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Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs for Relief of Hot Flashes/Menopausal Symptoms

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Hot Flashes | Mark's Daily Apple - Your Daily Dose

Dear Carrie: Hot Flashes
Posted: 26 May 2011 12:20 PM PD

QUESTION: "I�ve just been looking around on the forum regarding hot flashes increasing on the primal diet for peri and menopausal women there are several threads on it � so figure I am not alone and wondering if you or maybe a guest contributor could do a more pointed column on this? (i.e. I am dying from no sleep � up every night between 12 and 5 cycling through hot flashes) For the first time in 17 months on the primal lifestyle � i feel like crap and its all from the sleep deprivation. I�d like to make one last valiant effort with diet, lifestyle and supplements before I go the Bio ID hormone route and hoping you might have some suggestions?"

Thanks to Barb for the great question. Since some three-quarters of women experience hot flashes during the menopause transition, it�s a subject well worth exploring. For those of you unfamiliar with the experience, hot flashes occur when blood vessels in the head and neck suddenly expand . They can come during the day or at night with or without sweating and other symptoms like dizziness, faster heart rate, or headache. Hot flashes can start in the years leading up to menopause (a.k.a perimenopause) as estrogen levels sharply drop. They often resolve themselves over time but can linger for some women well into their post-menopausal years.

Researchers are still filling in some of the picture, but they believe hot flashes are a result of both the hormonal changes happening during the menopausal transition and their effect on areas of physical functioning. Hot flashes are associated with both the withdrawal from estrogen hormones women experience in the peri-menopausal and menopausal years as well as the �surges� of lutenizing hormone that occur during this time . (For the record, men can experience hot flashes when undergoing androgen deprivation therapy, which imposes a sudden and dramatic reduction in their testosterone levels.)

As much of a pain as they are, I should add that some studies suggests that hot flashes bode well for post-menopausal health . Researchers have found that women who experience hot flashes, especially early in menopause, have a lower risk of developing breast cancer , stroke, and heart disease . For what it�s worth in those hot, miserable moments�

During the menopausal transition, the body�s thermostat (part of the hypothalamus function) can take time to recalibrate with ongoing hormonal changes. Hot flashes, experts believe, may be related to this process. Women with severe hot flashes (in terms of both intensity and frequency) can have their sleep regularly disrupted and are at risk for chronic insomnia, like Barb has been experiencing. Given that some women can experience several a night that may last up to thirty minutes each, a good night�s sleep can be next to impossible. The effects can be grueling over time. Moreover, women are at a higher risk for other sleep disorders like sleep apnea during and following menopause because of the shift in hormones.

Although most women will experience some degree of hot flashes during menopause, certain factors like obesity, smoking, and inactivity can put your at higher risk . Caffeine , alcohol , sugar , and spicy foods can exacerbate hot flashes. Exercise and relaxation practices help many women cope with both the hot flashes themselves and the resulting sleep deprivation.

As for alternative remedies , I would give acupuncture a chance. The research looks pretty good as a whole, and I can say it�s had an impact for me personally. In terms of herbs, I�d recommend trying (individually) black cohosh , chasteberry (which are both used in Europe for management of menopausal symptoms), keishi-bukuryo-gan tea ( PDF ), and perhaps dong Quai (which can help dilate blood vessels). Other common options women try for hot flashes include Evening Primrose oil (less effective in my experience), and maca root . Although your best bet for menopause nutrition is an all around, nutrient dense diet, you might try increasing your intake of vitamin E , and vitamin C (to aid the absorption of vitamin E).

In the last few years, there�s been a trend toward using off-label pharmaceutical treatments (e.g. Gabapentin � a seizure medication, Clonidine �a high blood pressure treatment, and a few anti-depressant varieties) for menopausal symptoms, especially severe hot flashes. Given the potential for serious side effects over time, I would suggest avoiding these medications (as I would conventional, synthetic HRT).

Although Mark tells me they�ll be more to come on menopause in the coming months, I just want to offer a word of support for Barb and other women who are looking at bio-identical hormones. Although I believe in first trying natural ways to handle menopausal symptoms, I don�t consider it failure by any means to embrace the bio-identical HRT route, especially if you�ve tried other measures with little success. I think bio-identical hormones are a reasonable option for women who can�t find relief from natural means when ongoing problems seriously impact their well-being.

A couple of years ago I gave bio-identical hormones a try (a low dose mix of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) when I exhausted the possibilities of various herbs and supplements I could find at the time. (For me, it was more memory issues than hot flashes.) Although the hormonal combination didn�t help my memory situation, it eased a lot of other symptoms I was having. I felt great in ways I hadn�t for a long time.

These days I�m still searching for something to address the memory fog. I�ve gone off the bio-identical hormones for now and am trying a new regimen of Chinese medicinal teas and acupuncture that I�ve designed from my research. It�s a work in progress, and I�ll let you know more when I�ve given it time. For now, I�ll say I�m sleeping better and experiencing less dramatic hot flashes, but I haven�t seen as much change on the memory front yet.

MDA readers, I hope you�ll share your thoughts and stories on coping with hot flashes. I�ll be back with more �Dear Carrie� answers in the near future. Have a great week, everyone! Grab a copy of Primal Blueprint Quick & Easy Meals for over 100 Primal Recipes You Can Prepare in 30 Minutes or Less

Acupuncture can treat hot flashes and make other symptoms of menopause more bearable, study finds

March 10, 2011 | By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times

Women who suffer from hot flashes and other uncomfortable symptoms of menopause may be able to find relief through acupuncture, according to a new study.

The idea of having to lie still for 20 minutes with needles sticking out of you may not appeal to everyone. On the other hand, hormone replacement therapy � often employed to make menopause more bearable � has some problems of its own, including an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and breast cancer.

So Turkish researchers recruited 53 postmenopausal women and assigned 27 of them to a five-week course of acupuncture (twice a week for 20 minutes at a time) and 26 of them got sham treatments that they thought were real. Women in the treatment group had needles inserted at 10 acupuncture points (bilaterally at ST36, LI4, KI3 and LR3, and also at EX-HN3 and CV3); women in the placebo group were treated with blunted needles that didn�t penetrate the skin.

At the end of the study period, the women who got acupuncture showed more relief from their symptoms compared to their counterparts who got the fake treatment. Their hot flashes were less severe (there was no change for women who got the sham treatment). Both groups had improvements in their psychological symptoms (as measured by the Menopause Rating Scale), though the benefit was much greater for women who got acupuncture. In addition, estrogen levels were significantly higher for the women in the treatment group compared to the controls.

Had there been more than 10 sessions, the benefits of acupuncture might have been even greater, the researchers said. The results were published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine.

This isn�t the first study to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture for hot flashes. In prior studies, results have been mixed. But from what I hear about hot flashes, some women are willing to try anything.

Acupunct Med 2011;29:27-31 doi:10.1136/aim.2010.003285

The effect of acupuncture on postmenopausal symptoms and reproductive hormones: a sham controlled clinical trial

Background: Acupuncture is commonly used to treat menopausal symptoms and other gynaecological conditions. In this study, the authors aimed to investigate whether acupuncture has an effect on menopausal symptoms and to explore whether this effect is related to changes in hormone levels.

Materials and methods A total of 53 postmenopausal women were alternately assigned into two treatment groups: acupuncture (n=27) and sham acupuncture (n=26). Menopausal symptoms were assessed using the Menopause Rating Scale (MRS). The serum oestradiol, follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) levels were measured at baseline and again after the first and last sessions. The Student t test was used for normally distributed data and the Wilcoxon signed rank test for not normally distributed data. The group differences in MRS scores were assessed using non-parametric Mann�Whitney U test.

Results After treatment, total MRS, and the somatic and psychological subscale scores were significantly lower in the acupuncture group than the sham group (all p=0.001). The severity of hot flushes was found to be significantly decreased after treatment in acupuncture group (p=0.001). In the acupuncture group LH levels were lower and oestradiol levels were significantly higher than sham group (p=0.046 and p=0.045, respectively) after treatment, but there was no difference in FSH levels.

Conclusion Acupuncture was effective in reducing menopausal complaints when compared to sham acupuncture and can be considered as an alternative therapy in the treatment of menopausal symptoms.

Acupuncture for Treating Gynecological Conditions

  • PMS
  • Cramps
  • Irregular cycle
  • Infertility
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