Monday, December 11, 2017

How Hypnotherapy Can Help with Hot Flashes?

According to several studies, hypnosis is one of the few proven techniques to help women through the menopause.

Amanda Story

Like many women going through the menopause, marketing director Amanda Jones often suffered hot flushes at the worst possible moment. At one crucial business meeting, she felt so hot and sweaty that she had to nip to the loo and dry her hair with paper towels.

Shortly afterwards, she acted on a friend’s advice to try hypnotherapy.

“It was fantastic. Within four months, the hot flushes had gone. It’s very difficult to say categorically that it was the hypnotherapy, but it was very powerful and cathartic and I do believe it helped.”

Many women might be skeptical about being hypnotized out of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats, which are caused by a change in the balance of the body’s sex hormones. However, a new report published this week suggested that of all the alternative treatments offered to women – from herbal supplements such as black cohosh, evening primrose oil and ginseng to yoga and acupuncture – hypnosis was almost uniquely effective in alleviating symptoms of the menopause.
Having reviewed the results of rigorous clinical studies on the topic, a panel of experts commissioned by the North American Menopause Society concluded there was solid evidence that both clinical hypnosis (hypnotherapy) and cognitive behavioral therapy were beneficial. One study showed that women who had hypnotherapy five times a week had a dramatic reduction in the number and severity of hot flushes.
By contrast, there was little evidence that exercise, vitamins or ‘known’ herbal remedies, gave any relief at all.

Having had a bad experience with weight-loss hypnotherapy 20 years ago, Amanda was nervous about being hypnotized, but took the plunge when her friend recommended Rutland-based practitioner Kim Thomas.

“The first session was about getting to know me and clearing out my emotional baggage,” said Amanda, who is married with two grown-up sons. “I sat in an armchair and Kim got me to imagine walking down steps, each step taking to a deeper level of relaxation. I wasn’t asleep, but I was very comfortable and relaxed. Then I imagined walking into a barn in the middle of a field, and in there were all the things I wanted to get rid of. Things I thought I’d forgotten, such as bad experiences at work from 20 years before popped back into my head. I packed them all into a ‘suitcase’ and got rid of them. It was a very weird experience.”

In subsequent hypnosis sessions, Amanda was asked to imagine stepping into a cool sea or feeling a cool breeze and then coached in self-hypnosis so that she could visualize that same body-cooling sensation when hot flushes struck her in her everyday life, leading to actual relief of her symptoms.

Broadcaster and journalist-turned-clinical hypnotherapist Lowri Turner uses a similar technique with her patients. “Consciously, you may say to yourself: ‘I really don’t want to panic when I have a hot flush.’ But then the hot flush hits and your unconscious kicks in, making you worry that people will see you’re sweating or red in the face,” said Ms. Turner, who runs three clinics in north and central London specializing in hormone balance and weight loss.

“Hypnotherapy is like a massage for your mind. It allows you to address those unconscious mechanisms that are playing on your symptoms and quieten them down.”

In the run-up to the menopause, estrogen levels decrease, causing the ovaries to stop producing an egg every month. As well as embarrassing hot flushes, this can disturb sleep and cause mood swings, vaginal dryness and loss of libido.

However, fewer than one in 10 women seeks medical advice, with most either grinning and bearing it or resorting to alternative therapies.

Dr. Janet Carpenter, who led the expert panel for the North American Menopause Society, said: “Many women try one thing after another, and it is months before they stumble on something that truly works. This information will be critical in maximizing the selection of the most effective therapies.”

Turner said she was not surprised by the society’s findings. “The menopause is not an illness, it’s a transition,” she said. “It’s not like you can just take a pill for it because it is as much about your emotional and spiritual wellbeing, especially your self-confidence as you age and your changing role when the kids are leaving home.”

Kim Thomas, the hypnotherapist who treated Amanda, agrees.
“Hallelujah that this is finally being recognized,” she said. “In Japan, they don’t have a word for ‘menopause’ because middle-aged women are highly valued. It is not seen as a negative phase, but a positive transition in which women are older, yes, but wiser, too.”

Baylor University Study 2012

The alternative therapy reduced hot flashes by as much as 74% in the study conducted by researchers at Baylor University’s Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Only hormone therapy, which many women can’t take or want to avoid, is more effective for treating the most common symptom of menopause, says researcher Gary R. Elkins, PhD.

“If you compare this treatment with off-label use of antidepressants or other non-hormonal therapies, it works as well or better,” he says.

Hot flashes are a sudden rush of heat, followed by facial flushing and sweating, often followed by chills and clamminess. The progression is familiar to most women of a certain age. Hot flashes and night sweats are the most common symptoms of menopause, affecting some 80% of women. They are linked to declining estrogen levels, but it remains unclear just why the sudden lack of estrogen sends the body into thermal mayhem, and why some women are more affected than others.

In an earlier study, Elkins and his Baylor colleagues showed that hypnosis dramatically reduced hot flash and night sweat frequency in breast cancer patients with treatment-related symptoms.

In the 2012 study, they set out to determine if the alternative treatment would do the same in women whose symptoms were related to menopause. A total of 187 postmenopausal women who reported having at least seven hot flashes a day, or 50 a week, were recruited for the trial.

Half the women were given self-hypnosis training that consisted of five, 45-minute weekly sessions.

During the sessions, they received suggestions for mental imagery designed to minimize the intensity of their hot flashes, such as images of a cool place. The women were also given a recording of the hypnotic induction, and they were asked to practice self-hypnosis at home daily. The rest of the women had an equal number of sessions with a clinician, but hypnosis training was not given.

Instead, clinicians talked to the women about their symptoms and gave them encouragement about how to deal with them. These women were also asked to listen to a recording each day at home, but their recording simply had information about hot flashes.

The study participants kept "hot flash frequency" diaries, and they also wore small sensors on their bodies that recorded their hot flashes.

After 12 weeks:
·         Women in the hypnosis group reported 74% fewer hot flashes on average, compared with 17% fewer among the other women.
·         The skin sensors showed a 57% reduction in hot flashes among the hypnosis group, compared to a 10% reduction in the non-hypnosis group.
·         The women treated with hypnosis were far less likely than the other women to report that their hot flashes interfered with their daily lives and sleep.

“Many women do not want to take hormone therapy or any drug for hot flashes,” Elkins says. “This study shows that an alternative, non-drug treatment can be highly effective.”

Elkins recommends that women who want to try the treatment seek out a qualified practitioner affiliated with either the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis or the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.

Gass says she would like to see Elkins’ findings duplicated, but she adds that hypnosis could prove to be a badly needed new treatment for hot flashes.

“This will certainly appeal to women who want to avoid drugs and who want a treatment that has few, if any, side effects,” she says.

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