Natural medicine is applicable to all stages of life, from the day we were born at the end of our days. By this, I’m not just talking about traditional healing practices that you would expect to use in both adults and children, such as good nutrition, herbs and massage. The recent integration of science in the field of holistic medicine and psychology has led to a new way of including non-pharmacological and non-surgical options in the repertoire of all physicians who choose to embrace it. My Healthy Monday tip of the week is to consider hypnosis for recurrent headaches, “nondrug lifestyle measures” for nocturia (frequent night urination) and soy supplements for menopausal symptoms.
Several recent studies offer real hope to women living with the psychological and genitourinary side effects of menopause and beyond. Of course there is the possibility of addressing these symptoms using conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, it is well documented that this treatment option without the risk of serious side effects – abnormal bleeding, breast discomfort, cancer, heart and stroke risk. (1,2,3,4,5)
The September 2010 issue of the journal Maturitas reports that a daily dose of soy isoflavones may be a good alternative to low-dose hormone therapy (HT) to give. In the study, 60 symptomatic, postmenopausal women receive one of three treatments – 90 mg soy isoflavones per day-1 mg estradiol and 0.5 mg norethisterone acetate daily or a placebo). The women were provided with each substance in a blinded and randomized manner. The doctors and study volunteers were not aware of what they give and, respectively, through the whole process. Menopausal symptoms were measured at baseline and after 16 weeks of the intervention. Here are the main findings of the research:
- Hot flashes and pain decreased by 45.6% in the HT group and 49.8% in the soy group.
- Vaginal dryness was reduced by 38.6% in the HT women and as a result of 31.2% soy supplementation.
Yet some questions remain. Soy is actually safer than synthetic hormone replacement? Possibly so. A separate study published in the September 2010 edition of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of dietary soy in 358 women with breast cancer and 360 women without using a 103-item food frequency questionnaire. According to the researchers involved, “a significant association between soy intake and breast cancer risk” was founded (-64%) in the high-soy consumers versus low-soy consumers. What’s more, new research conducted in a rat model of menopause shows that soy germ phytoestrogens improve “spatial memory acquisition and retention” to a similar extent as conventional hormone replacement (estradiol). The mechanism by which estrogen and soy seem to work is by increasing BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and formation of synaptic proteins in the hippocampus region of the brains. The main difference between the two “medicine” is that soy supplementation did not lead to a potentially dangerous increase in the number of uteri and vaginal cells in the animals. (6,7,8)
There are few instances in life that are more difficult for parents than to see their children suffer from chronic pain. When fathers and mothers are faced with such circumstances, they often feel forced to turn to powerful analgesic drugs to relieve symptoms their children face. But, like hormone replacement therapy, the prolonged use of these powerful analgesics give side effects. Fortunately, an inquiring process known as “self-hypnosis” a viable option. A current survey in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis shows that headache duration, frequency and intensity can be eased considerably “year after (self-hypnosis) treatment”. Previous studies have reported success rates to 96% in children with chronic headache – present for at least 3 years. In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, headache frequency decreased from 4.5 to 1.4 per week per week headache intensity was reduced from 10.3 to 4.7 and the average duration of headaches decreased from 23.6 hours to 3 hours at the youth who were “taught self-hypnosis for self-regulation”. Also important is that no adverse effects were documented over the three year intervention period conducted at the University of Minnesota. (9,10,11)
Self-hypnosis can reduce “chronic widespread pain” Symptom ScoreSource: BMC musculoskeletal disorders 2008, 9:124 (a)
One of the disturbing symptoms that older people face condition called nocturia. Having to wake up several times throughout the night to urinate naturally affect one’s quality of sleep. As with the previous two examples I have cited, there are many drugs currently on the market that can address complaints relating to nocturia and the most common cause, an enlarged prostate. But you know how the story goes, these medications carry a long list of possible side effects. That is why some scientists explore alternative and complementary therapies may also play a role in this common health problem to have.
A study appearing in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Urology reports that four simple “nondrug” measures can help improve nocturia: 1) keep warm in bed 2) limiting fluid intake around bedtime- 3) moderate daily exercise- 4) “Refrain from more than an hour in bed.” It sounds too simple and common sense to be true, right? Perhaps so. But if practiced consistently, can reduce nocturnal episodes with 1 or more visits to the bathroom at night, and the overall quality of life. This is all well and good, but some people will not have enough lighting. If that is the case for you or someone you know, you might consider acupuncture that focuses on specific acupoints (BL33, BL35 and CV3). I realize that this acupoint references can not be trusted on the vast majority of us. However, when opened by a skilled acupuncturist, the stimulation of these acupuncture points requires similar illumination of prostate-related symptoms (maximum urine flow, nocturia times, prostate size, residual urinary volume, etc.) as herbal and pharmaceutical treatments. (12,13,14)
Please note that natural medicine does not have to be used as an exclusive form of treatment. The generally accepted term, “Alternative and complementary medicine” was not invented by accident. Sometimes you can opt for a natural solution instead of a conventional treatment approach. An example of this is the use of a healthy diet in place of a medicament for weight loss, such as Orlistat (Alli and Xenical). On the other hand it is possible that self hypnosis course options such as acupuncture and soy can be combined with conventional treatment to allow a lower dose of medication or improve the expected response of the conventional therapy alone. How exactly including the respective healing methods is a question that you should carefully consider, ideally with the advice of a knowledgeable and open-minded doctor. The only way for us to successfully achieve this goal is to keep abreast of the latest that modern science and traditional healing to offer.