Menopause is a natural part of life, yet as women go through this transition they can experience some troubling symptoms. These symptoms include hot flashes, chills, night sweats, trouble sleeping, and mood fluctuations. Interestingly, these symptoms are not consistent across cultures. In the United States, 75% of women report experiencing symptoms from menopause, whereas in China only 10% of women report symptoms. This begs the question of what the difference is, and whether we can harness this difference to help women in the United States relieve their symptoms.
Menopause in Chinese Medicine
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, menopause is the time when a women's body begins to preserve blood and energy in order to sustain her vitality. The energy once focused on nourishing the uterus for childbirth is transferred to a different system, one responsible for longevity and wisdom. Thus, in Chinese Medicine, menopause is seen as the transition in a woman's life from mother to enlightened and wise being.
In addition to this difference in our stories about menopause, there are also significant differences in how menopause symptoms are prepared for and treated in the East and the West. In China, treatments for menopause symptoms include dietary shifts, herbal medicine, and acupuncture. Acupuncture has recently been the focus of research studies looking into natural ways to relieve the symptoms of menopause.
Acupuncture is proven effective
Since the 1970's, numerous empirical studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of acupuncture in relieving the symptoms of menopause. One recent high quality study funded by the NIH and conducted at Wake Forest and Duke University Schools of Medicine found that acupuncture treatment significantly reduces hot flashes and other vasomotor symptoms. Acupuncture was also found to improve multiple quality of life measures. Results were found to be statistically significant compared with a control group.
Multiple meta-analyses of research have also recently been completed on this topic. One meta-analysis of seven studies published in 2018 concluded that acupuncture is effective both as an adjunctive and stand alone treatment for reducing vasomotor symptoms (including night sweats and hot flashes) and increasing health-related quality of life. Another meta-analysis of six studies published in 2017 concluded that acupuncture is effective for reducing the Menopause Rating Scale (MRS) score in menopausal women, both during the treatment period and in the three months following treatment.
The biochemical basis of acupuncture's effectiveness
Researchers from two universities in China performed a meta-analysis of studies in order to investigate the effects of acupuncture on perimenopausal syndrome as it relates to metabolism, reproductive endocrinology, and the immune system. Their findings revealed that there are multiple biochemical benefits associated with acupuncture treatment that relate to it's effectiveness in treating perimenopausal symptoms. First, they noted that the symptoms of menopause are associated with changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPOA) axis, and that this is associated with the reduction of serium estradiol. In their meta-analysis, researchers found numerous studies that concluded that acupuncture regulates the HPOA axis, as well as levels of serum estradiol, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH). Acupuncture was also found to increase estrogen levels, increase estrogen receptor protein expression, and increase the transformation of androgen into estrogen. Additionally, they documented the clinical success of acupuncture in improving symptoms such as menstrual disorders, hot flashes, sweating, insomnia, and mood disorders.
To learn more about acupuncture, take a look at About Acupuncture or How Acupuncture Works. You can also read about the difference between Western and Eastern Medicine, or learn more about the Wisdom Traditions Acupuncture clinic. If you have any additional questions, take a look at our FAQ or feel free to Contact Us. We're happy to answer any questions you might have. You can also Schedule an Appointment online.
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