hot flashes

  1. Turn down the heat with therapy

    It's one of the Holy Grails of the drug industry: A pill to end hot flashes.

    Think that's a big market? You bet it is! Up to 80 percent of all women battle hot flashes during menopause, making a would-be treatment a billion-dollar dream for the drug industry.

    But for women, that dream is more like a nightmare as they play guinea pig. Instead of being given safe, natural, and proven treatments for their hot flashes, they're given unproven antidepressants, risky anti-seizure drugs, and even blood pressure meds... and almost all of them are being used off-label.

    It's a massive public health experiment that's hurt far more women than it's ever helped.

    But you don't need to swallow those pills, or face side effects, to get some relief, because the latest research points to a pair of easy, drug-free solutions: ordinary group therapy and self-help.

    Researchers recruited 140 women who reported hot flashes and night sweats at least 10 times a week and assigned them to either group therapy, self-help, or no treatment at all.

    The groups met four times a month, while those who got self-help had one meeting and a phone call with a shrink, but after that relied on a book and CD.

    Six weeks later, 73 percent of the women who got self-help reported meaningful improvements, compared to 65 percent of those in group therapy, and 21 percent of those who got no treatment at all.

    And six months later, those improvements held.

    Of course, therapy didn't quite work for everyone. But therapy isn't your only option here, either, because there are other proven natural ways to get safe drug-free relief from the worst symptoms of menopause.

    One recent study found that aerobic exercise can slash the number of hot flashes -- and a recent follow-up finds that getting sweaty four days a week can beat the other signs of "the change" as well, including night sweats, mood swings, irritability, and more.

    Other safe options backed by science include acupuncture -- which beat sham acupuncture in one study on hot flashes -- as well as a combination of St. John's wort and black cohosh. And, of course, many women get through menopause with the help of custom-made bio-identical hormones.

    An experienced naturopathic physician can help find which option is best for you.

  2. Antidepressant doesn't work for hot flashes

    You know how the off-label drug racket works: Once a med is approved for any condition, docs are free to prescribe it for every condition.

    So I just have to wonder how many women were given the antidepressant Lexapro after docs were dazzled earlier this year by a study that showed it might ease hot flashes -- because it turns out that study was flat-out wrong.

    Researchers behind a much stronger study found that this antidepressant -- which barely works for depression, by the way -- had no impact at all on hot flashes... even at increasingly higher doses.

    And this new study had some real science behind it -- because the researchers actually placed monitors on the skin of each woman to detect the telltale rise in temperature that signals each flash.

    The researchers behind the earlier study, on the other hand, just asked women to keep journals listing every single hot flash over two months.

    Aside from little distractions like work, children, shopping, sleep, a forgotten journal, or even a lost pen... what could possibly go wrong with that?

    But the researchers behind that study are sticking by their pen-and-paper approach -- because they don't have time for all this science-y stuff.

    "An objective monitor has scientific appeal," Ellen W. Freeman, author of that first study, told Reuters Health, "but may not relate to the clinical problem."

    Umm... right.

    Even if you want to give them the benefit of the doubt, that earlier study didn't have anything worth writing a journal entry over in the first place: By the end of the eight-week trial, women who took the med had an average of 5.3 hot flashes per day -- versus 6.4 a day among those who took a placebo.

    Impressed? Me neither.

    Mainstream medicine has made a complete mess out of menopause, and they're continuing to make matters worse with nonsensical studies that throw even more unnecessary drugs at a condition that simply doesn't respond well to medication.

    If you're having trouble getting past the hot flashes and other signs of menopause, don't look for the latest study behind yet another questionable off-label med -- look for a naturopathic physician instead.

    In many cases, nutritional supplements can work wonders -- and if they fall short, your doctor can team up with a compounding pharmacist to find a bioidentical hormone regimen that matches your body's needs.

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