If you haven’t heard about hormone replacement therapy and the controversy surrounding it in the headlines recently, you might be living under a rock (or… seriously preoccupied).
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a medical treatment that involves replacing the hormones that the body no longer produces in sufficient quantities. This treatment is commonly used to alleviate sometimes debilitating symptoms associated with menopause in women, such as hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, painful sex, and insomnia. Due to concerns about its potential risks and benefits, HRT has been the source of considerable controversy.
HRT can not only help alleviate menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness, which can have a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life. It can also help decrease risk of osteoporosis and diabetes, and has been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in women who take it for at least five years, and can help with depression and joint pain.
While it has many benefits, HRT has been associated with several potential risks. But the validity of the main study that determined these risks, the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative, has been called into question, and many women are again turning to HRT to help balance their hormones. Questions have also been raised about why HRT isn’t recommended more frequently to those who are seeking a solution.
Besides the risk/benefit controversy, dialing in the dosage as well as type of hormone therapy can be tricky – meanwhile, symptoms of hormonal imbalance can persist. Many women are turning toward natural methods like acupuncture and herbs, or a combination of these strategies with HRT to find relief.
Research has suggested that acupuncture may help regulate hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which are involved in reproductive health and menstrual cycles. Acupuncture may also help alleviate symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances, such as irregular periods, hot flashes, mood swings, and depression.
It is believed that acupuncture can help balance female hormones by regulating the body’s energy flow, or qi, which circulates through the body along pathways called meridians.
According to traditional East-Asian medicine, imbalances in the body’s energy flow can disrupt the function of the endocrine system, which is responsible for producing and regulating hormones. By stimulating specific acupuncture points along the body’s meridians, acupuncture is believed to help restore balance to the body’s energy flow, and thereby promote the proper functioning of the endocrine system.
Chinese herbs are another way we safely regulate hormones with very few side effects! A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis found Chinese herbal formulas as effective as HRT in treating hot flashes. When we combine regular acupuncture with a custom herbal formula, we are able to address deep constitutional factors, and supplement or even reduce reliance on HRT to ease symptoms.
Lastly, lifestyle support in the form of diet, stress management, sleep and exercise are often game-changing in regulating and maintaining hormonal balance. While these simple remedies aren’t showy, they pack more power than you might think.
Wherever you are in the process, we are here to support you at Lemon Tree Wellness on your healing journey. Ellisia Grove, LAc is in the office on Wednesdays and Thursdays and also runs a group acupuncture clinic on Wednesdays from 12:30 – 2pm. Book with her here if you are seeking acupuncture in Portland.
Li, M., Hung, A. J., Lenon, G. B., & Yang, A. W. H. (2019, September 19). Chinese herbal formulae for the treatment of menopausal hot flushes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE; Public Library of Science. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0222383