Acupuncture: a natural remedy for hot flushes

Acupuncture could help menopausal women cope with the frequency of hot flashes, new research published in the scientific journal Menopause has revealed.

A North American study, published mid-July, discovered that women who received regular acupuncture treatments over a three month period found the number of hot flashes they experienced reduced, as did their intensity.

The studies

Researchers based their results on the experience of 869 women aged 40 to 60 who were experiencing a natural menopause. The subjects had undergone treatment with acupuncture or variations on the complementary therapy such as acupressure, laser acupuncture, ear acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture and electro-acupuncture. All the women were involved in 12 key studies; however researchers also considered other research on acupuncture prior to making their findings.

The results

The positive benefits of acupuncture were realised regardless of the length of the session the women received or their frequency.

Dr. Margery Gass, executive director of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), is encouraged by the results.

She says: “More than anything, this review indicates that there is still much to be learned relative to the causes and treatments of menopausal hot flashes. The review suggests that acupuncture may be an effective alternative for reducing hot flashes, especially for those women seeking non-pharmacologic therapies.”

Why acupuncture works

The scientific benefits are believed to result from the effects acupuncture has on the neuropeptide called beta-endorphin. The latter is found in the hypothalamus of the human brain and a reduction in it is believed to trigger the peptide calcitonin and which is a key to regulating body temperature.

What are hot flashes?

An extremely common symptom of the menopause, hot flashes involves the body experiencing a sudden rush of heat. The sensation may also be accompanied by red blotches on the skin, sweating or a chilliness running through the body which can cause involuntary shivering.

What are the medical alternatives to acupuncture?

Doctors regularly prescribe Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for the worst effects of the menopause. However, this contains the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, an increase of which has been linked to breast cancer and heart disease.

What is acupuncture?

The complementary therapy, which began in Asia and is believed to have been around for more than 5000 years, involves targeting the body’s meridians by lightly penetrating the skin using thin needles. It’s believed these stimulate the nervous system into releasing particular energies which encourages the body to heal itself. As a result it is believed to help alleviate pain, skin disorders and help with low mood.

Other forms of the therapy involve cupping where hot suction cups are placed on the body to draw energy to that particular region of the body.

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