How To Cure Hot Flashes Naturally With Ayurveda and Acupuncture
Posted Jan 13 2010 12:42pm
In 2002, a large clinical trial called the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) reported that hormone therapy actually posed more health risks than benefits for women in the clinical trial. Of the 75% of women in the U.S. that experience hot flashes during menopause, most are still prescribed hormone replacement therapy. Besides the risks, the hot flashes usually return as soon as the drugs are stopped. What if there was a way to actually treat the root of the problem and restore the balance so that dependency on a drug wasn't necessary? Although I haven't personally gone through this phase of life yet, I've treated enough menopausal patients to know that acupuncture treatments and a diet according to Ayurveda can make a very hot woman feel cooler than ever.
This week the Journal of Oncology the results of the first randomly controlled trial to compare the effects of acupuncture versus drug therapy for breast cancer patients experiencing hot flashes. Hot flashes during menopause have a different pathological cause than during cancer treatment, but in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, the pattern behind both types of hot flashes is the same. The results of the study showed that acupuncture and drug therapy were equally effective in reducing hot flashes during treatment, but that after the 12 weeks of treatment, the women who received acupuncture continued to stay cooler, while the women who stopped the drug therapy got hotter again. These incredible results confirm that the acupuncture treatment actually addressed the root of the problem while the drug therapy only masked the symptoms.
How does Ayurveda explain hot flashes and what to do about them? Ayurveda describes hot flashes as a Pitta (fire) disorder. Women feel like they're on fire, and in fact there is an excess of the fire element in their body. Other common heat signs during menopause are insomnia, irritability, and dryness. To cool this fire, Ayurveda recommends switching to a diet that pacifies Pitta. This means avoiding spicy, greasy and acidic foods like tomatoes, onions, garlic, chiles, red wine, sour oranges and grapefruits, fried foods, and also white sugar. The diet should focus on cooling foods like cucumbers, mint, cilantro, coconut, watermelon, fennel, legumes, fresh dairy products and leafy greens. Exercise is important but should be a type that is nourishing and not too heating such as swimming or yoga (not Bikram's hot yoga please!) Ayurvedic herbs like shatavari and are excellent to cool the system and balance the hormones. Applying brahmi oil to the scalp, especially in summer, also helps to bring more cooling energy into the body. Following these Ayurvedic guidelines will actually reduce the fire element in the body so that the hot flashes decrease naturally.
Fortunately for my mother, I was a student at The Ayurvedic Institute when she was experiencing menopause, and Dr. Lad made recommendations to her and prescribed some Pitta reducing herbs. She was an excellent patient, followed his suggestions, and felt huge improvements in her temperature, energy level, and mood as a result. She was my first case study proving that simple Ayurvedic dietary and herbal protocols could substitute for hormone therapy.
In Chinese medicine, the two major energies in the body are called Yin and Yang. Yin is the cooling, fluid, lunar energy and Yang is the heating, sharp, solar energy. They are constantly fluctuating throughout our lives. During menopause and also during radiation treatment, the Yin and Yang become imbalanced and typically the Yin becomes deficient. In menopause it is not uncommon to see Yang deficiency as well. In those cases, there are also cold signs, depression and possibly edema. This is how Chinese medicine explains the hormonal changes that occur. When there is a significant lack of this cooling, fluid energy, the body feels hot and dry. The nervous system becomes agitated and the spirit gets restless. This manifests more at night because the night is Yin time.
Acupuncture is very effective at nourishing Yin through targeted points that are described as Yin tonifiers in the ancient Chinese medical texts. The root of Yin and Yang in the body is the kidneys, and the kidneys can be directly addressed with specific points. There are even acupuncture points to reduce sweating and calm the spirit.
Chinese herbal medicine is full of herbs and formulas that are very effective at nourishing Yin, reducing heat and sweating, tonifying the kidneys and calming the spirit. The classic formula for the symptoms of menopause due to kidney yin deficiency is called Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan. It is important to have a licensed acupuncturist make a correct diagnosis for you to confirm which pattern is the root cause of your symptoms, and which herbs are best for your type.
The beautiful thing about utilizing the wisdom of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine to treat troublesome health issues is that these systems promote a state of balance for your entire being for your lifetime. Because these traditions treat the root of the problem and not just the branches (your symptoms), you don't have to worry about side effects and about another health condition being created as a result of the treatment. With hormone replacement therapy, there are serious health risks associated with the treatment. With Ayurveda and acupuncture, your entire body benefits from having your energy regulated, your Yin and Yang balanced, and your internal fire calmed down naturally.