I recently attended the Autumn Conference of The British Medical Acupuncture Society where I heard an amazing lecture on the complications of menopause and alternatives to HRT. A real eye opener. Research of the treatment of hot flushes with HRT or acupuncture or phytoestrogens.
Menopause is often linked with symptoms such as:
- Hot flushes.
- Night sweats.
- Sleep disorders.
- Mood changes.
It can also be linked to an increase in the risk of:
- Raised cholesterol levels.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Memory loss.
- Type 2 diabetes.
It was assumed that the hormonal changes of menopause was the sole cause for these changes, but, following recent research by the Obstetrics and Gynaecology clinic at the University of Genova, Prof. Cagnacci and his team discovered that the increased rates of chronic disease were linked to the frequency and severity of the hot flushes and nights sweats, rather than just the loss of oestrogen at menopause.
Women who suffered from frequent and/or severe hot flushes were much more likely to develop the symptoms of these chronic diseases than women who had very few/light hot flushes.
It was the flushes that were creating the health changes.
Following a hot flush a woman’s cortisol levels rise for about 20 minutes, with multiple flushes this cortisol level can be almost persistently raised in the blood, leading to:
Collagen loss which is linked to:
- Weakened pelvic floor.
Insulin resistance which is linked to:
- Increase in visceral fat
- Metabolic disorder
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
Increased oxidative stress which is linked to:
- Reduced defence against free radicals.
- Memory loss.
The standard treatment to prevent these symptoms is HRT, but some women are unable or unwilling to take hormone replacement therapy due to the risks of breast cancer.
In this study Prof. Cagnacci and his team compare the response to HRT, or phytoestrogens (soy products) or acupuncture. Each group was treated for 12 weeks then the treatment was stopped and the women were monitored for another 12 weeks.
Findings after12 weeks of treatment:
Hot Flushes: The acupuncture group had a slightly greater reduction in hot flushes than the HRT group which was significantly greater than the phytoestrogen group.
Blood pressure: The HRT group had a slight increase in blood pressure, whereas the acupuncture and phytoestrogen group had reduced blood pressure.>
The phytoestrogen group had the most marked drop in LDL cholesterol. Acupuncture and HRT produced slight drops in LDL cholesterol.
HRT and phytoestrogens both gave measurable increase in insulin sensitivity, with acupuncture producing a slight improvement.
At the 12 week follow up after all the treatments had ceased:
The benefits were maintained with acupuncture, and to a lesser extend phytoestrogens, but were almost totally lost 12 weeks after the cessation of HRT.
They concluded that acupuncture and phytoestrogens were effective alternatives to HRT.
Palma, Federica & Fontanesi, Francesca & Facchinetti, Fabio & Cagnacci, Angelo. (2019). Acupuncture or phytoestrogens vs. oestrogen plus progestin on menopausal symptoms. A randomized study. Gynecological Endocrinology. 35. 1-4. 10.1080/09513590.2019.1621835.
Jane O’Connor ADO DO has been registered with the British Medical Acupuncture Society since 2008
Appointments available, telephone: 01926 335932