How does acupuncture work to help hot flushes?
We don’t fully understand how it works, but we do know that acupuncture can help regulate hormones and stress. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and it may be that the decrease in stress hormones assists the balance of female hormones.
Is there research to show that acupuncture helps menopause?
The Efficiency of Acupuncture On Menopausal Symptoms (ACOM) study which has just been published in the BMJ is a Danish trial looking at a range of menopausal symptoms including flushes. It reports decreased hot flushes and day and night sweats, and improved mood, sleep, skin and hair symptoms after 5 weeks treatment. Positive results were noted from 3 weeks into the trial (Lund et al. 2019).
The Acupuncture In Menopause (AIM) study in North Carolina showed significant reduction in hot flushes and improved quality of life with benefit maintained for at least 6 months after treatment (Avis et al. 2016).
Recent review studies also show reduction in hot flushes and improved quality of life (Befus et al. 2018; Li et al. 2018; Avis et al. 2017; Chiu et al. 2015). As is the nature of research, not every study shows significant benefit from treatment, but the majority do.
Does acupuncture affect hormone balance in perimenopause?
Subtle increases in oestrogen, progesterone, prolactin and other helpful hormones, and small decreases in FSH and LH, which rise in perimenopause, have all been noted following acupuncture. One review found a rise in oestrogen in 20 out of the 23 studies (Kim and Ko, 2018).
Does acupuncture help menopausal symptoms like anxiety and depression?
Up to 62% of women experience depression during perimenopause. Acupuncture has shown reduction in anxiety and depression and improved quality of life (Wen et al. 2017). In a comparison study of antidepressants and acupuncture during perimenopause the acupuncture performed better than antidepressants in long term treatment (Sheng et al. 2018). Peri-menopausal insomnia has also shown response to acupuncture (Fu et al. 2017).
What can women do for themselves to help relieve hot flushes?
While each person will ideally have advice according to their individual constitution there are some general rules which can help.
Avoiding heat producing foods – these include caffeine, alcohol, sugar, red meats and hot spices
Eating cooling foods – anything green except for green chillies
Staying well hydrated – water, mint tea and sage tea are ideal
Being aware that strong emotions like anger and panic cause heat to rise in the body
Developing a mindfulness practice as it reduces both stress levels and menopause symptoms (Sood et al. 2019)