Menopause Alternative

Doctors often prescribe the hormone estrogen to relieve the hot flashes, depression and other unpleasant symptoms of menopause. Yet, due to the fact that some studies have shown estrogen may increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer, many women never fill their prescriptions. Research is underway to find alternative therapies.

Elizabeth milks her own goats and grows organic vegetables for her family. “The more I learn about organic farming, the more it seems like it makes a lot of sense,” she says. Elizabeth’s holistic approach to living dictates many aspects of her life, including her use of medication.

So when she began having hot flashes and night sweats, both common symptoms of menopause, she chose not to take estrogen. “There’s an awful lot of controversy about estrogen, and I’d much rather go with something that doesn’t have any long-term side effects and try that route.”

That route turned out to be a study testing the effect of acupuncture on menopause symptoms. Dr. Cohen says, “We recruited 18 women. Nine of them received acupuncture that’s specific for their symptoms. The other nine women received what is a general tonic acupuncture. It’s real acupuncture, but it’s not targeted at relieving hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms.”

Six visits later, those who were treated for the specific symptoms felt relief. “They reduced their symptoms anywhere from 50 percent to 100 percent on hot flashes,” says Dr. Cohen. “Sleeplessness or sleep disruption decreased at least 50 percent.”

In another study, Dr. Cohen treated a small group of women with the herb black cohosh and found it, too, helps reduce symptoms of menopause. More studies need to be done to confirm these findings. Meanwhile, Elizabeth says she’s glad for the options.

Black cohosh can be found in most health food stores. It may cause minor gastrointestinal irritability in some women and is not recommended for women with heavy menstrual cycles. If you’re interested in acupuncture, Dr. Cohen says make sure the acupuncturist you choose is licensed.

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