Alternative treatments for menopause symptoms. Systematic review of scientific and lay literature.

Author: Seidl MM, Stewart DE.
Publication: Can Fam Physician. 1998 Jun;44:1299-308.

Women with monopausal symptoms who do not want to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) because of the dangers (fear of cancer) have a range of alternative therapies. The purpose of this scientific literature review was to determine the effectiveness these therapies such as nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, homeopathy and physical approaches.

More than 200 references were reviewed. The scientific literature was categorized under the headings nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies, and physical approaches. For all but one therapy there was no convincing evidence. The strongest evidence was for the phytoestrogen (isoflavones) therapy. For example one randomised, double-blind study comparing daily supplements of 45 g soy flour with 45 g wheat flour found a reduction of 40% in hot flushes with soy flour compared with wheat flour. Some phytoestrogens have been found to have bone-sparing effects in animals and in some humans. The biological effects of phytoestrogens are likely to be greater in postmenopausal women when oestrogen receptors are less occupied.

It was concluded that the strongest data support phytoestrogens for their role in diminishing menopausal symptoms related to estrogen deficiency and for possible protective effects on bones and the cardiovascular system.