Menopause! East and West Perspectives and Treatment
Oh menopause! It's big! This transition can wreak havoc in the lives of women (and those close to her) for years. Significant hormonal changes can dramatically disrupt normal life and throw women into an ocean of uncomfortable symptoms while they try to navigate their way through unfamiliar and uncharted waters.
Chinese medicine offers a unique understanding of why menopause happens. More importantly, this holistic understanding also offers effective solutions to regulate this hormonal shift, decrease the menopausal symptoms, and offer a greater sense of ease while moving through this process.
Here we go…
The Western Physiology
Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. It occurs when the ovaries stop their production of estrogen and progesterone and no longer release eggs into the Fallopian tubes.
Technically a woman is considered to have reached menopause when she has not had a menstrual period for one year. Changes and symptoms of menopause can start several years earlier and typically occur starting after age 45, but for some, it can occur even earlier. The average age for women to enter menopause in the United States is 51.
Often women experience a variety of signs and symptoms in the months or years leading up to menopause (perimenopause) such as:
Irregular periods – shorter or longer or lighter or heavier
Loss of breast fullness
Weight gain and slowed metabolism
Thinning hair and dry skin
Less hair on the head, and more hair on face
Each woman is unique, so signs and symptoms, including changes in menstruation, can vary among women. Genetics is often a significant factor in the severity and duration of these menopausal symptoms.
The Eastern Imbalances
Eastern holistic medicine can be very effective in mitigating both the severity and duration of menopause. While menopause is a natural transition, there are many very effective options available to make this transition much easier and shorter in duration.
Allow me to share how Eastern medicine views menopause and why acupuncture and herbal medicine is so effective in successfully managing menopausal symptoms.
First, let’s start with Yin and Yang. The understanding of yin and yang is a fundamental factor in all of Eastern medicine. These are equal yet oppositional energies present in all aspects of life. This topic is both incredibly complex, yet also quite simple. For the purposes of relating Yin and Yang to menopause, allow me to simplify a bit...
Yin energy is female, water, cold, creative
Yang energy is male, fire, hot, restrictive
Everything and everyone always has both yin and yang qualities. These energies are always present and always in flux. Ultimately, symptoms of any nature are because of the imbalance between yin and yang.
The ability for a woman to carry life and give birth is truly amazing. This specific energy exists only with females. This is a powerful and creative Yin energy. There comes an age when a woman’s body knows it no longer needs to retain this type of creative capacity. The relinquishing of this energy ends the body’s need to constantly prepare for pregnancy and birth. The innate wisdom of the woman’s body knows ovulation and menstruation are no longer necessary. This is what we know as menopause.
As this creative Yin energy decreases, so do all the other Yin energy qualities like water and cold. Relatively, there is then an abundance of Yang energy including fire and heat. The relative excess of yang energy results in an increase of internal heat. It is this excessive internal heat that disturbs the mind and spirit resulting in irritability and mood swings. The heat makes it difficult to sleep well and difficult to focus. As the body tries to establish an equilibrium there are hot flashes and night sweats. This heat dries up fluids in the body resulting in vaginal dryness, dry skin and changes in hair.
While it may appear menopause symptoms are the presence of too much heat (Yang/fire), more accurately, these symptoms are the result of the decrease in cold (Yin/water).
Fascinating, isn’t it? I know!
With this perspective, the solution to correcting this imbalance is apparent… Decrease the heat and fire (Yang energy) within the body and increase the cold and water (Yin energy). Yes! It is that easy (well not really, but these are the basics).
So how then do we decrease Yang and increase Yin to decrease all the menopausal symptoms? There is no doubt, the most effective solution for this is… acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
There are acupuncture points that when stimulated have precisely this influence on the body. Some acupuncture points are very powerful in decreasing the hot yang energy, while others strongly enhance the cool yin energy.
Each individual Chinese herb can add, decrease, modulate and influence specific types of energies, organs and processes in the body and mind. Individual Chinese herbs are carefully combined together to create an herbal formula. Each formula is designed to enhance the desired influence, mitigate the undesired effects, guide the herbs to influence specific organs and body parts, and enhance the synergistic effects of all the herbs working collectively together.
At The Center: Natural Health Specialists, we specialize in carefully creating specific acupuncture point prescriptions and custom-created herbal formulas to specifically address your individual needs.
While with menopause we know that in general there is a deficiency of the yin energy and then a relative excess of the yang energy, this is far too simplistic of an approach to apply to each woman experiencing menopausal symptoms to achieve the exceptional clinical results which we expect. Each individual is unique and while experiencing a similar collection of symptoms as other women experiencing menopause, still has their own qualities, characteristics and patterns that are distinctive only to them. As a result, all these factors should be considered and addressed to create an acupuncture treatment plan and custom mixed herbal formulation to address your specific needs. In addition to acupuncture and medicinal herbal prescriptions, we also support our clients with diet and nutrition, lifestyle changes and a custom-tailored nutritional supplement protocol.
The balance of yin and yang exists in all things. Ultimately, ailments and adverse symptoms manifest because there is an imbalance of the yin and yang. The symptoms of menopause can serve as a clear personification of the lack of balance between these two opposing energies.
Menopause is also referred to “The Great Change”. Menopause is the result of big shifts in energies and hormones. Some women may experience significant adverse symptoms while moving through this change. While this is a natural process, the severity of the symptoms can be decreased and managed with the proper application of holistic medicine including acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.