I read a fascinating article today about a clinical trial on hypnosis for hot flushes. After five sessions, hot flushes decreased by almost 70% in the group that received clinical hypnosis. This is amazing! Wouldn’t you love a 70% decrease in your flushes?
The control group received “structured attention control” during which they had an opportunity to talk about their symptoms and receive empathetic communication from a trained health professional, but were not taken through a hypnosis sequence with suggestions about reducing hot flushes and finding coolness. Hot flushes in this group increased by 7%.
Researchers don’t know why hypnosis and other mind-body therapies (like cognitive-behavioural therapy) might work for hot flushes, but think that these therapies decrease the sympathetic tone in the body (the “fight or flight” hormones).
This is a strong study, with a reasonable sample size of 187 women and commendable attempts to control for the placebo effect by introducing “structured attention control” for the “placebo” group. The researchers also measured hot flushes objectively by using a device that measures the number of episodes of sweating.
Some limitations have to be mentioned, including that the women who volunteered for the study were likely to have been more open to exploring mind-body therapies for their symptoms. Clinical hypnosis also involves having the time and financial resources to attend for regular sessions. However, it is encouraging that only five sessions were needed for such a good response, and that the improvement was sustained at the three month follow-up mark. The hypnosis group also rated their satisfaction with the treatment as “very high”, and no side effects of hypnosis were reported.
Reducing sympathetic tone in the body, or the levels of circulating adrenaline (a “stress” hormone) has many benefits and is certainly worth trying. If you can’t get to a trained hypnotherapist, you could try meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and regular aerobic exercise. While these methods are yet to be proven as effective for hot flushes, they are safe and likely to improve your sense of wellbeing and reduce stress.