A hysterectomy causes immediate menopause due to the drastic reduction of estrogen, the female hormone for reproduction. Estrogen stimulates cells in the heart, breasts, bladder, brain, liver and bones and keeps the skin smooth and moist; therefore, lack of estrogen increases the chances of several health problems involving these organs. Certain dietary and herbal supplements are commonly used as alternatives to estrogen supplements; however, these supplements are not replacements for traditional medication and should only be taken under medical supervision.
Dietary Estrogen Supplement Alternatives
Certified nutritionist Phyllis Balch reports that essential fatty acids, vitamin E and melatonin are used as alternatives. They help the body produce estrogen, possibly decreasing menopause symptoms such as bone loss, heart disease, mood swings, confusion, incontinence and fatigue. Take essential fatty acids in unheated, liquid form. Do not exceed 200 IUs of vitamin E if you take a blood thinner. Take the recommended daily dosage if you have rheumatic heart disease, an overactive thyroid or diabetes. Slowly increase a 100 IU dose to the desired amount, if you have high blood pressure. Take melatonin supplements not more than 2 hours before bedtime, if you do not have a weakened immune system.
Herbs That Relieve Hysterectomy Side Effects
Balch recommends anise, licorice, dong quai, and red clover for menopause. Anise strengthens the liver and moistens the skin. Licorice, dong quai and red clover may relieve hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings and forgetfulness. Avoid dong quai if you have diabetes, are sensitive to light or take Warfarin. Avoid licorice if you have diabetes, glaucoma, high blood pressure, heart disease or a history of strokes. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine funded studies on the effects of dong quai and red clover. Additional studies are needed to determine if these herbs are actually effective. Meanwhile, the NCCAM acknowledges there is a slight possibility dong quai and red clover may bring relief. Consult your OB-GYN before taking any of these herbs for information regarding safety, dosage and possible drug interactions.
Herbs That Contain EFAs
Fennel and fenugreek contain essential fatty acids, the substances that improve brain function, skin and hair, while they help prevent bone loss and heart disease. A lack of these same health benefits is directly related to menopause symptoms such as mood swings, confusion, osteoporosis, vaginal dryness and cardiovascular disease. Balch warns that fennel suppresses the appetite. She also states that fenugreek can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. These herbs are not intended as a substitute for traditional medical treatment.
Natural Estrogen Herbals
Balch recommends sage and wild yam also. Sage may reduce hot flashes and sweating; however, it interferes with the absorption of certain minerals, including iron. Also, it should be avoided if you have seizures or high blood pressure. Wild yam might improve the sex drive. Still, there is not enough scientific evidence that supports these claims about sage and wild yam.
The NCCAM has also funded studies on the effects of DHEA, a natural body substance that converts to estrogen and testosterone. As a supplement, it may decrease hot flashes and increase sexual arousal, though random trials do not show these benefits. There is not enough scientific evidence showing all of the risks, effects or benefits of long-term use of DHEA supplements, though some studies have shown that high doses of DHEA supplements cause liver damage. Some doctors are concerned that these high doses can also suppress the body's natural ability to produce DHEA. Gather additional information about this product from a health care professional before using it.
- "Prescription for Nutritional Healing"; Balch, CNC, Phyllis; 2010
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Menopausal Symptoms and CAM; January, 2008
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Herbs At A Glance; July, 2010