Natural Alternatives to Hormone Therapy
Greenwood is far less impressed with wild yam creams, which have also been marketed to relieve menopausal symptoms. The products' promoters claim the creams contain a precursor to progesterone -- commonly taken alongside estrogen -- that counteracts estrogen's negative effect on the uterine lining. While naturally derived progesterone, available over the counter, can help with some symptoms like hot flashes, Greenwood says, the yam cream formulations aren't effective.
Lifestyle for a Lifetime
The most effective alternative to hormone therapy, however, doesn't come in a bottle. Physicians say that preventing heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer often boils down to lifestyle, one that includes regular exercise and a healthy diet. A diet high in calcium along with weight-bearing exercise bolsters bones. Avoiding high-fat foods and participating in regular aerobic exercise keeps the heart healthy.
These habits can prevent the diseases; studies have proven it over and over again. Consider it, Greenwood advises. "Those things are so much more effective than [most] any pill you can put in your mouth."
Nelson Watts, MD, director of the Osteoporosis and Bone Health Program at The Emory Clinic in Atlanta, and principal investigator at the Atlanta site of the Women's Health Initiative, offers a word of caution. "Often, diet and exercise are not enough by themselves." he tells WebMD. "A woman needs to first talk with her doctor about what symptoms she wants to relieve, and look at the treatment options."