Women in their forties or fifties have huge fluctuation in the levels of estrogen and progesterone. They tend to have mood swing, anxiety, hot flushes, allergies, night sweat, and depression. The once popular hormone replacement regime for menopause has been shown to increase the risk of ovarian cancer (Floter-Radestad, 2015), breast cancer (Antoine et al. 2016), heart problems (Alexander 2012), and even stroke (Prentice 2014).
A recent study about the effects of acupuncture on menopause, conducted by a research group from several universities in China has been published in the journal BioMed Research International in 2018. This multi-centered, randomized, controlled clinical trial addressed the effects of electro-acupuncture on depression in perimenopausal women. Depression affects over 60% of perimenopausal women. In this study, 242 perimenopausal women with mild to moderate depression were randomly assigned to electrical acupuncture group and the group of the conventional anti-depression medication: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The electrical acupuncture group received acupuncture treatment three times a week for 12 weeks. Hamilton depression rating scale, menopause-specific quality of life and the levels of serum estrogen, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormones were measured before the treatment, at 4, 8, 12, 24 weeks after treatment with acupuncture or SSRI anti-depressant. The results indicated that electrical acupuncture was equally effective as SSRI in terms of both Hamilton depression rating and menopause-specific quality of life during the course of treatment. The long-term effects of electrical acupuncture was, however, superior to that of SSRI. There was no significant difference in the levels of serum sexual hormones before and after treatment, and between the two groups.
This study indicated that electrical acupuncture stimulation on the acupuncture points CV4, Uterus, SP6, GV20, Yin Tang, ST25, LR3 and LI4, could be a safe and effective treatment for depression in the perimenopausal and menopausal women, especially for women who showed a lot of side effects of SSRI treatment such as insomnia, headache, nausea, mood swing and constipation. SP6 was also shown to reduce hot flushes and insomnia.
It is worth noting that some women respond to treatment better than other women. Generally if a perimenopausal woman eats healthy foods and has regular exercise, she usually responds well to acupuncture. Women, who drink a lot of alcohol, eat a lot of spicy foods and have indigestion, tend not to respond to electrical acupuncture as well as the healthy eaters. The temperature center in the brain of perimenopausal women becomes very sensitive due to the estrogen dominance condition. If perimenopausal women keep drinking one glass of wine or beer every day, they will have more internal heat and they do not have healthy digestive system so they cannot produce enough serotonin and GABA to make them happy even with acupuncture treatment. The dosage of acupuncture also contributes to the good effect of electrical acupuncture. In this study, 3 times acupuncture treatment a week for 12 weeks was a sufficient dose.