What is Menopause?
Menopause is not a disease but the normal, gradual physiological transition in a woman’s life from a childbearing to a non-reproductive state. It is a time when the ovaries cease to function. The physical changes she experiences at the end of her reproductive life are brought on by the same hormones which were responsible for the puberty. When a woman fails to menstruate for more than 12 months and there are no medical reasons for it than she is in a menopause. Many women sail through menopause without any discomforts while others experience various menopausal symptoms.
Menopausal symptoms in varying degree of severity include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Inability to concentrate
A woman going through menopause can experience a varying degree of severity of symptoms such as hot flashes and headaches and mood swings which are often difficult to handle without some support. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can alleviate these symptoms by nourishing the kidney essence within the body and balancing the hormonal system. TCM uses herbs, acupuncture and diet therapy to treat these symptoms in a gentle and safe manner.
TCM can complement those on Hormone Therapy Treatment (HRT) by using acupuncture and herbs with HRT tricking the ovaries into thinking they are still ‘ovulating’ whilst TCM nourishes the body’s kidney essence.
Using acupuncture for Menopausal Symptoms
Acupuncture is very good for reducing hot flashes symptoms. It uses extremely fine, sterilised needles into specific points in the body. These points are especially concentrated in blood and qi. Qi means vital life force that flows through the body. By regulating the flow of qi in the body, acupuncture affects physiological changes in the various systems in the body and especially the endocrine which controls the hormones
An acupuncturist will design a treatment based on a woman’s specific menopausal symptoms. An example of this would be Kid3, kid 7, BL23 for strengthening the kidneys, Kid 2 for hot flashes; St 36 for fatigue and lethargy, Sp6 for insomnia and Ht 7 to calm the nerves. These have reduced menopausal symptoms for women and there have been research to confirm it.
Using Chinese Herbs for Menopausal Symptoms
Most often typical cases of menopausal symptoms are usually due to kidney yin deficiency, and the pattern usually presents as hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness, tinnitus, night sweats, weakness of the lower back and knees. TCM commonly uses a formula such as Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan. This herb has been in use for hundreds of years and often the women will take this during and a long time after the menopause.
Kidney essence deficiency can often lead to osteoporosis in menopausal women. However, there are formulas that contain kidney essence tonics and herbs with high calcium content which can be prescribed by TCM practitioners. There are also additional formulas specially prescribed for specific symptoms. But it is wise to visit a Chinese herbalist who will prescribe a formula that is appropriate to the women’s condition.
There are foods which can aggravate the symptoms of menopause, and there are foods taken during the menopause which can alleviate them. The foods to be taken during menopause ought to be as natural and unprocessed as possible.
In China and some Asian countries the incidence of menopause symptoms are much less than the Western world. This disparity could be due to differences in diet, lifestyle and use of Chinese herbs. Often they use acupuncture and herbal medicine prior to approach of menopause, thereby decreasing the negative aspects of life changes.