Menopause symptoms manifest in a variety of different ways. For some women, it’s just a matter of losing some sleep and experiencing a few hot flashes. But for others, it can mean dramatic mood changes and prolonged physical problems. Fortunately women now have access to a range of solutions, including individualized doses of compounded bioidentical hormones and effective over-the-counter herbs and supplements.
Women’s health expert and member of Pharmaca's Integrative Health Advisory Board, Tori Hudson, ND, helps explain which options work when. “The main indication for use of hormones of any kind would be the relief of moderate to severe menopause symptoms, especially things like hot flashes,” says Dr. Hudson. The stronger the symptoms, the more likely doctors will be to prescribe actual hormones instead of simply recommending supplements.
Bioidentical hormones, which match the chemical structure of humans’ own hormones, have recently become a preferred choice for doctors. To make them, manufacturers most often use extracts of soy or yam, which are then adjusted in a lab to make them bioidentical.
What’s more, compounding these bioidentical hormones makes them able to be more specifically tailored to each patient. “We can make combinations that manufacturers don’t offer, and we can make more delivery systems,” Dr. Hudson adds. “We can also slowly bring someone up or down with all these different doses.”
So when would you turn to botanicals or herbal formulas? “I would start with supplements in mild and moderate conditions,” Dr. Hudson says. In these cases, she works most often with the following three “foundational” products.
Her first favorite is Vitanica’s Women’s Phase II - Menopause Support, a five-herb formulation with a clinical record showing significant improvement of symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes and insomnia.
She sometimes recommends Natural Health International's Femmenessence, made from an organic strain of the Peruvian maca root. While Dr. Hudson likes this option if women are experiencing fatigue and concentration problems, clinical evidence has also shown it to be beneficial for bone and heart health.
Finally, Dr. Hudson recommends Pharmaca’s Black Cohosh when a woman is feeling sadness and depression alongside hot flashes and body aches. Used for centuries to relieve menopause symptoms, black cohosh has become the go-to supplement for many women.
In addition to these formulas, Dr. Hudson may recommend supplementing with a symptom-specific formula to provide extra relief. A sleep formula, for example, can aid those dealing with insomnia, while St. John’s wort can help relieve depression.
Ultimately, Dr. Hudson says, “The best results are when we know the most about the person—not just their menopause symptoms—but other things about their health, so that we can really individualize what they’re doing.” Pharmaca’s pharmacists and practitioners are on hand every day to help you do just that.