Once again HRT is in the news, but not for positive reasons this time. First we hear there’s a shortage in UK supplies of Hormone Replacement Therapy. Now a major new piece of research has found that the risk of breast cancer from taking HRT is double what was previously thought, confirming that the treatment is a direct cause of the cancer. The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, found that the longer women take HRT the greater their risk, with the possibility that just one year is risk-free. It also found that the risk does not go away as soon as women stop taking it, as had been previously assumed.

If you’re on HRT and finding the benefits genuinely life-changing, the best course of action is to discuss the cancer risk with your GP and decide what’s right for you. But health officials warn that we could be struggling to get hold of patches well into 2020, so it could be time to consider alternatives anyway. Of the 1.5million of us who are menopausal, one in 10 have been prescribed HRT. And there just won’t be enough to go round.

Leading nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville who specialises in women’s health says: “Some women are being prescribed different forms of HRT because their original prescription is unavailable and it may not be a form that suits them. If you can’t get your usual HRT medication or know that you won’t be able to get another supply after a month or so then it is definitely worth thinking about natural alternatives to help you through this stage in your life”.

Add these to your diet to help cushion the effects of the hormone rollercoaster. Says Marilyn: “We know that women who eat a diet rich in phytoestrogens have significantly fewer hot flushes, so make sure these are included in your diet and go for variety. Contrary to popular opinion phytoestrogens do not supply oestrogen but have a balancing effect on your hormones. Phytoestrogens (in this case isoflavones) are found in chickpeas, lentils and soya”.

Little and often
If you are suffering from increased mood swings, irritability and depression then taking measures to balance your blood sugar is absolutely crucial. This means not only thinking about the quality of the food that you eat but also the timing. “You need to completely eliminate added sugar and refined carbohydrates in order to see a marked improvement in your moods. The other important consideration is to eat little and often. This means not going more than three hours without eating,” says Marilyn.

Reduce stress
What else triggers hot flushes? Spicy foods, caffeinated drinks, alcohol and stressful situations. Says Marilyn: “The more stressed you are the more severe the menopause symptoms as your adrenal glands are the major source of oestrogen through the menopause. Look at the stress in your life and see what you can control, balance your blood sugar to reduce the release of the stress hormones, reduce or eliminate caffeine and take a supplement to help like NHP’s Tranquil Woman. Support here.

Herbal help
Herbs that are helpful for the menopause including soya, sage, flaxseeds, hops and red clover. “Sage has been shown to decrease hot flushes by 50% after 4 weeks. It also helps with insomnia, irritability, anxiety, physical and mental exhaustion. And hops have been shown to help with both hot flushes and night sweats,” says Marilyn, so look for supplements that include these herbs. Adds GP Dr David Edwards: “Black Cohosh and St John’s Wort have been clinically proven to help relieve common menopause symptoms. Rhodiola rosea has been shown to help relieve symptoms of stress without causing sedation or a foggy brain. Make sure you choose one which carries the THR kite mark as this guarantees quality and safety and includes approved dosage information”. Both black cohosh and St John’s Wort are to be found in MenoMood Menopause Mood Relief.

Boost joints
Aching and stiff joints are common before, during and after the menopause and this is caused by the decrease in oestrogen. Says Marilyn: “Eat plenty of foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as oily fish, nuts and seeds as these foods help create anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that can ease the pain and inflammation of swollen joints. And cut down or eliminate red meat as this can contribute to the production of ‘bad’ prostaglandins that will increase inflammation in the joints. To improve bone health and relieve joint and back pain take vitamin D”.

Keep moving
Says Dr Edwards: “Any exercise that stresses the bones such as skipping can slow down the loss of bone density associated with the menopause. Brisk walking or aerobics release endorphins, the feel-good hormones in the body which can help alleviate low mood and anxiety, common feelings during the menopause years. Pilates and yoga are good for flexibility while pelvic floor exercises help protect against urinary incontinence as you age”.

Words: Marina Gask

Black cohosh has some side effects, must not be taken if you have a liver disorder and should not be taken for more than six months at a time. Please consult your GP before taking any herbal remedies or HRT. For more information on Marilyn Glenville go to