4 Things To Know About Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices

4 Things To Know About Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices

Menopause is the permanent end of a woman’s menstrual periods. Menopause can occur naturally or be caused by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. A woman is said to have completed natural menopause when she has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. For American women, this typically happens at around age 51 or 52.

Some symptoms that women experience as they age are related to menopause and decreased activity of the ovaries. Other symptoms may be related to aging in general. For decades, menopausal hormone therapy was a widely used treatment for menopausal symptoms, but findings from the Women’s Health Initiative raised serious concerns about the long-term safety of menopausal hormone therapy. Natural products or mind and body practices are sometimes used in an effort to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Here are 4 things to know if you are considering a complementary health practice for menopausal symptoms:

  1. Mind and body practices such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong, hypnosis, and acupuncture may help reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms. Researchers looked at mind and body therapies for menopausal symptoms and found that yoga, tai chi, and meditation-based programs may be helpful in reducing common menopausal symptoms including the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, sleep and mood disturbances, stress, and muscle and joint pain.
  2. Many natural products, such as black cohosh, soy isoflavone supplements, and DHEA, have been studied for their effects on menopausal symptoms, but scientists have found little evidence that they are helpful. There is also no conclusive evidence that the herbs red clover, kava, or dong quai reduce hot flashes.
  3. Natural products used for menopausal symptoms can have side effects and can interact with other botanicals or supplements or with medications. For example, United States Pharmacopeia experts suggest that women should discontinue use of black cohosh and consult a health care provider if they have a liver disorder or develop symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal pain, dark urine, or jaundice. Also, concerns have been raised about the safety of DHEA because it is converted in the body to hormones, which are known to carry risks.
  4. Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use.Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Study links relaxation method to reduced hot flashes: MedlinePlus



Friday, November 30, 2012

By Kathleen RavenNEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Although studies of the effects of relaxation techniques on menopause symptoms have yielded mixed results so far, a new report from Sweden comes down in favor of the approach as an alternative to hormone therapy.

Postmenopausal women trained to relax before and during the onset of hot flashes cut the frequency of those events in half during the three-month trial, researchers say. Women in a comparison group that got no treatments experienced little change in their symptoms.

“The results tell you that, yes, this seems to work,” said Kim Innes of West Virginia University, who has studied mind-body therapies for menopause symptoms but was not involved in the new study. “This was a moderate-sized trial that yielded promising – although not definitive – findings regarding the efficacy of applied relaxation,” she told Reuters Health.

In a review of more than a dozen previous clinical trials involving mediation, yoga and Tai Chi therapies, Innes concluded that these techniques may hold promise for relieving menopause symptoms, but it’s too soon to tell.

In the years just before and after menopause, fluctuating hormone levels can generate a wide variety of symptoms, among the most bothersome are sudden flushing, night sweats and insomnia.

Hormone replacement therapy is thought to help by stabilizing the fluctuations, but not all women can take hormones because of other health conditions or risk factors, and many don’t want to because of possible risks from the hormones themselves.

“A lot of women in Sweden do not want to or cannot use hormone therapy due to side effects,” said lead author of the new study Lotta Lindh-Åstrand of Linköping University.

So Lindh-Åstrand’s team set out to test the effects on menopausal hot flashes and quality of life of a method called applied relaxation that was developed in Sweden in the 1980s, based on type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy.

The researchers recruited 60 healthy Swedish women and randomly assigned a little more than half to practice applied relaxation and the rest to a comparison group that received no treatment. The women, mostly in their fifties, had all stopped menstruating a year or more earlier but still experienced hot flashes and night sweats.

The 33 women in the therapy group learned how to focus on breathing and releasing muscle tension before and during hot flashes.

For the first week, the women observed and recorded what they felt before and during a hot flash or other menopausal symptom. Next, the women were encouraged to spend 15 minutes twice a day tensing and relaxing muscles from head to toe. Gradually, women learned how to decrease the time needed to relax by focusing on controlled breathing and not tensing the muscles. Toward the end of the study, the women were instructed to practice relaxation 20 times a day in 30-second sessions. The final “homework” exercise required the women to use these breathing and relaxation skills to quickly relax during a hot flash situation.

At the beginning of the study, all the participants experienced an average of 10 hot flashes a day. After three months, researchers report in the journal Menopause, the applied relaxation group had an average of four flashes a day while the comparison group averaged eight.

The researchers also found modest improvements in quality of life measures, including sleep problems and aches and pains, among women in the relaxation group, while the comparison group reported no changes.

Innes and other researchers said the mechanism behind mind-body therapies and their effect on menopausal symptoms is not completely understood, but it could be linked to the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for “fight or flight” responses as well as basic functions like heart rate, blood pressure and sweating.

Lindh-Åstrand and her colleagues warned that the results were not final and more research is needed.

“The next step,” Innes said, “would be a larger randomized controlled trial” that includes an active comparison, for instance, between relaxation techniques and physical exercise.

Such a study could help build a stronger argument for applied relaxation as a treatment, experts agreed.

Lindh-Åstrand stressed that relaxation techniques are not for everyone, especially for women who suffer from severe depression or anxiety. Women with these conditions could paradoxically feel more tense under the treatment, she said.

But for many women, she added, “this gives them a tool for managing hot flashes.”

“Over time, the women can be more self-confident because they know they can do something when the problem appears,” Lindh-Åstrand said.

SOURCE: Menopause, November 12, 2012.


Reuters Health


Read more: Study links relaxation method to reduced hot flashes: MedlinePlus.