to the skin, so heat is lost.
As a result, women experience intense heat, accompanied by red, blotchy skin and a racing heart for between four and ten minutes.
To combat these episodes, a doctor may prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which makes up for this short-fall in oestrogen.
However, many women have been put off this option after a string of reports linked HRT to an increased risk of health conditions such as strokes and breast cancer.
There are other options to combat menopausal symptoms.
For instance, for hot flushes, a doctor may prescribe antidepressants.
But what is out there on the High Street Here, Professor Mary Ann Lumsden, chair of the British Menopause Society and gynaecologist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, reviews a selection and we rate them out of ten.
Bionorica Menoprett is 10.25 for 30 tablets, and Arkopharma Phyto Soya High Strength Night and Day is 22.49 for 60 capsules
10.25 for 30 tablets. Available from Boots and health stores
These one-a-day tablets contain extracts of black cohosh. This member of the buttercup family is said to help with a number of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, poor sleep, mood changes and irritability.
A Bionorica black cohosh extract was shown in a study of 62 women to reduce symptoms as effectively as HRT. It can cause side-effects such as digestive upsets and itchy skin, but those occur in less than one in 1,000 people.
Our expert says: ‘Black cohosh is the most extensively tested of all the herbal products for the menopause, but most of these studies have been small. It has been found to be effective for some women.’
22.49 for 60 capsules. Available from Boots and chemists
These tablets are designed to be taken twice a day — one in the morning and one at night. Both contain isoflavones, plant chemicals that are thought to mimic the female hormones oestrogen.
A study of phyto soya published in the journal Menopause in 2002 found it reduced hot flushes in 60 per cent of the 75 women who took part in the study after four months.
Our expert says: ‘There is some evidence to support the effectiveness of isoflavones, but not all the studies are conclusive and some are small. Also, because these compounds behave in a similar way to the naturally-occurring hormone oestrogen, they should not be used by women who have a history of hormone-dependent cancers such as breast cancer.’
Ladycare Magnes is 23.96 and A.Vogel Menoforce Sage Tablets are 12.80 for 30 tablets
23.96. Call 0117 971 0710 or visit lady care-uk.com
This small magnet is attached to the front of the underwear, and is ideally worn all day. It is thought to have an effect on the part of the nervous system that affects heart rate and perspiration.
A study of 35 women last year who wore it found that 70 per cent of them reported an improvement in hot flushes and night sweats.
Our expert says: ‘I can’t see how this would help overcome a fall in hormone levels. If it does have any benefit, then I would think it is down to placebo effect.’
89.99. Available from lifemax.co.uk and amazon.co.uk
This is a pad filled with a gel that delivers a cooling effect. Around the size of a small blanket (70cm by 90cm), it absorbs the heat from the body and requires no batteries or mains electricity, and can be used again and again.
Our expert says: ‘Anything that is cooling may help women having a hot flush. Normally they have to leap out of bed and have a cold shower or a drink, so this may help.
‘Some of my patients use smaller cooling aids that you keep in the fridge and wrap round your neck, and they do get some benefit from them.’
12.80 for 30 tablets. Available from health stores and chemists
Sage has traditionally been used for the relief of menopausal hot flushes. One small study, commissioned by the manufacturer, and involving 69 women, found that taking this reduced the number of hot flushes experienced by two-thirds. Take one tablet daily.
Our expert says: ‘There is very little evidence to suggest that sage does actually work.’
Holland and Barett”s Red Clover Blossom capsules are 13.99 for 100
13.99 for 100 capsules. Available from Holland & Barrett stores, hollandandbarrett.com or by calling 0870 606 6605
Red clover is a herb with weak oestrogen-like properties. In one study on a group of 30 women given a form of red clover sold under the name Promensil, it reduced hot flushes in 44 per cent of the women — more than in a group given a placebo.
Our expert says: ‘Some studies show this to work while others show little or no benefit.
‘However, a review of five studies including 400 women concluded that overall it had no better outcome than placebo.”
15.31 for 60 capsules. Available from Boots, Lloyds pharmacies and selected Tesco stores
This contains evening primrose oil to help with ‘hormonal balance’ and soya, a source of isoflavones thought to mimic oestrogen. Both of these ingredients are said to help counteract hot flushes. Take one or two tablets daily.
Our expert says: ‘Evening primrose oil is taken for many hormonal complaints such as the menopause and PMT despite there being virtually no evidence that it works.
‘This does though also contain isoflavones which maybe of benefit to some – but no more than a placebo pill would be.’
8.95 for 60 tablets. Available from naturesbest.co.uk or by calling 01892 552 094
Vitex agnus castus is a flowering plant also known as the chasteberry fruit.
It was shown to stabilise hormone levels, reduce hot flushes and lessen vaginal dryness in a German study of 100 women published in Menopause in 2009.
Our expert says: ‘One trial did show that this had some benefit, but this was quite small. It needs more research.’