You gotta love something that is endorsed by Oprah, no? Imagine cooling yourself down in the heat of a hot flush, with a set of classy pearls. That’s right, pearls! Or something that looks a lot like pearls anyway – these babies contain cooling gel. Pop them in the freezer, and they are good to go for when you start feeling that face fry! Recently one of our participants was describing how she was sitting with a bag of frozen peas on her chest while talking to me on the phone, and I immediately thought of these Hot Girls Pearls. Infinitely more attractive than frozen peas, and you can even purchase a chic little insulated purse that will keep your pearls cool while you’re out and about. I love it!
I speak to many women who do not wish to start HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) for various reasons – some have a family history of breast cancer, or risk factors for stroke/heart disease, or simply want something non-pharmacological. Unfortunately there are few good alternatives, although the following are worth discussing with your doctor:
- certain antidepressants may reduce hot flushes by 50% – side effects may limit this form of treatment though. The most popular one at the moment appears to be Efexor.
- Clonidine and Gabapentin, two non-hormonal conventional medications, are also effective – but again, often cause side effects such as dry mouth and dizziness.
It never ceases to amaze me when new over-the-counter products appear on the shelves with very cute names (I won’t name any for fear of libel!) but currently there is little evidence to support the use of these products (and I’ve never met anyone who swore by a particular product either). That isn’t to say that the active ingredients are not effective – it more reflects the lack of research. However, a recent re-appraisal of all the studies on black cohosh (also known as Remifemen) concluded that it is no better than a placebo. Pfft! There goes that! The only supplement with any reasonable evidence so far is soy isoflavone, which may reduce hot flushes by 25%. Recently I’ve come across single studies that suggest Chinese herbal medicine (a formula called “Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang”), pine bark extract and licorice may help but I don’t think it’s wise to draw conclusions from one study – just look at black cohosh.
There’s interest in the mind-body connection with hot flushes, with talk about the link with serotonin and adrenaline, and Prof Myra Hunter in the UK has published studies that suggest psychological strategies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can reduce hot flushes. A small study found yoga could be helpful, as well as studies on paced breathing and exercise. Certainly the area of the brain that tells us that we are feeling hot also seems to have a role in emotional control, so this could be another reason why these therapies might help.
I would encourage all women who are flushing to consult their doctors if they are not coping, to discuss their options. Don’t suffer alone! More useful information can be found on the Jean Hailes website and the Australasian Menopause Society website.
Read our media release on our study on acupuncture for hot flushes here. Hot flushes are the most common and bothersome symptom during the menopause, and acupuncture might be an effective treatment. We need women to participate in clinical trials – so spread the word on this exciting research.
Not all websites are created equal… but here are some reliable ones by independent (read: non-commercial) organisations.
www.managingmenopause.org.au – maintained by Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, a national not-for-profit women’s health foundation (and a close collaborator on our acupuncture for hot flushes study – we love them!)
www.menopause.org.au – website of the Australasian Menopause Society. Find a doctor that specialises in menopause, read factsheets and latest research, and find studies on menopause currently recruiting for volunteers (including ours!)
http://www.thewomens.org.au/GynaecologyAndWomensHealthFactSheets – fact sheets on women’s health from the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne
Don’t forget to check out our official study website if you live in Melbourne and are interested in taking part in a study on acupuncture for hot flushes
This is hot off the press. A very recent review on menopause and hot flushes, written by a collaboration of menopause experts including Professor Martha Hickey from our very own University of Melbourne and Royal Women’s Hospital, commented that “Acupuncture may ameliorate climacteric symptoms but good-quality clinical trials are needed.” There is a need for more research into this area that is carefully designed so that it sheds more light on this issue. It’s always good to get validation for what you are doing, but now it’s back to business as usual – the challenge of getting enough volunteers for a clinical trial.
D. F. Archer et al., Climacteric : the journal of the International Menopause Society 14, 515 (2011 Oct (Epub 2011 Aug, 2011).
That is what I am presumably spending the next six years finding out, though I don’t think I can really claim to answer the question after doing a mere PhD on the topic – but I will hopefully be adding to the “body of evidence”.
For the past eight months I’ve slaved away and written protocols, trained acupuncturists, designed surveys, and seen to every tiny detail that will make this come together. “This” being a large clinical trial, to the tune of 360 women, and requiring more than half a million dollars to run. (Before you get too heated up, very little of that loot is coming to me. In fact, as most academics know, it would be a very sad thing if I was doing this for the money).
The lovely people at the Human Research Ethics Committee (aka HREC – there’s a lot of acronyms in University bureaucracy) at the University of Melbourne have rubber-stamped my application to post on my blog about the trial. So here is the link to our official website.
This project really is “my baby”, being something I conceived in 2008 and gestated as a pilot study (my Masters project). I’m an acupuncturist, and we often see dramatic results in practice, but it can be difficult to know if it was due to our skill and expertise or if it was all a “placebo effect”. (Which some people argue is a large part of the acupuncture experience – and they are probably right).
Women in midlife are probably my largest clientele, and I would be overjoyed if we discovered acupuncture works for hot flushes, because it may just ease the burden that these wonderful women carry – they work, look after partners, look after ageing parents, stepchildren, children, sometimes grandchildren, and they just don’t need the bother of hot flushes.
If you know any women who are postmenopausal, suffering from hot flushes, and who have not had acupuncture in the past, and who live in Melbourne, please point them to my website.