Some good news for post-menopausal women – drink wine for healthy bones

Preventing hip fractures one glass at a time. Photo credit: By Photos Public Domain [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Preventing hip fractures one glass at a time.
Photo credit: By Photos Public Domain [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s not always that post-menopausal women get a break. I lie, they are prone to breaks. Broken bones, that is, from osteoporosis, or thin bones.

However, a recent review has produced some fabulous conclusions. Drinking wine reduces the risk of hip fracture. Yes, that means women who drink wine are less likely to break their hips than women who don’t drink wine, women who drink infrequently, and women who drink beer or spirits. I’ll toast to that!

For more information on preventing osteoporosis beyond enjoying your Chardonnay, see the Osteoporosis Foundation website. Don’t forget, drink in moderation only (1 glass of wine a day at the most), and keep in mind that alcohol increases the risk of cancers such as breast cancer.

Beat those hot flushes with this pearl of an idea

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!

Media release – Can acupuncture help hot flushes?

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.

Smoking leads to earlier menopause (along with the other problems)

It’s been long recognised that smokers go through the menopause earlier than non-smokers, and a recent large study confirms this. The lead author is quoted as saying “‘General consensus is that earlier menopause is likely to be associated with the larger number and higher risk of postmenopausal health problems, such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and others.”

Of course, smoking causes other problems such as cancer of the lung, mouth, nose, throat, oesophagus, pancreas, kidney, liver, bladder, bowel, ovary, cervix, bone marrow and stomach; and lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema; and poor blood circulation in feet and hands, which can lead to pain and, in severe cases, gangrene and amputation. Ouch.

Never too late to quit: according to the Quit website, “After fifteen years your risk of heart attack and stroke is close to that of a person who has never smoked.”

Some great sites on menopause

Not all websites are created equal… but here are some reliable ones by independent (read: non-commercial) organisations. – 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!) – 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!) – 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

Treatments for hot flushes include HRT and electric fans


Some facts about the menopause

The word “menopause” is derived from the Greek words men and pausis, referring to the cessation of menstruation. The menopause can actually only be defined in retrospect, when there has been 12 months or more since the final menstrual period. The final menstrual period or menopause is preceded by a phase called the menopausal transition (lasting an average of 4 years), during which there are considerable fluctuations in hormonal levels and cycle lengths. The menopause essentially marks the end of reproductive function and signals that ovarian hormone production has dropped significantly and will remain very low or negligible. And, the final menstrual period is exactly that – the very last period! (Yay!)

More information on the menopause can be found at


O’Dowd M, Philipp E. The history of obstetrics and gynaecology. New York: Parthenon Publishing Group Ltd 1994.

Soules MR, Sherman S, Parrott E, Rebar R, Santoro N, Utian W, et al. Executive summary: Stages of Reproductive Aging Workshop (STRAW). Climacteric. 2001 2001;4(4):267-72.

Burger HG, Dudley EC, Robertson DM, Dennerstein L. Hormonal changes in the menopause transition.  Recent Progress in Hormone Research, Vol 57 2002:257-75.

Acupuncture for hot flushes – some experts think it might work

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).

Acupuncture for hot flushes – does it work?

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.