Non-Hormonal Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms and Four Leaf Clovers


Photograph of Woman doing Yoga Courtesy of Invictus999
Healthy Menopausal Woman Photograph Courtesy of Kathy Wynn
Photograph of Rabbit in Clover Patch Courtesy of Jack Dagley

Menopausal symptoms, primarily hot flashes, can be treated with vitamins, specific foods (soy), non-estrogenic herbs (which stimulate the body’s own estrogen levels) and phytoestrogenic herbs (natural non-hormonal agents that have estrogen like effects in the body).

Phytoestrogenic agents should not be used in women with breast cancer or other hormonally related cancers or women with blood clots. Women at high risk of getting hormone related cancers or blood clots should also not use phytoestrogens.

Food that may Relieve Menopausal Symptoms

Soy foods have isoflavins, compounds which binds to the estrogen receptor and relieve hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Tofu, soy milk, tempeh and soy nuts are good sources of soy.

Oh Not Again, Exercise Helps Menopause??

Regular exercise is a must for women experiencing fatigue, weight gain and hot flashes related to menopause. 30 minutes of walking five days a week is recommended.

Vitamins Useful to Menopausal Women

400 IU vitamin E may help hot flashes and night sweats. Vitamin C helps the absorption of vitamin E. B vitamins may help menopausal symptoms. Calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D are essential to prevent thinning of bones in menopausal women. Probiotics (good bacteria) such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacter species help with metabolism and utilization of estrogen and may help reduce vaginal yeast infections.

Ligans in flaxseed oil can stabilize hormone levels in menopausal women. Evening primrose oil or black currant oil are sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that treats menopausal symptoms.

Non-Estrogen formulations

Black cohosh (Cumicifuga racemosa) does not have estrogenic activity. Women who have gone through natural menopause rather than surgical menopause (hysterectomy) seem to respond better to this agent. Black cohosh molecules bind to receptors in the human body which regulate body temperature and hot flashes.

Black Cohosh also helps mood swings and sleep disturbances common in menopausal women. It is commonly taken in tablet form and is known to have the equivalent to 20 mg of root per tablet. Recent trials found that around 40 milligrams per day of such tablets lessened menopause symptoms in 70% of the women tested.

Black Cohosh may reduce weight gained as a result of hormone imbalance. During menopause, as estrogen levels drop, the body looks for other stores of estrogen. Fat cells contain large amounts of this hormone. The body begins to produce more fat cells as a way to boost estrogen levels. Black cohosh balances estrogen levels. It may, in turn, stop the production of fat cells.

Macafem root is a non-estrogenic herb grown in the Andean plateaus of Peru. It increases level of natural hormones in the body. Macafem can help hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, loss of libido and irregular periods.

Keishi-bukuryo-gan, a traditional formula made up of four herbs and a mushroom, is widely used in Japan for treatment of peri-menopausal hot flashes. A variant of it in the United States can be bought over the counter as H25. However, Keishi-bukuryo-gan has not been tested in women with hot flashes related to tamoxifen and other anti-estrogen medications. It is especially effective in women who always feel cold.

Phytoestrogens

Ginkgo biloba boosts blood flow to the brain and improves concentration and cognitive function, which is important for menopausal women who often suffer from memory lapses. Ginkgo contains phytoestrogens (vegetable sources with a similar chemical structure to estrogen) which relace human hormones with plant substitutes. Because ginko is a phytoestrogen, it may increase the risk of breast cancer.

Dong quai helps painful menstrual periods and normalize irregular periods. It can increase risk of bleeding, so it should be used cautiously in women with heavy bleeding or on blood thinners. Dong quai is a phytoestrogen which may increase the risk of breast cancer

There are three common varieties of ginsing available: Native American, Korean and Chinese. They are phytoestrogens which have estrogen like effect in vagina and so they can help relieve vaginal dryness common in menopausal women. Korean ginseng is especially popular among athletes for improving performance and stamina. Ginseng is used to treat decreased libido common in menopausal women.

Red Clover (Trifolium Pratensei) is a phytoestrogen which contains the chemical compound called coumarins, which can thin blood. Use cautiously in women on blood thinners. Red Clover is used in China and Russia to treat upper respiratory illnesses. Ancient Romans and Greeks wore clover on their chest for good luck and as a way to ward off evil. Four leaf clovers felt to be especially lucky.

Last Updated by Dr. Vee on February 18, 2011

Lavender and Tea Tree Oil May Cause Breast Development in Young Boys


Lavender and Tea Tree Oils May Mimic Estrogen Effects in Boys

A study published in  the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the use of topical agents containing lavender oil and/or tea tree oil may cause breast tissue (called gynecomastia) to develop in young boys. This finding was reported by Clifford Bloch, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Science Center’s School of Medicine. 

This doctor found that three of his young male patients with unexplained breast development (gynecomastia) had all used lotions, creams, shampoos, styling products or soap with lavender or tea tree oil in them.  Once these products were stopped, the gynecomastia also resolved.

Researchers who conducted laboratory studies at t he National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), confirmed that there may be an association between the use of products containing these oils and prepubertal breast development in boys, but cautioned more research is needed.  Large scale epidemiologic studies are needed to determine the association of lavender and tea tree oils and gynecomastia.

Ken Korach, Ph.D., chief, Laboratory Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology at NIEHS confirmed that his laboratory studies confirmed that pure lavender and tea tree oils can indeed mimic the effects of the female hormone estrogen and inhibit the effects of androgens (male hormones).

Interestingly enough, the male and female hormone levels in the three boys with gynecomastia were not changed by their exposure to lavender or tea tree oil. Therefore, Derek Henley, Ph.D., the lead NIEHS author on the study hypothesized that lavender and tea tree oils may be  “endocrine disruptors.”    Endocrine disruptors are agents that interfere with the activity of hormones but not affect the levels of the hormones themselves.  They may alter signaling of the hormones, resulting in abnormal endocrine effects.

Studies are need to decide whether lavender and tea tree oils have the same effects in females or adults.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS),  a part of the National Institutes of Health, supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health. 

Reference:

Henley DV, Lipson N, Korach KS, Bloch CA 2007 Prebubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. New England Journal of Medicine 365(5): 479-485  

 Photograph of Australian Tea Tree courtesy of J. Brew.

Last updated April 18, 2010 by Dr. Vee

           

St.John’s Wort–The P450 Superwoman


 

St. John’s Wort is a widely used botanical that has many interactions with commonly prescribed medications.  In fact the the United States Food and Drug Administration issued a  health advisory about St. John’s Wort.

St. John’s Wort increases the level of enzyme system in the liver called the P450 system.  In medical school, the P450 system seemed to be the super enzyme that accomplished everything–wife, mother, powerful leader –oh sorry, that was Condeleeza Rice…Actually the P450 is responsible for breaking down many toxins in the body.  If you are interested in trivia, or in taking my medical school biochemistry tests for me, you would be interested to know that St. John’s Wort induces the cytochrome P450 isoenzymes CYP3A4, CYP2C9, CYP1A2 and the transport protein P-glycoprotein.  When these cytochrome P450 enzyme levels are increased, the breakdown of certain medicines is enhanced.  These medications include warfarin, cyclosporine, digoxin, theophylline, HIV protease inhibitors and birth control pills.  So blood concentrations of these medications may be decreased if you are also taking St. John’s Wort. 

Make sure you discuss St. John’s Wort or ANY supplement or herbal remedy you may be taking with your doctor.  It may be that the levels of other medicines you are taking may be higher or lower than desired because of interactions with St. John’s Wort.
Last Updated March 24, 2010

Statins and Beta Blockers Deplete CoQ10


 

Coenzyme Q10 is a natural substance found in abudance in cells of the body that provides energy to the body and helps the immune system.  CoQ10 also acts as an antioxidant in the body.  Antioxidants are substances that attack and remove free radicals, dangerous substances which cause damage to cells and can eventually result in cancer, aging or cell death.  CoQ10 protect cells from stress from environmental toxins (e.g. cigarette smoke) or aging.  It is in this way that Coenzyme Q10 is believed to help the body fight cancer, prevent heart disease, and combat aging. 

CoQ10 is found in mitochondria, the parts of cells that generate energy. CoQ10 is involved in the generation of energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in cells.  ATP is the energy currency that allows cells to carry out all their myriad functions, including muscle contraction, protein synthesis and other vital cell functions.

Two forms of CoQ10 exist. The more common form is called ubiquinone. The active or oxidized form of CoQ10 is called ubiquinol.  Young people convert ubiquinone to the active component ubiquinol quite readily.  However, ubiquinone is less easily converted to ubiquinol as people get older.  Until recently, ubiquinol was unstable and could not be manufactured as a supplement.  Now ubiquinol is available, but is typically more expensive than the ubiquinone form.

CoQ10 are found in large numbers in the power centers of the body, the liver and heart.  In the liver, CoQ10 is made in a pathway similar to the way cholesterol is made.  So when a person is on a statin, which inhibits an important enzyme that makes cholesterol, the CoQ10 pathway is also impaired.  It is believed that two important classes of medications, the statins (simvastatin, atorvastatin, pravastatin, lovastatin) and beta blockers (atenolol, metoprolol) decrease (up to 40 %) the production of CoQ10 in the body.

Eating antioxidants in Super Foods such as pomegranate juice is a good way to replenish CoQ10 in the body. Some experts feel that older patients on statins or beta blockers should take CoQ10 supplements to replace the reduced levels of CoQ10 in cells.  Some experts feel that people who have high blood pressure should consider supplementation with CoQ10 as well as Vitamin D3.  Athletes (and wannabe athletes) may want to consider adding CoQ10 supplementation to optimized exercise endurance and muscle recovery.

Last updated March 19, 2010 by Dr. Vee