Bothered by hot flashes? Acupuncture might be the answer, analysis suggests

In the 2,500+ years that have passed since acupuncture was first used by the ancient Chinese, it has been used to treat a number of physical, mental and emotional conditions including nausea and vomiting, stroke rehabilitation, headaches, menstrual cramps, asthma, carpal tunnel, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, to name just a few. Now, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials which is being published this month in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), indicates that acupuncture can affect the severity and frequency of hot flashes for women in natural menopause.An extensive search of previous studies evaluating the effectiveness of acupuncture uncovered 104 relevant students, of which 12 studies with 869 participants met the specified inclusion criteria to be included in this current study. While the studies provided inconsistent findings on the effects of acupuncture on other menopause-related symptoms such as sleep problems, mood disturbances and sexual problems, they did conclude that acupuncture positively impacted both the frequency and severity of hot flashes.Women experiencing natural menopause and aged between 40 and 60 years were included in the analysis, which evaluated the effects of various forms of acupuncture, including traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture (TCMA), acupressure, electroacupuncture, laser acupuncture and ear acupuncture.Interestingly, neither the effect on hot flash frequency or severity appeared to be linked to the number of treatment doses, number of sessions or duration of treatment. However, the findings showed that sham acupuncture could induce a treatment effect comparable with that of true acupuncture for the reduction of hot flash frequency. The effects on hot flashes were shown to be maintained for as long as three months.Although the study stopped short of explaining the exact mechanism underlying the effects of acupuncture on hot flashes, a theory was proposed to suggest that acupuncture caused a reduction in the concentration of β-endorphin in the hypothalamus, resulting from low concentrations of estrogen. These lower levels could trigger the release of CGRP, which affects thermoregulation.”More than anything, this review indicates that there is still much to be learned relative to the causes and treatments of menopausal hot flashes,” says NAMS executive director Margery Gass, MD. “The review suggests that acupuncture may be an effective alternative for reducing hot flashes, especially for those women seeking non- pharmacologic therapies.”A recent review indicated that approximately half of women experiencing menopause-associated symptoms use complementary and alternative medicine therapy, instead of pharmacologic therapies, for managing their menopausal symptoms.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Testosterone not as helpful as expected for some women going through menopause early

With plummeting hormone levels, natural menopause before age 40 can put a damper on women’s mental well being and quality of life. But bringing testosterone back up to normal may not bring them the boost some hoped for, found a new study published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).Before age 40, ovaries stop functioning in about 1% of women without some obvious genetic abnormality to blame, bringing on an early menopause. Called “primary ovarian insufficiency” or POI, the condition can spell not only infertility and other physical problems but also depression and decreased quality of life. Adding back lost estrogen and progesterone helps. But ovaries normally produce testosterone, too, which has mental and physical effects. Adding it back, some thought, could be helpful.But studies looking at adding testosterone for women who lose ovarian function for other reasons, such as after natural menopause or hysterectomy, haven’t yielded consistent results. So these investigators looked at the mood and quality of life data from women with POI in a study done at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD, where women underwent a year of hormone therapy that included testosterone. In the randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study, 61 women used placebo patches and 67 women used patches that delivered 150 micrograms of testosterone a day, similar to the Intrinsa patch that was rejected by FDA as a treatment for low sexual desire in women.After 12 months, testosterone levels were back up to normal for the women who got the treatment. The investigators saw no detrimental effects of testosterone, but they found no significant improvement either in measurements of quality of life, self esteem and mood compared with placebo.Bringing testosterone back to normal doesn’t help these aspects of life, suggesting that it’s something other than testosterone that plays a role in mood problems for women with POI, concluded the researchers.But there are still unknowns. The study didn’t measure depression and sexual function specifically, so the investigators couldn’t draw conclusions about the effects of normalizing testosterone on those problems. …

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