Menopause and hot flashes are a part and parcel of every woman’s life. Before we get into the symptoms, the causes and the treatment of this crucial period of a woman’s life, let’s know a little more about menopause. Natural menopause occurs around the ages of 45 and 56. During this time women experience a variety of symptoms, which may impact their body and mind. The most common symptoms are night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness.
It also causes problems such as insomnia, fatigue, aches and pains, anxiety, depression, headache, palpitations, genital and urinary problems. For most women, going through this phase of life becomes increasingly difficult. Conventional treatment usually involves hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is the more common and go-to treatment for most women, but it has several side effects.
And though it is effective for some people, for some it isn’t as effective and women experience distressing effects, as soon as the treatment stops. So, in the pursuit of finding a suitable treatment for menopause symptoms in general and hot flashes in particular, they seek holistic treatment options such as acupuncture. Yes, acupuncture for menopause is slowly rearing its not-so-ugly-head and becoming a reliable option for hot flashes treatment. The beauty of a holistic treatment like acupuncture is, it does not have any side-effects and gives hope to hundreds of women out there, who are having trouble combating this transitionary phase of their life. Yes, it is an integral part of your life, even an important one, but it needn’t be a phase which you should look at with fear and helplessness.
What Causes Hot Flashes
Now time for some harsh truths, nearly 80 percent of women experience mild to severe hot flashes during menopause. So, what causes hot flashes? Mainly, estrogen depletion as you age. Hot flashes are characterized typically with a quick rise in body temperature closely followed by perspiration, a quickening of heart rate, and discomfort. It lasts 30 seconds to a minute and they mostly affect you at night.
Women usually endure the experience of hot flashes during the first four years while going through menopause. They start two to three years before your monthly period stops and continues five years after the stopping of menses.
Hot flashes increase blood flow in your blood vessels of your chest, neck, back, and face. Symptoms of hot flashes are as follows.
One of the strengths of acupuncture is in providing a treatment plan that caters to the customized needs of an individual. However, before we get all excited over this treatment expecting it to be a miracle cure of all menopausal symptoms, we must know this that although there have been studies done on this, there are only randomized studies. But there are studies that suggest that acupuncture therapy has an almost similar impact on hormones as hormone replacement therapy. Traditional Chinese acupuncture is said to reduce the severity of hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, according to a brand-new study.
Researchers in Turkey had conducted an experiment on 53 postmenopausal women. While half of them received the traditional acupuncture treatment. The other half was treated to “sham” acupuncture needles that were blunt and did not penetrate the skin in an effective manner.
A five-point scale was created to gauge the acuteness of the menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, urinary symptoms, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and other symptoms noticed in postmenopausal women.
Measuring Menopause Symptoms
The women who underwent traditional acupuncture had suffered far less; that is, reported lower scores on the scale of menopausal symptoms after a period of 10 weeks, when compared to those in the sham treatment group.
The severity of urogenital symptoms, namely vaginal dryness and urinary symptoms, did not show any significant improvement when compared to the traditional acupuncture group when compared to the sham acupuncture group after 10 weeks.
Estrogen amounts were quite high, and in fact higher, while the luteinizing hormone levels were comparatively lower in the group that underwent traditional acupuncture when compared to the sham acupuncture group after 10 weeks.
Why did the group undergoing traditional acupuncture report reduced severity of hot flashes? The researchers say it is only because acupuncture boosts production of endorphins, which stabilizes the temperature control system of the body.
But as the scale of the studies was small, the result is inconclusive and more investigation is needed. But there is certainly a ray of hope. Women can consider traditional Chinese acupuncture as an effective alternative treatment option as the results seem pretty promising. So, if women are wary of the unhealthy impact of synthetic hormones circulating in their bodies, they can consider traditional Chinese acupuncture could be a holistic alternative for women. This will provide women with hot flash relief and will provide an answer to the pertinent question, how to stop hot flashes.
How Does Acupuncture Treatment Work? Acupuncture for Menopause
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese holistic treatment in which the body is pushed and prodded by thin needles at specific points.
The concept of classical Chinese acupuncture is that our bodies contain channels of energy that go from one part of the body to the other in regular patterns all over its surface. These energy channels are also known as meridians. These are more like rivers flowing through your body, they are important to your body as they irrigate and nourish your tissues. The flow of the meridian lines sometimes is obstructed either by emotional or physical trauma, almost like a landslide that forms an obstruction to the flow of a river.
You can restore the regular flow of energy or Chi through the meridians when very fine needles are inserted into acupuncture points along the meridians. This regulates the energy flow and unblocks obstructions or stagnantes the energy. This stimulates the body’s natural healing and ends up correcting the imbalance of your body’s systems.
According to modern scientific explanation, needling or using acupuncture points to stimulate the nervous system has its benefits. It helps release chemicals in the spinal cord, muscles, and brain.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, the cause of hot flashes is a relative imbalance between the Yin & Yang aspects of the Kidneys. The important role that the Kidneys play in TCM is hormonal balancing and helps in the body temperature regulation. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when the Kidneys in TCM are spiralling down, a common symptom found in patients who experiences hot flashes and/or night sweats.
According to Western Medicine, the exact cause of hot flushes is not known, and the main reason is the gradual decline of the primary female sex hormone estrogen. Strangely, however, you also notice the recurrence of hot flashes in young women because of fluctuating hormone levels. Some young women experience hot flashes even with normal estrogen levels but high progesterone levels or with severely fluctuating estrogen levels. There are other hormonal fluctuations which also play a role in causing hot flashes. Hormonal levels such as high levels of FSH, known as follicle stimulating hormone, surges of LH or the luteinizing hormone, cause a quick surge in cortisol and stress hormones that are linked to hot flashes.
Acupuncture and Hot Flashes – 3 Acupuncture Points
When treating hot flashes with auricular acupuncture, there are three major types of points, namely the kidney-related points.
As we age, our kidney energy becomes weaker and more deficient. And most symptoms of menopause are linked with kidney deficiency. Therefore, supporting the kidneys is essential to successful treatment. According to the German auricular acupuncture, there are several points associated with the kidneys. The meridians can be found on the ear. There are three points on the kidney meridian which are largely effective in treating hot flashes, and they correlate with different body points: Kidney 1, Kidney 3, and Kidney 7.
Kidney 1 point :
You will find the kidney 1 point on the sole, in the indentation when the foot is in plantar flexion, located approximately at the point of the anterior third and the posterior two-thirds of the line from the web right between the 2nd and 3rd toes to the back of the heel.
Kidney 3 point:
It is located between the Achilles tendon and the ankle bone right on the inner side of the foot.
Kidney 7 point:
It is located on the medial aspect of the lower leg, 2 cun right above the KID 3, anterior to tendo calcaneus.
As with other holistic methods of healing, it is best to complement your acupuncture treatment with other lifestyle changes such as incorporating a healthy diet, regular exercise, regular sleep-wake schedule, and staying hydrated. These can certainly ensure a smooth transition to the more stable, content and serene phase of your life!