Acupuncture brings balance to women’s health. It provides an acceptable alternative to so many pills. Dr. Jun Mao, Chief of Integrative Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering, recently led a study to evaluate whether acupuncture could be used as a possible source of relief for hot flashes.
About 80% of women experiencing menopause get hot flashes, night sweats or both. More than half of all women suffer loss of sleep, general comfort and quality of life. This can last from 7 to 10 years.
Women with breast cancer often experience hot flashes as an unpleasant side effect of treatment. Sometimes they must have their ovaries removed in order to avoid ovarian cancer. Chemotherapy and premature menopause are often the result, followed by hot flashes.
Hot flashes and cancer drugs do not get along, to say the least. Cancer drugs, like tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors, affect hormones, which tends to make hot flashes worse and more persistent. The drugs that treat hot flashes are even worse. They don’t work for all patients and are only partially effective when they do. Whatever relief they provide for hot flashes is practically negated by other upsetting symptoms such as weight gain and sexual side effects.
Hormone therapy has proven to be effective for hot flashes but with significant health risks and side effects. Even herbal supplements and dietary remedies can have side effects. This is all the more reason why so many women seek alternative treatments such as acupuncture.
So what answers did the Sloan Kettering study arrive at? First, the study itself involved a comparison between acupuncture and gabapentin, a drug that has met with success in breast cancer patients who experience hot flashes. They focused specifically on sleep. Hot flashes cause sleep disruption in patients. Their sleep becomes fragmented and they become very tired as a result. Quality of sleep improved in patients who received acupuncture, more so than in patients who received gabapentin.
Acupuncture showed better results in terms of sleep latency, which refers to the time it one takes to fall asleep. It also improved sleep efficiency, meaning how much time you actually spend sleeping while in bed. As for those hot flashes, six to ten sessions of acupuncture should stabilize your body’s ability to regulate its temperature. An appointment a week should do the trick.