(NaturalNews) Acupuncture reduces the frequency and severity of hot flashes, according to a meta-analysis published in the journal Menopause.
Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been practiced for at least 2,500 years. It consists of placing thin needles into parts of the body known as "meridians." which are determined by the specific health condition to be treated. In recent years, research by Western scientists has confirmed acupuncture's benefits for numerous health conditions, particularly pain, and it is now covered by some private insurance plans.
All forms of acupuncture help
Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause, reported by 85 percent of U.S. women. They can begin as early as three years before a woman's last menstrual period, and continue for up to 15 years after. Although the severity of hot flashes varies from woman to woman, they are often extremely uncomfortable. Some women may suffer up to 20 hot flashes per day, and nighttime hot flashes can even cause chronic insomnia.
For the new study, the researchers compared the results of 12 separate randomized controlled trials on a total of 869 women who underwent natural menopause between the ages of 40 and 60. The participants had used various different forms of acupuncture, including not just the traditional form but also acupressure, ear acupuncture, laser acupuncture, electroacupuncture and sham acupuncture.
The researchers found that all forms of acupuncture tested reduced the frequency of hot flashes. Acupuncture also reduce the severity of hot flashes, and the effects were not dependent upon the number of treatments sessions or the duration of treatment. The effects lasted up to three months.
"More than anything, this review indicates that there is still much to be learned relative to the causes and treatments of menopausal hot flashes," said Margery Gass, executive director of The North American Menopause Society. "The review suggests that acupuncture may be an effective alternative for reducing hot flashes, especially for those women seeking non-pharmacologic therapies."
Other natural ways to relieve hot flashes
Acupuncture is just one of many non-pharmacological ways to help relieve menopause-related hot flashes.
One of the most effective things you can do is simply to reduce your levels of stress. Some doctors believe that the imbalances of progesterone and estrogen that occur during menopause may lead to increased stress, and vice versa. Reducing stress levels may help normalize hormonal levels. In addition, stress leads to increases in adrenaline and a corresponding rise in body temperature, even in non-menopausal women.
Another simple lifestyle change that you can make is to wear looser clothing, particularly around the groin and abdomen. This prevents the temperature of the sensitive area from rising excessively. Some manufacturers actually market loose, breezy "menopause clothing."
Of course, your diet can also have a big impact on hot flashes. Spicy foods, meats and dairy products have all been shown to increase the frequency and severity of hot flashes, while certain foods such as soy (which contains estrogen compounds) have been shown to reduce them.
According to a study conducted by researchers from Tarbiat Modarres University in Tehran, Iran, a vitamin E supplement (and thus, presumably, foods rich in vitamin E such as leafy greens, tropical fruits and nuts) can reduce the severity of hot flashes. Many women have also found vitamin C or vitamin C-rich foods helpful for reducing hot flash frequency.
Finally, Black Cohosh is a popular European remedy for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. Studies have shown that it works just as well as pharmaceutical estrogen, and may also prevent excessive sweating.