A multi-institute study published in the journal Menopause shows that hypnosis can help cut hot flashes by as much as 75 percent. The researchers, from Baylor University, Indiana University and the University of Texas say this is the first controlled, randomized study of hypnotherapy to manage hot flashes, which affect up to 80 percent of menopausal women.
The researchers explained that controlled, randomized studies usually pit an active drug against an inactive placebo pill. However, because it is difficult to find a placebo for hypnotherapy, the researchers instead used control sessions in which a clinician provided discussion of the women's symptoms, monitoring, measurement, and encouragement
The women who underwent hypnosis had five weekly sessions in which they received suggestions for mental images of coolness, a safe place, or relaxation. They also got an audio recording of a hypnotic induction and were asked to practice it daily. The control group had five weekly sessions with the clinician.
All the women kept diaries that tracked hot flash frequency and severity, and they also had hot flash frequency measured objectively by a skin conductance monitor.
After 12 weeks, the women who underwent hypnosis reported 75 percent fewer hot flashes, compared with only 13 percent among the control group. Skin conductance showed a 57 percent reduction in hot flashes for the women who underwent hypnosis, compared with 10 percent in the controls. The hypnosis participants also reported significantly less interference with their lives from hot flashes and better sleep than controls.
The researchers aren't clear on how hypnosis eases hot flashes. They speculate that it may be because hypnosis improves the function of the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is popularly called the "rest and digest" system, which puts the brakes on the sympathetic or "fight or flight" nervous system that controls body functions that ramp up during hot flashes, such as sweating and heart rate.
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Source: The North American Menopause Society