One of the most upsetting symptoms that women experience during perimenopause are hot flashes. Some very lucky women will never have them, but most will. Whether they are the intense spikes of heat, the long lingering raises in temperature, or night sweating, hot flashes are universally hated.
Hot flashes are thought to occur when the fluctuating estrogen hormones in a woman’s body alter the functioning of the hypothalamus, which is the gland responsible for maintaining core temperature. Different factors may be involved in how widely and often a woman’s estrogen levels fluctuate. Stress is often a factor, and so is the amount of sleep a woman gets or which foods comprise her diet.
For many years, the most common treatment for hot flashes was the use of hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. In HRT, drugs are given that simulate the effect of estrogen. The idea is that by using synthetic estrogen you can balance out the fluctuation in hormone levels and prevent changes in core temperature. But this kind of therapy is not without risks. Around 10 years ago HRT was shown to increase the risk of breast and other cancers, and is now considered dangerous and should be used only temporarily and in moderation.
Can acupuncture do anything for hot flashes?
The biomedical mechanism may be unclear, but the results aren’t. Acupuncture has been shown to be better than HRT for the treatment of hot flashes, and the written reports of women who used acupuncture say that hot flash frequency and intensity decreased with regular acupuncture treatment. This is above and beyond all the side benefits one gets from acupuncture treatment. Overall, acupuncture helps to even out fluctuating hormones by promoting periods of rest and regulation in the body.
Since diet and many lifestyle factors can play a part in how bad hot flashes are, we will be spending the next couple weeks talking about different herbs and self-treatment techniques that a woman can do to help treat hot flashes on her own. Stay tuned through our RSS feed or like our Facebook page to receive our latest blog updates.