What is hormone?
Hormones are produced in the endocrine glands. There are many endocrine glands in the body, such as the pituitary gland, thyroid, adrenal glands, and pancreas, testis in men ad ovaries in women. These glands produce specific chemicals and these chemicals act on the target organs and play a role in body function such as growth, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and mood etc. Hormones are powerful molecules and only a tiny amount can cause big changes in the body. Too much or too little hormones can cause serious conditions. For example, if ovaries don’t produce enough hormones ie oestrogen and progesterone, it can cause infertility. If pancreas does not produce enough insulin, it can cause diabetes.
Hormonal balance is very important to the health. If the hormones are not balanced, there are many signs to indicate.
Irregular periods and spotting, Women in reproductive ages have regular periods. If the periods are not regular, or there are spotting between periods or missing periods. This indicates that the hormones are not balanced. They should not have vaginal bleeding between the periods, but many women experience spotting (light vaginal bleeding) between their periods sometimes. This is considered not normal. If you have difficulty to get pregnant and you have persistent spotting every month, this could be the problem. One of the common causes of spotting is hormone imbalance. Eostrogen and progesterone levels drop causing uterine lining breaking down which leads to spotting. Chronic acne, chronic acne is caused by excess of adrogens. If your acne does not clear up for long period of time, this indicates imbalanced hormones. Chronic fatigue and headaches, if you always feel tired, this can be caused by imbalanced hormones. Periodic headaches can be caused by imbalanced hormones. Mood swing and depression, hormones imbalanced can affect the brain and cause mood changes and depression, sleep problems and poor memory. Digestion problems such as bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, appetite changes etc. Other signs include vaginal dryness, loss of libido and breast changes.
Light period, Periods are menstrual bleeding from the uterus. Every month hormones produced in the ovaries have cyclic changes. These changes cause uterine inner lining shed from the uterine wall and bleeding from the uterus. The normal bleeding days are 5 days from 4-7 days and the normal blood loss during the period is between 20-60 ml. The period with less 20 ml of blood loss is light period. Imbalanced hormones causing thin uterine lining is the common cause for this. Inflammation in and around the pelvis is another common cause and this can cause tension and block the blood flow to the uterus. If your period is too light, this could affect you from getting pregnant, because the uterine lining is not good enough for embryo to implant into the uterus and pregnancy would not occur.
Acupuncture can help improve hormone balance and reproductive blood flow and improve the chance to get pregnant.
Hormones and pain
Many chronic pain conditions have cyclical variation. This variation is related to menstrual cycles. Clearly period pain is a typical one. Other conditions such as chronic pain syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), interstitial cystitis (IC) and migraine can also show cyclical variation. Research has shown that chronic pain symptoms occur when oestrogen levels are low or fall rapidly. This supports the use of the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) to give a more constant hormonal level can improve pain and other symptoms. β-endorphin produced in the brain had a potent analgesic effect, and up to 33 times more potent compared to morphine on a molar basis. Acupuncture treatment raises β-endorphin level and improves pain.
Oestrogen and menopause
Menopause is when a woman’s periods stop permanently. This could be a life change in the women. As women are approaching menopause, the ovaries function is declining and the body makes less oestrogen and progesterone. Eostrogens are produced in adrenal glands and fat instead of ovaries. The periods become irregular and less frequent and eventually stop. Menopause occurs naturally when a woman is in her 50s, but some women may experience early menopause in their 30s or 40s. Due to hormones change, there are some symptoms associated with it. The most common symptoms is hot flushes --- suddenly feeling hot and going red in the face. These may be associated with bouts of sweating during the day as well as at night. It is also common to find that the vagina feels dry and uncomfortable, which may make sex painful. Other symptoms include tiredness, irritability, trouble sleeping, feeling depressed and less interest in sex.
For most women, menopause is not an illness, but a phase of natural transition in later life. Sometimes the symptoms associated with menopause can be distressing and they may last for several years. If you are bothered by the menopause symptoms, you need to do something to help. Acupuncture is a natural way to help to reduce menopause symptoms such as hot flushes etc.
Hot flushes are the most common symptom of the menopause. Three out of four menopausal women have hot flushes. The symptoms include a sudden feeling of heat which can be accompanied sweating, palpitation, red flush, sleep disturbance, and mood changes. The severity varies from woman to woman. Estrogen levels decline in menopause, norepinephrine levels rise, leading to an upregulation of hypothalamic serotonin receptors, which are involved in temperature regulation. However, absolute estrogen levels are not solely responsible for hot flashes, because researchers have found no significant correlation between plasma, urinary, or vaginal estrogen levels and the appearance of this symptom. Instead, it is the relative decline in estrogen levels that appears to mediate these central changes in norepinephrine and serotonin. Significantly lower levels of plasma beta-endorphin levels were found at the onset of the hot flushes than five to 20 minutes before. These changes affect the brain temperature control center causing hot flushes.
Treatment suggested effectively for hot flushes is HRT. Apart from medication, do you know acupuncture can stop hot flushes? Acupuncture is effective for controlling hot flushes by stimulating the body releasing b endorphins It has no side effect and is a safe method to treat hot flushes.
Hot flushes treatment HRT vs acupuncture
Hot flushes are the most common symptoms of menopause. Most women experience hot flushes going through the menopause. Women with hot flushes can have sudden feeling of heat and sometimes a red, flushes face and sweating. If this happens at night, they are called night sweats. It may disturb sleep. The severity varies from person to person. Some women have occational hot flushes, while others have it every hour. Hot flashes happen when the bloodvvessels near the skin's surface dilate to cool, making you break out in a sweat. Some women have hot flushes for a very short period of time during menopause, while others may have it for several years or for the rest of their lives. The cause of hot flushes is not clear. They may be caused by hormone changes affecting the body’s temperature control. Recent study has shown that beta endorphins level is low when women have hot flushes.
Hormone replacement therapy known as HRT is recommended by doctors. It can help with hot flushes in many women and other symptoms including vaginal dryness and mood problems. When you stop HRT treatment the hot flushes may come back. Also there is risk of taking HRT including risk of blood cloting, breast cancer, endometrial cancer.
Hot flush, acupuncture is a good choice of treatment
Due to the risk of HRT, an alternative treatment is a good choice. Acupuncture is an effective treatment for hot flushes and is recognised as an effective way to reduce hot flush and there are no side effects and no risk of cancer. The possible mechanism is that acupuncture releases beta endorphins in the body. Borud et al performed a randomised controlled trial to study effectiveness of acupuncture for hot flush. 10 sessions of acupuncture were given to acupuncture group and advice on self-care was for control group. The results showed that acupuncture group has significant improvements in hot flush, sleep and other symptoms. Borud also analysed 16 clinical trial studies. Some studies showed that acupuncture reduces about 50% in hot flush frequency comparing with no specific treatment; the effect of acupuncture on frequency is smaller than that oestrogen therapy. They concluded that acupuncture reduces hot flush. Sunay D et al carried out a sham controlled clinical trial to investigate effect of acupuncture on hot flush and hormone levels. They not only showed that acupuncture relieved hot flush, but also showed that acupuncture lowered LH levels, increased oestrogen levels.
There are other promising research data supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture in hot flushes in menopausal women. Recently Baccetti et al from Italy conducted a randomized trial to investigate the effect of acupuncture treatment for hot flushes. One hundred women in spontaneous menopause with at least three episodes of hot flushes daily were randomly allocated to two treatment groups (50 per group): Women in group A were given diet, self-massage training, and treatment with acupuncture, and women in group B (the control group) were given the same diet and self-massage training. 6 weeks acupuncture treatments were offered for these women. They found that treatment with acupuncture significantly reduced the occurrence of hot flushes and sudden sweating. They also found that other symptoms including sleep disorders, tightness in the chest, irritability, bone pain, feeling depressed were also significantly improved after acupuncture treatments. They suggested that Acupuncture in an integrated system that includes therapeutic techniques such as diet therapy and Tuina self-massage can be used to treat hot flushes and selected symptoms in postmenopausal women.
A study of acupuncture on hot flushes was performed by Borud EK et al from the National research Center in Complementary and Alternative Medicine University of Tromso Norway in 2006/2007. There were 267 participants with hot flashes. Mean age was 53.8 year old. 134 women were in acupuncture group receiving 10 sessions of acupuncture treatment over 12 weeks. The most frequently used 10 acupuncture points were SP6, HT6, KI7, KI6, CV4, LU7, LI4, LR3, ST36 and KI3. 133 women were in control group receiving self care only. In acupuncture group 67 women responded to the acupuncture treatment. 64 women did not respond to the treatment. There were no serious side effects found in acupuncture treatments.
Borud EK et al Acupunct Med (2009) 27:101-10
Borud EK et al Menopause (2009), 16: 484-93
Borud E et al Auton Neurosi (2010), 157: 57-62
Sunday D Acupunct Med (2011), 29: 27-31
Baccetti S et al J Altern Complement Med (2014) May 14
Welcome to my blog, discover acupuncture with Dr Maggie Ju
Qualified as a medical doctor in Western medicine in China with a Medical degree from Beijing, China and a PhD degree from the UK. Many year research and clinical experiences. This blog is for information only.
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