Heat flashes, which are also known as hot flushes, is the most common complaint of women seeking treatment with acupuncture and Chinese medicine. It is also a complaint that many women have no problem talking about or mentioning to family and colleagues. Other symptoms associated with menopause such as depression, anxiety or insomnia are often not openly discussed easily.
Heat flashes are less in Asian women
Menopause and symptoms associated with it has provided some interesting research data results. In particular, it was found that Asian women have far less heat flashes than Caucasian women and less severe. The reason for this is unknown and some have speculated that it is because of cultural attitudes and others have postulated that it might be diet related. Who knows, it might be as simple as the fact that Asian women have had a history of eating rice as a staple part of their diet.
What are the heat flashes in Western medicine?
Hot flushes and night sweats are associated with vasomotor symptoms which includes the nerves and where they originate from. The origin being the spine and and brain, which then regulate the blood flow and vessels. As menopause approaches, even small changes in the outside environment can trigger the blood vessels to expand causing heat and sweating. But why this reaction in the vasomotor system reacts as it does, is still not clear.
Oestrogen and heat flashes
It is known that with menopause, oestrogen levels will decrease. This lower level of oestrogen, however varies considerably between women. What is interesting, is that some women can have extremely low estrogen levels but not suffer from heat flashes and others have higher oestrogen levels but have severe hot flashes. To confuse the matter further, hormone replacement therapy often improves the heat flashes but in other cases doesn’t.
What causes heat flashes according to Chinese medicine?
A common system within traditional Chinese medicine is what is known as organ pathologies where over the centuries physicians have collated and organized specific signs and symptoms that are attributed to various organs. Kidney yin deficiency is one such example and as part of the symptom picture is heat often rising to the head causing flushing, red cheeks and thirst as well as possibly hot feet at night. Another pathology is known as liver yang rising which also has heat flashes but could also have severe headaches. In fact there are a number of different pathologies that could be causing the heat flashes or there could be a number of pathologies over lapping. Dr Carolyn Eddleston in the United Kingdom says “In western medicine, menopause is just due to oestrogen deficiency and the treatment is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In Chinese medicine there are over 10 different causes and as such, there are multiple treatment approaches”.
Listen to Dr Carolyn Eddleston discuss about acupuncture and how it can help with heat flashes below.
Chinese herbs and the treatment of heat flashes
Depending on the patients unique individual make up and multiplex of different symptoms that they be experiencing, there are numerous herbal formula combinations that could be prescribed. There is no one size fits all approach and all the other patients symptoms are taken into account. For example, if the patient also had high blood pressure other herbal medicines would be added. Interesting of course, is that often a formula is effective in addressing the heat flashes, yet none of the herbs prescribed have any oestrogenic effect.
Books about menopause and Chinese medicine
Honora Lee Wolf with Bob Flaws have written an excellent book for the lay person on menopause management. Available here from Amazon: Managing Menopause Naturally with Chinese Medicine.
For the Licensed or registered professional Chinese medicine practitioner, Brian Grosman PhD has written Understanding and Treating Hot Flashes in Menopause with Chinese Medicine.
To make an appointment with Heiko Lade
Heiko Lade works in Hastings at The Acupuncture Clinic 206 Charles St and appointments can be made by calling 06 876 3666.