Suffer from hot flashes? This might be the key to relief
Your work day is humming along at a comfortable pace and, whoosh, the intense heat overtakes you in a flash.
Now, makeup is melting from your clammy face, and you’re all icky sticky.
Hot flashes, the sudden feeling of heat in the upper part of the body, is common among women in the late 40s – early 50s menopausal stage of their lives, and the subject of inside jokes about “personal summers.”
But hot flashes and their nocturnal counterpart, night sweats, are no laughing matter. They can be embarrassing for women and devastating to their quality of life.
Many are turning to the Chinese medicine technique of acupuncture for relief, and one study published in the journal of Menopause found that half the participants who use this technique reported a reduced frequency of the hormonal shifts that lead to sudden waves of heat.
Dr. Ebony Lawson, a hospitalist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, agrees the art of acupuncture can be an effective hot flash treatment, along with supplements and behavior modifications.
“The most effective way to treat menopausal hot flashes is hormonal replacement therapy, but there can be serious side effects (cancer, blood clots), and not everyone is a candidate,’’ says Dr. Lawson. “Acupuncture is a reasonably priced and relatively safe way to restore what menopause has stolen from women,’’ she says.
Ancient practitioners believed energy flow throughout the body was essential for health and inserted thin needles under the skin to release endorphins. Though acupuncture is not painful, Dr. Lawson acknowledges the irony that “a process that looks like it would cause discomfort is actually a pathway to happy hormones.”
Among the study’s 170 women who received acupuncture treatments, more than 45 percent of the study group reported a 47 percent reduction by the eighth week, while four percent reported a 100 percent decrease in hot flashes.
Other options Dr. Lawson recommends for women to keep cool include:
- Exercising and reducing stress to help to promote overall well-being.
- Using herbal remedies such as black cohosh, sage and primrose, which have reportedly helped women stay balanced. However, Dr. Lawson cautions patients to work with their health care providers since herbal supplements are not regulated.
- Wearing lighter weight clothing made of wicking fabric, as they are designed to pull moisture away from the body. Many athletes wear these high-tech polyesters to stay cool and dry.
- Snuffing out cigarettes to help improve conditions that worsen hot flashes.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.