Menopause signifies the end of a woman's menstrual cycle, not of her value and beauty. In Chinese medicine, menopause is often referred to as the 'second spring' because traditionally, this is when a woman enters into her power years. What?! In our Western media-driven culture, the majority believe a woman outgrows her value as her beauty fades. Ironically, in the past, a woman’s value, influence, and power grew as she matured with wisdom; the matriarch once held a high position of respect and reverence, even in our culture. Menopause signifies the beginning of the end for child-bearing, but it has traditionally marked a new spring, when women are freed-up for creative, personal, financial, and travel endeavors.
Fortunately, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are excellent options for menopausal women, as they offer safe, non-invasive, and effective treatment for these often debilitating symptoms. (hot flashes, night sweats) Menopause is a time where many women become yin deficient, meaning that the cooling, moistening, and calming aspects of their physiology are weakening. As a result, they often get hot, irritated, anxious, can’t sleep as well, get hot flushes, and night sweating. With acupuncture menopause treatment involves nourishing yin to cool the body which alleviates the above symptoms. Chinese herbs are an important adjunct.
Sex Drive Increases with Acupuncture
About a quarter of the women given acupuncture said their sex drive had increased. Most women also reported an improvement in their energy, clarity of thought, and sense of well-being. 8 A new study shows acupuncture was as good as drug therapy with Effexor (venlafaxine) at easing hot flashes in breast cancer patients, but it also improved sex drive, energy levels, and clarity of thought. 9
For Chinese women, hot flashes and night sweats are uncommon experiences, and very few of them are ever put on hormone replacement therapy by their doctors. It is an interesting fact that only 10% of Asian women experience noticeable menopause symptoms, compared with 75% of the women in the United States.
Uncomfortable symptoms of early menopause, peri-menopause or pre-menopause can begin as early as 40 and last until 55 years of age (hot flushes, night sweating).
Early Menopause Symptoms
Menstrual cycle changes and irregularity may be noticed first. Breast tenderness, abdominal bloating, mood swings, sweets cravings, and decreased energy can all be part of the early menopause experience.
Signs of Menopause
As the actual menopause, the cessation of menstruation grows nearer, the signs of menopause may become more noticeable and debilitating; hot flashes, or "hot flushes", night sweats, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, headaches, insomnia, and moodiness may aggravate the transition.
The majority of women end their menstruation between the ages of 48 to 52.
Women undergoing premature menopause (before age 40) spend a greater portion of their lives without the protective benefits of their own estrogen. This puts them at a greater risk for menopause-related health problems. The symptoms and health risks of premature menopause as well as the emotional issues that may result from it can be managed with the methods similar to those used for natural menopause. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine will help greatly.
Based on my study and observations, I would say that it is a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and diet that is the determining factor in maintaining the health of Asian women through menopause. I believe women in North America need to follow suit.
Menopause Weight Gain
The hormonal changes of menopause may make you more likely to have menopause weight gain around your abdomen, rather than your hips and thighs.
What causes Menopause Weight Gain?
Menopause weight gain isn’t always caused by hormones. Menopausal women tend to exercise less than other women, and muscle mass naturally diminishes with age. If you don't do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, your body composition will shift to more fat and less muscle - which slows down the rate at which you burn calories. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are remarkable in weight management.
Menopause Hot Flashes
85 percent of the women in the United States experience menopause hot flashes of some kind as they approach menopause and for the first year or two after their periods stop. Between 20 and 50% of women continue to have them for many more years. As time goes on, the intensity decreases. Chinese medicine has a long tradition of treating hot flashes. There are all kinds of hot flashes, and I have descriptions and remedies for all of them.
Post menopause is a phase that begins when 12 full months have passed since the last menstrual period.
How risky is Weight Gain Post Menopause?
Weight gain post menopause can have serious implications for your health. Excess weight increases the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. In turn, these conditions increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Excess weight also increases the risk of various types of cancer, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer. In fact, some research suggests that gaining as little as 4.4 pounds at age 50 or later could increase the risk of breast cancer by 30 percent. 1 Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are extremely effective in balancing the body to avoid weight gain and maintain health post menopause.
Bleeding After Menopause
Bleeding after menopause or post-menopausal bleeding is the resumption of vaginal bleeding at least 6 months after a woman experiences her last menstrual period (assuming she is menopausal). There are many causes of postmenopausal bleeding, and the most common is hormone replacement therapy. Have your gynecologist check to exclude polyps, fibroids and cancer. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are proven effective in stopping bleeding after menopause.
The use of food as medicine is a basic idea in Chinese culture, and a fundamental principle in traditional Chinese medicine. Most people who have seriously studied the effect of diet on health are prepared to say that more than 75% of health problems are related to diet. Just consider that the three leading causes of death in this country - heart attack, cancer, and stroke - are all closely correlated with poor diet. I prepare an individual diet plan for my patients to minimize the distress caused by menopause.
Women who undergo a hysterectomy, or who have their ovaries removed experience surgical menopause symptoms immediately.
Menopause Relief - Acupuncture
Acupuncture is considered to be a cooling therapy. The stainless steel needles that are used during treatment are said to disperse Qi. This means that they are unblocking energy that has become blocked or stuck. When energy gets blocked for too long, it generates heat which will burn yin and lead to yin deficiency. Many women say that they felt cooler right after the needles are put in. The needles actually deflate certain areas that have become overheated and compressed. Certain points are also used that have a direct effect on nourishing yin, thereby rejuvenating the cooling aspects of one’s physiology causing menopause relief.
In Chinese medicine, menopause is considered a normal transition that should pass quickly and smoothly. Today’s women experience so much stress throughout their adult years, that their endocrine systems become un-balanced, and menopause becomes another source of stress.
Chinese herbs work synergistically with acupuncture to create a state of continuity in clearing heat and nourishing yin between treatments. I would highly recommend committing to this approach before using hormone therapy, as these natural options are free of side effects. Hormone therapy is quite controversial in terms of its long-term effects. While it has worked wonders for many women in the short-term, I hear references to increased incidence of ovarian cancer, fibrocystic breasts, and emotional fluctuations.
Natural Remedies for Menopause
After menopause occurs and menstruation stops, women must take greater care in protecting their heart and building blood that will nourish the skin, joints, hair, and organs. The last thing a woman wants to do is become dried out and brittle. Natural remedies for menopause are specific herbs traditionally used to balance hormones during the transition of menopause. During the peri-menopausal phase, symptoms of PMS and irregular bleeding are not uncommon, and Chinese herbs greatly alleviate these symptoms. Chinese herbs also help balance the body and alleviate the upheaval associated with peri-menopausal changes.
Optimally, women experiencing natural menopause and peri-menopause benefit from nourishing themselves with healthful foods and rich Chinese tonic herbs, and from nourishing their spirit with self improvement and self empowering activities.
Chinese menopause herbal formulas work with your endocrine system to nourish and restore function of natural hormonal production. Unlike synthetic hormones that override your body, herbs for natural menopause gently brings you back into balance and normalizes hormones.
A safe alternative to HRT, Chinese menopause herbs address the many symptoms associated with menopause hormonal imbalance.
Early Menopause Symptoms
Early menopause symptoms are pretty much unpredictable, like PMS - on steroids. You may feel like you are going crazy, but its just your estrogen levels fluctuating, causing irregular menstrual cycles, as well as a flurry of other more surprising symptoms like ranting and raging, sleep-deprivation, unpredictable periods, and forgetfulness. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help to normalize hormones and lessen the symptoms associated with menopause so you feel like your self again.
Menopause and Depression
Menopause can trigger feelings of sadness and episodes of depression in a many. 8- 15% of menopausal women experience some form of depression. Menopause depression is most likely to hit during peri-menopause, and is treated very successfully with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.
Sex After Menopause
Sex after menopause is often as enjoyable, and even more enjoyable, than before menopause. You no longer face any threat of an unplanned pregnancy, and in many cases your children are mostly grown, giving you and your spouse more alone time. Yes, it's true that getting older often means it takes a little longer to feel sexually aroused, and it's quite normal to experience a small decrease in sexual desire as part of the aging process. But growing older doesn't mean that your sex life is over. If you have experienced a loss of sexual desire since menopause, consider a few other possible causes before deciding that menopause is alone responsible for your lowered libido. Food, alcohol, and many medications can change how you feel about sex. Diseases affect your self-image and add to daily stress.
Estrogen and Sex
Many have assumed that a drop in estrogen production during menopause is responsible for the postmenopausal decrease in sexual desire that some women experience. Wrong! Estrogen is not related to changes in sexual response in postmenopausal women. In a study, only women who believed that loss of interest in sex was a normal part of the aging process actually saw a decrease in their sexual desire. 6
Acupuncture for Hot Flashes
Acupuncture not only cools hot flashes, but may offer a host of other benefits to boost women's well-being. A new study shows acupuncture was as good as drug therapy with Effexor (venlafaxine) at easing hot flashes in breast cancer patients, but it also improved sex drive, energy levels, and clarity of thought. --Dec. 31, 2009. 2
Hot Flash Remedies - Acupuncture
"Acupuncture offers patients a safe, effective and durable treatment option for hot flashes, something that affects the majority of breast cancer survivors. Compared to drug therapy, acupuncture actually has benefits, as opposed to more side effects," researcher Eleanor Walker, MD, division director of breast services in the department of radiation oncology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. 3
Hot Flash Relief
In the Acuflash study, researchers randomized 399 postmenopausal women regularly experiencing at least 7 hot flashes daily to acupuncture or no treatment. 50% of women receiving acupuncture experienced a 50% or greater reduction in how often their hot flashes occurred, compared to 16% of women using self-care. Significant reductions were also seen in hot flash intensity. Additionally, the acupuncture group reported significant improvements in vasomotor, sleep, and somatic symptoms over the course of the study. 4
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is considered the most effective treatment for hot flushes. However, HRT has other biological effects: it prevents fractures and cancer of the colon, but increases the risk of breast cancer and thrombo-embolic disease. Based on these data, the Norwegian Medicines Agency revised the guidelines for prescribing HRT in 2003. Indications are now only hot flushes and urogenital symptoms. HRT should be used for a short time period, in the lowest possible dose, and other strategies should be considered. The reports of adverse events generated considerable public interest in Norway, and sales figures for systemic HRT have decreased by 45 % since 2001. 5
A Scandinavian study conducted among women treated for breast cancer was terminated when the interim analysis showed that HRT was associated with an increased risk for relapse of the disease. A Norwegian cohort study showed that HRT formulations used in Norway are also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. 5
The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) hormone-replacement therapy study was halted early due to findings of slightly increased risk of heart disease, blood clots, stroke and breast cancer. In light of the early discontinuation of the NIH study, it is crucial that the benefits of Acupuncture and Chinese herbs on menopausal symptoms be recognized. 7
One of the biggest disadvantages of estrogen is the staggering number of side effects associated with estrogen therapy, including but no limited to increased risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial carcinoma, malignant neoplasm, gallbladder disease, thromoembolitic disease, and photosensitivity. Progesterine is prescribed in combination with estrogen to minimize the risk of endometrial cancer. However, it causes side effects such as increase in cholesterol levels, edema, weight gain, and bleeding.
8 Journal of Clinical Oncology, online December 28, 2009