According to many experts, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is God's gift to woman kind.

As it replaces the levels of oestrogen and progesterone that naturally decline in a woman during and after the menopause, causing trouble-some symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings.

In many women, HRT is very effective in reducing symptoms and may also decrease the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. However, there is unresolved debate over the link between HRT and some forms of cancer.

The problem with synthetic hormones is they cannot be disposed of so easily by the body, and, apart from an increased risk of breast cancer, often cause side-effects such as nausea, headaches, weight gain, bloating, hair loss, depression, blood clots, facial hair, breast tenderness and high blood pressure.

It appears some women benefit greatly from HRT, whereas others experience unpleasant or potentially dangerous side-effects. Women, therefore, need to make an informed choice about whether to take HRT with their doctor/health professional, based upon their individual health profile and family history.

Complementary medicine argues that the menopause is a natural event and not a deficiency disease that needs to be treated. Attitudes to the menopause vary widely depending upon which country you live in, but, instead of celebrating this new stage of life as a liberating and positive experience, in our society it is often seen as a time of weakness and deficiency.

More women want to explore ways of ensuring a smooth transition into a new phase of life without drugs and side-effects and combine this with a preventative strategy for both heart disease and osteoporosis.

It is not an unrealistic expectation - in Japan, for instance, women live longer, have the lowest rate of coronary heart disease and far lower rates of breast cancer and menopausal symptoms.

In fact, there is no such expression as hot flush! Once Japanese women move to the West and adopt a Western diet, they develop a breast cancer rate similar to ours.

Vital, therefore, not to focus solely on replacement therapy but to look at factors such as nutrition, lifestyle and exercise. Dr Marilyn Glenville, one of the UK 's top nutritional therapists, has done just that in her new book, demonstrating clearly and simply that what you eat not only enhances your life and eliminates unpleasant menopausal symptoms, but can actively prevent degenerative disease.

She delivers mouth watering recipes rich in phyto-oestrogens and isoflavones scientifically proven to be beneficial for the menopausal years and good for the whole family, too.

Natural Alternatives To HRT Cookbook is an inspiration to those women seeking a natural transition through the menopause (published by Kyle Cathie Ltd, priced £16.99).