ACUPUNCTURE FOR MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Wondering about a drug-free treatment for menopause symptoms? There’s a small study that finds the benefits of acupuncture include the easing of disruptive menopause symptoms like hot flashes and moodiness. Menopause is that much-maligned end of a woman’s childbearing years that takes place somewhere between 45 and 55, and brings along with it some pretty uncomfortable symptoms, caused by the changes in estrogen and progesterone levels.
This most recent study into acupuncture’s effectiveness included just over 50 postmenopausal women, with 27 given traditional Chinese acupuncture two times each week, and the remaining 26 given a sham procedure meant to mimic acupuncture. Hormone levels were measured at the start and end of the study period. After ten weeks, the subjects getting acupuncture reported significant improvement in two of the most troublesome symptoms – hot flashes and mood swings, compared to those who were given the sham procedure. However, there was no difference in symptoms like vaginal dryness and UTIs, urinary tract infections according to the study.
Over the last 30 years acupuncture has become increasingly popular here in the U.S., but in truth it is one of the oldest forms of healing in the world, working to balance the flow of energy (life force) through meridians (pathways) in your body. By inserting sterile, hair thin needles just under the skin at specific points along the meridians, energy flow can be adjusted and balanced.
According to a 2007 national survey, 3.1 million American adults and 150,000 children had used acupuncture the year before. Interesting that Western medicine sees the points used in acupuncture as places to stimulate nerves, muscle and connective tissues. It’s this stimulation, they say, that improves the activity of your own natural painkillers as well as increasing blood flow. Whatever you believe, many who use acupuncture swear by the process, and the results they get.
Beyond this most recent study, experts are examining the effectiveness of acupuncture for many different conditions. While additional research comes in, acupuncture has already been shown to be beneficial for pain, as well as nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy or after surgery. Acupuncture is notoriously hard to study, and the lack of data makes it difficult for science based Western medicine to accept. In this case, the team didn’t monitor how long the relief lasted – a valid question. Still the ancient practice might just be the alternative to drugs that many women are looking for to manage these very real, very disruptive symptoms.
The good news is that unlike medication, acupuncture has few, if any side effects when practiced by a properly trained practitioner. The acupuncture needles are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use by licensed practitioners. The needles must be manufactured and labeled according to set standards – they must be sterile, nontoxic and single use.
Everyone experiences this treatment differently, and though you might be squeamish at the idea, the needles are so small and thin there is no pain upon insertion or while they remain there. During and after treatment, the benefits of acupuncture for some include feeling energized, others relaxed. Treatment often takes place over several weeks or months, and you should ask about the estimated number of treatments for menopause before you begin. To find a qualified practitioner, start with your own doctor or nurse, as they can be a fantastic resource for referrals. National acupuncture organizations often provide a list of practitioners in your area that you can investigate.
The best way to go about obtaining effective menopause symptom relief is a holistic approach that addresses a number of different factors affecting women during this period of their life. The approach needs to to combine lifestyle changes, natural menopause treatment products and relaxation techniques to stabilize moods and hormones.
Diet and Nutrition
Getting the right menopausal diet in place combined with daily exercise is the foundation of an effective menopause treatment plan. The following foods are best for menopausal women:
- Lean Meats – A good source of iron, particularly useful for menopausal women who are experiencing low energy levels and fatigue. Try to include one or two small servings of a lean protein each day.
- Omega 3 – focus on obtaining fatty acids from fish, flax seed oil as well as goods fats obtained from almonds, nut butters and cashews.
- Calcium – Dairy is a great source of calcium and can help with vaginal dryness.
- Soy – This has been used by many women to ease menopausal symptoms due to the phytoestrogens contained in this food source. Good soy products to include in your diet are soy milk, tofu, tempeh and edamame beans.
Exercise for Menopause Symptom Relief
There is nothing more effective than adding a regular exercise component to your menopause symptom relief regime. If you are new to exercise you can start by taking a 30 minute walk each day and then add some light yoga and stretching. For the more advanced, high intensity aerobic exercise 3 times a week together with 2 strength training sessions are highly effective in increasing bone strength, regulating moods and hot flashes.
This Chinese medicine can be effective in regulating a woman’s hormones. Many of the symptoms that a woman experiences during this time come from estrogen surges in the body which can throw out hormones. Acupuncture aims to address these imbalances and thus relieve the negative feelings like mood swings, irritability and hot flashes.
Natural Menopause Symptom Relief Supplements
Supplements and natural herbs are often used to treat menopause symptoms naturally. Some of the most common ones are Soy, Black Cohosh, Vitamin E, Clover Leaf and Damaina.
Getting a community of women who are going through the same issues is highly beneficial for your mental and spiritual health. you can find local groups in your area or online forums and discussion groups. They may also be able to offers new angles on menopause symptom relief.
Stress Management Techniques
Stress and menopause seem to go hand in hand for many women. There a several techniques that you could implement to reduce your stress levels, including:
- Support Groups
Natural Health Remedies For Menopause Symptoms
A natural approach to dealing with menopause symptoms is on the minds of many women these days. After all the bad press regarding hormone replacement therapy (HRT) many women now fear using HRT. When the results of the Women’s Health Initiative were released relaying the many serious health consequences of use, many women on HRT decided to go off the hormones that they had been using for years. Many decided that they would never go on them.
The symptoms of menopause and perimenopause can vary from woman to woman, from mild to severe and life disrupting. One woman may have mild occasional hot flashes, another may experience severe hot flashes every fifteen minutes accompanied by heart palpitations and feelings of severe anxiety.
Some of the symptoms of menopause are:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Irritability and mood swings
- Heart palpitations
- Feverish feelings (hot then cold)
- Headaches and migraine
- And many more
How can we help these women?
Changes in lifestyle can be helpful. One thing to do is make sure that exercise is a regular part or your weekly schedule. Exercising for an hour 4 or more times a week can greatly reduce hot flashes, anxiety, depression and mood swings. Women in menopause should limit or eliminate alcohol and spicy foods as both can increase the incidence of hot flashes and night sweats. Alcohol can also contribute to depression, anxiety, headaches and insomnia.
Eating a diet filled with plants containing phytoestrogens can also be helpful. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant based substances that are related to our body’s own natural hormones. Some of those helpful plants are beans, seaweed, pomegranate, berries, flaxseed (must be ground, or oil is ok), root vegetables.
For some serious help with menopause symptoms you may want to try herbal support. Herbs can be especially effective at reducing hot flashes and night sweats. Many women find relief with black cohosh or false unicorn root. Red clover is also a very good herb and is also helpful for keeping bones strong, another concern in menopausal women.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are also two proven natural remedies for menopause symptoms. In Traditional Chinese Medicine each person is considered as a unique individual with a unique set of symptoms and constitution. The herbs and acupuncture treatments given for one woman will differ from the next, as each person’s symptoms and constitution will not be the same. Herbal formulas are often created specifically for an individual and contain herbs that are chosen to work synergistically with one another to enhance the overall treatment success.
In the hands of a skilled acupuncturist and herbalist many women can achieve success and relief from menopause symptoms. It is advised that before you start on any herbal regimen that you seek the advice of a medical professional or licensed or professional herbalist as many herbs can interact with medications.