Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Improves Immune System, Decreases “Hassle Factor” of Hot Flashes
“Mindfulness” involves attending to relevant aspects of experience in a non-judgmental manner. It is an ancient eastern practice with roots in Buddhist meditation and is manifested and taught in America and abroad by a variety of teachers, including S.N. Goenka, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfeld, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and many others.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) involves achieving harmony by seeing things as they really are, thus helping diminish agitation, irritation, disharmony and unhappiness, enabling us to live at peace with ourselves and others. Simply stated, mindfulness is the practice of relaxed wakefulness; it is the study of the “Art of Living.”
I have previously written about the deleterious effect of stress on the immune system—our only barrier between health and illness. It is both intuitive and evidence-proven in peerreviewed medical literature that stress is a genitive factor in many different forms of disease. As important as BHRT (bioidentical hormone replacement therapy), the activities of stress reduction and mindfulness are imperative.
Gynecologically, Y.M. “Irv” Binik and Sophie Bergeron’s group in Montreal and Rosemary Basson and Lori Brotto and their colleagues in Vancouver have previously published regarding the positive relationship of both MBSR and cognitive-based behavioral therapy (CBT) in the therapy of both sexual dysfunctions and female vulvo-vaginal pain syndromes (vulvodynia, vulvar vestibulitis, vestibulodynia).
In an article newly published in the respected journal Menopause, the # 1 medical journal covering menopausal issues, J.F. Carmody and his team from the University of Massachusetts studied the effect of a MBSR program on the degree of ”bother” from hot flashes and night sweats. The study was a randomized trial of 110 late perimenopausal and early postmenopausal women experiencing an average of five or more moderate or severe hot flashes (including night sweats) per day.
The study’s main outcome identified the degree of bother from hot flashes and night sweats in the previous 24 hours. The study group was paired with a control group suffering the same symptoms, but not participating in MBSR.
The “intervention” used in this trial was a widely-used eight-week meditation course based on an approach introduced by Jon Kabat-Zinn: eight 2.5 hour weeknight classes and an allday weekend day during the sixth week, as well as mindfulness practices to be done at home for 45 minutes for six days each week. The meditation work was not directed specifically at hot flashes but instead conformed to standard MBSR interventions used across a wide range of medical conditions. Secondary measures were hot flash intensity, quality of life, insomnia, anxiety, and perceived stress.
The results are interesting and revealing. Although no significant reduction in hot flash frequency was noted, there was a statistically significant reduction in the degree of “bother,” with a reduction from an average of “moderately to severely bothered” down to “mildly-moderately bothered.” These effects were comparable with the findings from a recent randomized, placebo-controlled trial of escitalopram (Celexa™), an anti-depressant medication in the SSRI group, sometimes used for suppression of hot flashes and night sweats, without the potential side-effects of the medication.
Writes Pauline Maki from the department of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago, in her recent Menopause editorial on Dr. Carmody et al’s study:
The failure of MBSR to have a profound impact on hot flash frequency or severity, however, does not detract from the potential benefits of MBSR for midlife women with moderate to severe [hot flashes.] With respect to the benefits of MBSR in women with moderate to severe hot flashes, the effects on hot flashes were quite modest when compared with the more impressive results on measures of psychological well-being and quality of life. The overall quality of life, sleeprelated quality, anxiety, and perceived stress were greatly improved in the MBSR group.
Although mindfulness did not reduce the frequency of hot flashes (estrogen therapy is the “gold standard” for that), it reduced both the “hassle factor” and at the same time conferred other stress-reduction health benefits on the immune system and, most importantly, greatly improved “quality of life,” without the use of hormonal or medicinal therapy. What’s not to like?
To find MBSR opportunities near you, Google “mindfulness-based stress reduction” along with your city or a relatively large metropolitan area near you. Other keywords you can use in your search include “Vipassana” and “Jon Kabat-Zinn.”
Learn more about menopausal symptoms, menopausal medicine and bio identical hormone replacement therapy at https://www.drmichaelgoodman.com/.