Posts made in July, 2009

Acupuncture and hot flashes – a winning combination

Posted by on Jul 6, 2009 in hot flash | 5 comments

There have been a lot of naysayers of late with regards to acupuncture. However, one of the largest studies to date examining its impact on menopausal hot flashes has been completed. The results? Acupuncture plus self-care can significantly reduce hot flashes and improve quality of life during menopause!

In the  ACUFLASH study, researchers randomized 399 postmenopausal women (1 year since last menstrual period) regularly experiencing at least 7 hot flashes daily to acupuncture or no treatment. Moxibustion was used at the practitioner’s discretion and sessions could also be extended by two weeks (from 12 weeks), if needed.  Although the practitioners met beforehand to discuss possible diagnoses and recommended treatment points, all treatment was individualized. Both groups of patients also received self care recommendations, which consisted of a one-page information leaflet on care of menopausal symptoms (e.g. soy, herbs, physical activity and relaxation techniques) which they were free to add at their own discretion.

Overall, the mean frequency of hot flashes declined by 48% in women receiving acupuncture compared with 28% of women using self-care methods only. This means that 50% of women receiving acupuncture experienced a 50% or greater reduction in how often their hot flashes occurred, compared to 16% of women using self-care. Significant reductions were also seen in hot flash intensity. Additionally, the acupuncture group reported significant improvements in vasomotor, sleep, and somatic symptoms over the course of the study.

The researchers have pointed out that previous studies (which have shown mixed results) have relied on smaller numbers of patients, have used  sham needles that did not penetrate the skin,  and have relied on a standardized practice. In contrast (and in keeping in line with the edicts of eastern  medicine) ACUFLASH practitioners individualized treatment according to patients’ needs. This may help to account for the positive results.

I have long argued for a need to modify western methods so that aspects of eastern practice that both make it unique and also form its foundation, may remain intact. This study remained true to the practice of acupuncture while also insuring that certain scientific tenets were followed. I  am hopeful  that the size of the study coupled with its approach, will open the door for future studies and provide an evidence-based path for women who choose a non-pharmacologic approach to menopause.

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A flash….

Posted by on Jul 3, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

and I’m gone! As my friend Sissy says, “let freedom ring.”

Have a safe and happy Fourth!

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Wednesday Bubble: weathering your hot flashes

Posted by on Jul 1, 2009 in hot flash | 2 comments


Hey Ladies! This week’s bubble comes to you c/o my Twitter friend Gloria Bell, who asked an interesting question: does climate affect hot flashes?

Apparently it does. Although there are not a lot of studies that have been conducted specifically on this topic, an extensive analysis of data from 54 studies suggests that climate may indeed, influence the frequency of hot flashes. Investigators focused the mechanisms underlying hot flashes ( i.e., small elevations in core body temperature within a temperature range where a woman would not normally shiver or sweat –also called the thermoneutral zone), hypothesizing that these zones might actually be climate-specific.

The study:

  • Researchers examined information on the frequency of hot flashes from 54 studies and evaluated the correlations between hot flash frequency and geographical latitude, elevation and annual temperatures. Additional analyses were conducted on data derived from studies that included women no older than age 60.

What they learned:

  • Among women up to age 60, the average temperature of the coldest month could actually predict how frequently women experienced hot flashes almost a third of the time.
  • Among all women, the difference between the hottest climates and the coldest climates significantly predicted hot flash frequency about 26% of the time.
  • A climate’s mean annual temperature also predicted hot flash frequency.

Overall, women who lived in warmer temperatures tended to report fewer hot flashes than those in the coldest regions. Hot flashes also tended to increase in areas where there were more seasonal fluctuations.

Although climate plays a role, other factors, such as hormonal imbalance, smoking and diet have also been shown to influence hot flash severity and frequency. Still, it is interesting to learn that where we live may influence the challenges we may face when weathering the menopause storm!

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