My over-50 female patients often mention menopausal symptoms that have put a wet blanket on their previously fulfilling love lives. Even though there are prescription hormone-based remedies out there that do relieve these specific symptoms, they can come with some side effects and risks. They can also be very expensive even if you have insurance drug co-pays. So, I looked into some new, some older, alternative, natural ways that can help put your love life back on track.
Menopause Doesn’t Have to Mean Romance Pause
Estrogen “feminizes” a woman’s body keeping her skin soft and wrinkle-free, her hair shiny and full, her bones strong, and (along with testosterone) helps fuel her desire for intimacy. When estrogen decreases, all these areas can start to show, and feel, withdrawal symptoms.
There are both synthetic and bioidentical treatments available for these symptoms that are taken orally or transdermally. Both help restore normal estrogen and progesterone levels and eliminate, or minimize, estrogen-decrease symptoms. There are also creams that are inserted intervaginally to alleviate the “local” vaginal menopausal symptoms such as:
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal atrophy of tissues
- Urinary tract infections
- Itching, burning of vaginal tissues
These symptoms can be very uncomfortable and even cause dysfunction in a woman’s love life. Tissues become very dry with itching and burning, and intercourse can become painful and result in tiny micro tears (and bleeding) of the vaginal tissues. Women start to forego relations with their significant others because of these symptoms. Even though the above mentioned local creams work to alleviate symptoms, because some include synthetic hormones, they can put you at a higher risk of developing uterine cancer.
The following are some natural, alternative methods that women have used for decades to treat these dysfunctional vaginal conditions.
1. Vitamin E: A natural lubricant, gel cap inserted vaginally.
2. Olive oil: Has weak phytoestrogen effect that addresses dryness and tissue strength.
3. Grapeseed oil: Contains high levels of resveratrol that helps fight breakdown of skin tissue. Women also like to use it around the thin skin around their eyes and neck to fight wrinkles.
4. Omega-3 fats: If your diet is deficient in these fats, your entire body will be “dry”, eyes, skin, mucosal membranes (inside mouth, nose), and vaginal tissues. Take 1-2,000 mg daily of high quality fish or krill oil.
5. Vaginal moisturizers: Over-the-counter products like Replens, K-Y, and others help add much needed lubrication to the vaginal tissues. A new product called VagRenew contains several herbs like black cohosh, soy isoflavones (diadzein, glycitein) and Vitamin E. It is inserted vaginally like Estrace with an applicator. An urologist who frequently treats urinary issues associated with menopause like incontinence, bacterial urinary tract infections, pelvic pain, and urinary frequency developed it. Users of the new product claim that it has worked wonders for their symptoms. It can be bought online, without prescription, at the company’s (Watermewell) website. See references below.
6. DHEA treatments. A company in Quebec, Canada, EndoCeutics, is now testing a new product called Vaginorm that aims to treat the symptoms of menopausal vaginal discomfort. The creation of Vaginorm is based on the results of prior studies by various researchers. These studies showed that women who took the natural hormone precursor DHEA experienced over a 50% reduction in vaginal dryness and atrophy, with clinical rejuvenation of their vaginal tissues. The women in the study also reported an increase in their libido and mood. Vaginorm is still under investigation but has been licensed to Bayer Pharmaceuticals. It may be available to U.S. women soon.
In addition, there are currently DHEA based vaginal creams and topical creams already on the market that have been reported to help with women’s menopausal symptoms in general – including hot flashes, sleep problems, low mood, vaginal dryness, atrophy issues, and more. One of these is Dermal XL, inserted vaginally, that offers symptom relief of all the vaginal dysfunction issues. It also contains the herbs schizandra, smilax, and synergistic essential oils that “increase hormone levels in the vaginal area”.
7. Hormone based. Smoky Mountains Naturals makes Bioidentical Estriol Cream that is applied topically to the skin of the body or vagina. It is not used intravaginally. Estriol is one of the 3 natural types of estrogen a woman’s body makes. It is the one that is most commonly deficient in menopausal women and is thought safer than the synthetic estrogens used in prescription hormone replacement. This product claims to fight all a woman’s symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, headache, mood swings, as well as the vaginal dysfunction issues. You will want to tell your doctor about using this product, as you may also need some progesterone balancing with it.
As you can see, you don’t have to suffer with dysfunctional menopausal symptoms which can put a real damper on your love life. There are several alternatives as well as traditional methods to deal with menopausal vaginal dysfunction. You may want to try a few of these methods. Be sure to tell your doctor about any of the alternative methods you choose as they may want to monitor your progress on them. In addition, if you find they’re working particularly well for you, your doctor may also want to recommend the product to other menopausal patients as well.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.