(Health Secrets) Acupuncture is more effective at treating hot flashes and night sweats associated with the breast cancer treatment drug tamoxifen than standard remedies, according to research at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Women who are treated with acupuncture instead of antidepressants, the usual treatment, have longer term relief from hot flashes as well as an improved feeling of well-being, and in many cases an increased sex drive.
How does breast cancer treatment lead to hot flashes?
Women who suffer from a particular type of breast cancer fed by unbalanced estrogen are often prescribed drugs that reduce the amount of estrogen in the body. Tamoxifen is the most common of these estrogen blocking drugs and is usually taken daily for several years. One of the common side effects of these types of drugs is hot flashes and night sweats, similar to those experienced during menopause.
The traditional treatment for these hot flashes is an antidepressant such as Effexor. However, these drugs reduce the hot flashes but often have unpleasant side effects such as constipation, nausea, anxiety, dizziness, and dry mouth. Antidepressants may also limit the effectiveness of tamoxifen, as they can interfere with it being absorbed properly into the body.
The team at Henry Ford Hospital was determined to find a natural alternative to Effexor that was free from side effects.
What does the study show?
The study, the results of which were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, involved fifty women who were taking tamoxifen while attempting to survive breast cancer, and who were experiencing hot flashes. They were randomly divided into two groups, one of which was prescribed Effexor for twelve weeks, and the other given regular acupuncture treatments for the same period. The progress of these women was followed for a year after the end of the treatments.
Women from both groups experienced a similar reduction in hot flashes and night sweats, and their mental health was generally improved. However, the women in the group taking Effexor began experiencing hot flashes again two weeks after stopping treatment, while women in the acupuncture group did not.
Many women in the Effexor group reported side effects from the medication, with eighteen out of twenty-five experiencing anxiety or dizziness. Women in the acupuncture group reported no adverse side effects, but a quarter of them did indicate that their sex drive had increased. Many of the women in the acupuncture group also said that their energy levels, their clarity of thought, and their general well-being had improved.
The study concluded that acupuncture could be used as a safer and gentler alternative to antidepressants in the treatment of breast cancer related hot flashes. It provides similar levels of relief with longer term results and a variety of additional health benefits.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy based on the idea that there are twelve meridians or energy pathways that pass though the body, which can be felt at pulse points. The energy that flows though these meridians is known as Chi, and the theory is that physical and emotional symptoms are caused by an imbalance in the flow of Chi between the meridians.
An acupuncture therapist will identify the problem and aim to balance the flow of Chi by placing fine stainless steel needles in a number of specific points along the energy pathways. There are over two thousand such points on the body for the therapist to choose from.
The Chinese have a saying that “a single needle can treat 10,000 maladies,” meaning that acupuncture can be used to treat anything and everything. Generally acupuncture can be used to treat the early stages of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, optic atrophy, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Although acupuncture can’t heal the damage caused by these types of conditions in their late stages, it can slow the progress of a disease and can reduce symptoms and pain. Acupuncture can also help with emotional or spiritual conditions including depression, insomnia, and grief.
Photo by Wonderlane