Treating Menopause's Secret Symptom
Don't Ignore Dryness
Some Treatment Options continued...
"Even women who have developed quite a lot of atrophy, or
even narrowing or shortening of the vaginal canal ... can comfortably use this
tablet because the applicator is so slender," says Kaunitz.
Inside the body, the pill dissolves slowly over a few days to
release small amounts of estrogen. A new pill must be put into place about
twice a week.
More recently, Pharmacia has begun marketing a product called
Estring, which is a ring that is also inserted high into the vagina. It slowly
releases estrogen over about three months, at which time the ring is removed
and discarded and a new one is inserted.
Both Vagifem and Estring are easy to use and, once inserted,
cannot be felt at all. They also do not fall out no matter how active you are.
Although they increase the amount of estrogen in the vagina, blood levels of
estrogen do not appear to go up. As a result, many physicians feel they are
safe even for women with breast cancer.
Brown tried both and decided Vagifem is the best option for
"What I noticed immediately was that I had just normal
lubrication," she says. "It felt natural. Even when I wasn't having
sex, the whole vagina area just felt better, normal."
The Alternative Approach
There are some alternative remedies that appear to be
Luc Maes, ND, DC, is a chiropractor and specialist in
naturopathic medicine in private practice in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The first thing he does with patients who have what looks like
atrophic vaginitis is rule out infections or other conditions, such as
diabetes. If the vagina is very irritated, he uses vaginal suppositories made
with soothing calendula and vitamin A. Vitamin E oil, which can be obtained by
cracking open a vitamin E capsule, can also be used directly in the vagina to
increase lubrication and soothe the vaginal lining.
To increase the amount of estrogen in the vagina, Maes uses
products based on plants that are high in substances called phytoestrogens,
which act similarly to estrogen. These include creams used as well as
supplements taken by mouth. He also recommends all women approaching menopause
to maintain overall good health with proper diet and exercise.
Love also uses some alternative therapies. Like Maes, she
recommends using vitamin E to soothe and lubricate the vagina. For some women,
she also recommends taking supplements of black cohosh, which is high in
phytoestrogens, in the form of a standardized product called Remifemin. She
also suggests that women eat one to two items of food a day that contain soy
protein, which also has some estrogen-like action in the body.
She does not recommend, however, taking isoflavone
supplements. Isoflavones are believed to be the active ingredient in soy, but
this is not yet clear, and it is also not certain whether taking high doses of
this extract is either safe or effective.