The Search For Remedies
More and more women are opting for over the counter remedies for their symptoms of menopause due to their concerns about the possible risks of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). According to the New York Times, the market started booming for natural therapies like supplements and topical creams when the Women's Health Initiative reported in 2002 that HRT put women at increased risk for developing blood clots, stroke, cancer, and heart disease.
Research suggests that an approximate one-third of menopausal women take the conventional prescription hormone therapies, and another one-third takes synthetic hormones that are plant-based and have a similar molecular structure to the natural human hormones. But one-third doesn't suffer from symptoms, doesn't bother to seek treatment for their symptoms, or prefer instead to purchase over-the-counter remedies for treating their symptoms.
Not Small Potatoes
The Times suggests that there are over 500 over-the-counter (OTC) products on the market that claim to relieve the symptoms of menopause. The various treatments range from teas, to low-dose progesterone creams, phytoestrogens derived from soy and red clover, and black cohosh capsules. The market for such products appears to be booming. Nutrition Business Journal calculates that the nutritional supplement market for treatment of menopause went up from $211 million in 1999 to $337 million in 2007. That's not small potatoes. But do the supplements work?
The results of some studies shed doubt on the effectiveness and safety of these OTC remedies. Todd Cooperman, the director of a private lab called consumerLab.com that tests commercial nutrition products, stated that a study performed by his company on over a dozen products showed that five such products were refused approval by his lab because of impure ingredients or improper labeling.
This coming fall, the Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research is due to publish the results of a study whose purpose is to evaluate the effectiveness of herbs and other supplements which are associated with the relief of menopause symptoms. The study is underwritten by the National Institutes of Health. Previous studies have raised suspicions about the usefulness of progesterone creams. Some experts believe these preparations have a tendency to collect within the fat cells, disrupting the body's ability to produce and synthesize other hormones. Meantime, other experts say the creams are safe if used as directed.
Director of Arizona's Center for Natural Healing, Theresa Ramsey said, "I think over all these products are generally safe, but must be taken in the right circumstances and in conjunction with a mindfully healthy approach to life if they are going to be effective at all."