Alternative Therapy for PMS and Menopause

The most common problems that plague women are premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal signs and symptoms associated with the postmenopausal years.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a complex of physical and/or emotional symptoms that occur repetitively in a cyclic fashion before menstruation and that diminish or disappear with menstruation. Typically these cyclic symptoms are sufficiently enough to interfere with work performance and other aspects of life.

Common symptoms of cyclic premenstrual syndrome (PMS) include abdominal bloating, acne, alcohol intolerance, breast engorgement and tenderness, clumsiness, constipation or diarrhea, headache, peripheral edema, weight gain, anxiety, change in libido, depression, fatigue, food cravings (especially salt and sugar), hostility, inability to concentrate, increased appetite, insomnia, irritability, lethargy, mood swings, panic attacks, paranoia, violence towards self and others and withdrawal from others. Most women seek help for PMS in their 30's after 10 or more years of symptoms.

Conventional western medicine usually treats PMS with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Naproxen (Naprosyn, Anaprox), meclofenamate sodium (Meclomen) or mefenamic acid (Ponstel) to alleviate dysmenorrhea. Sometimes antidepressants are prescribed to deal with the emotional and mental symptoms.

Menopause is the final menstrual period representing the cessation of cyclic function of the ovary, which is manifested by cyclic menstruation. When does menopause happen? Menopause occurs at a mean age of approximately 51 years. Today's average woman in the Western world can expect to live one third of her life in the post-menopausal phase.

Most post-menopausal signs and symptoms are the result of decreased circulating estrogens. Common symptoms include hot flushes, palpitations, cold hands and feet, headaches, vertigo, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, depression, fatigue, weight gain, insomnia, night sweats, forgetfulness, and inability to concentrate. Women who have undergone hysterectomy usually experience early post-menopausal signs and symptoms.

For decades, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), usually a combination product of estrogen and progestin, has been hailed to be the gold standard to combat the signs and symptoms brought on by menopause and to decrease the chance of osteoporosis and prevent heart disease in women until July 9, 2002. On this day, The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institute of Health (NIH) stopped early a major clinical trial of the risk and benefits of estrogen and progestin in healthy menopausal women due to an increased risk of invasive breast cancer. The large multi-center trial, a component of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), also found an increase in coronary heart disease, stroke and pulmonary embolism in study participants on estrogen plus progestin compared to women taking placebo pills.  The study, which was scheduled to run until 2005, was stopped after an average follow-up of 5.2 years.

The conclusion is: "The cardiovascular and cancer risks of estrogen plus progestin outweigh any benefits -- and a 26 percent increase in breast cancer risk is too high a price to pay, even if there were a heart benefit. Similarly, the risks outweigh the benefits of fewer hip fracture." For every 10,000 women taking hormones in one year, 31 women become ill with either: heart disease, breast cancer, strokes or blood clots.

About 6 million women in the United States were taking estrogen and progestin therapy. These women either stopped the HRT abruptly and did nothing in its place or they were scrambling for an alternative therapy with or without their doctors' advice.

Lifestyle changes:

  •  Mild aerobic exercise each day.
  •  Reduce intake of caffeinated beverages
  •  Reduce intake of salt and refined sugar
  •  Reduce stress
  • Adequate rest