This is a comment I had from a recent patient.

“I went into a regular doctor to get my hot flashes treated and they ended up prescribing antidepressants which I chose not to fill and chose not to proceed with because I’m not a depressed person.”

There are some antidepressants that doctors prescribe for hot flashes and symptoms of menopause that seem to help some people. But of course taking antidepressants is not for everybody and they are not without side effects. My preferred approach to treating menopausal issues is with acupuncture and herbal therapy.

When I was learning about menopause and hot flashes during my studies, it was as if a light bulb went off. It was that special aha moment. An interesting way to understand hot flashes is to first get the concept of Yin and Yang. One of my previous blogs talks about Yin and Yang.

To reveiw briefly, Yin, our moist, cooling energy and Yang, our hot, rising energy should be in relative balance. As we age, our Yin and/or Yang energy becomes deficient. For many who experience the internal heat sensations of hot flashes, it means that the cooling energy has become depleted causing a relative excess (too much) of the Yang, hot energy. The heat is not coming from the outside, but from the inside and rises up into the head and face area.

Treating the hot flashes in Chinese medicine is more about strengthening the Yin energy thereby cooling the relative excess of Yang (hot) energy. It’s not about trying to trick the body into thinking we are younger hormonally again by giving hormone replacement. It’s more about tonifying or strengthening the Yin, cooling energy which has become depleted over time.

When I learned that, I said, “Wow! What an interesting common sense way to understand the mechanism of hot flashes in menopause!” The treatment goal in Chinese medicine for hot flashes is to tonify or strengthen what has become depeleted. We increase the Yin, cooling, moisturizing part of us to put the Yin and Yang back in balance. The goal is not necessarily to reduce the Yang by itself because it’s only elevated due to too little of the Yin. It’s better to treat the root of the problem (too little Yin) rather than treat the symptom (too much Yang). It’s a beautiful way to treat the symptom while treating the root of the problem. So what I do is I put needles and give herbs to help tonify and strengthen the cooling mechanism so the Yin and Yang are in balance and the hot flahses are reduced or eliminated.

I love treating menopause because along with hot flashes comes disturbed sleep, irritability and mood swings. Acupuncture can help regulate a lot of those problems.

What’s important to understand with Chinese medicine and menopause and hot flashes is that our goal as acupuncturists when a woman comes in is to help a woman through this time in her life. It’s to help balance them so their life isn’t defined by menopause.

I have a lot of patients who do not want to take hormone replacement. The acupuncture helps. I have helped women wean off of hormone replacement who didn’t want to take it anymore. So it’s certainly a very viable option to try. It makes sense because the heat comes from inside. It makes complete sense that your cooling mechanism is off.

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