The Menopause

by Francesca Howell © Copyright 2010

Chinese Medicine

The Menopause is a transitional phase in a woman’s life. Like all transitions it can sometimes be a bumpy ride and whereas some women welcome it with open arms, for others it is a more difficult experience.

Although the menopause is a natural process it can still be a time of uncomfortable symptoms and emotional adjustments. As follicle activity decreases so do oestrogen and progesterone levels. Symptoms, which can be experienced during this time, include headaches, tiredness, lethargy, insomnia, constipation, indigestion, bladder issues, abdominal bloating, inability to concentrate, hot flushes, vaginal dryness and joint pain.

Yin & Yang

In Chinese Medicine the essence of the Kidneys is the root of our energy and the basis of our fertility. It has two aspects: yin and yang, which in some ways relate to oestrogen and progesterone respectively. In Chinese Medicine the menopause is the name given to all the changes arising in the body of a woman, which are the consequence of the weakening of the power of the Kidneys. Chinese Medicine relates the menopause to the decline of the Kidney essence in its yin or yang aspect. Yin is nourishing and cooling in the body. A lack of yin can lead to heat related symptoms. Yang is more of a warming moving energy and a lack of Yang can produce colder symptoms and a lack of energy.

If you are going through the menopause it can be helpful to find ways of dealing with some of the symptoms. Acupuncture can really help with the symptoms such as hot flushes, insomnia, joint pain and mood changes such as feeling depressed or anxious. Generally the treatments are aimed at balancing the hormones and nourishing Kidney energy. Kidney yin tends to relate to hot flushes, anxiety, vaginal dryness, tinnitus, night sweating, dry hair and mouth and constipation. Yang deficiency might be still feeling hot but having cold hands or feet, or having sweats early in the morning rather than at night. It might also be behind depression and lethargy and can lead to feeling tired, cold and depressed.

Preparation

It is never too early to look after our Kidney energy. It can become depleted through, working too hard, poor diet, childbirth, stress and trauma. Worry, fear and anxiety weaken the Kidneys and lead to the Yin aspect of their energy being depleted, especially when those emotions occur against a background of overwork and tiredness. In some ways we can prepare for the menopause by looking after ourselves in the years leading up to it. Looking at the emotional stress in our lives, how hard we are working, looking at our diet and checking that our lives are as balanced as they can be and that we are not ‘running on empty’ all of the time.

Hot Flushes

Hot flushes can be really hard work, they are accompanied by a rush of adrenaline so someone may often feel anxious and experience their heart racing as they happen and women often describe an ‘aura’ just before a hot flush. They can be exhausting and disruptive to every day life. They can occur as frequently as every 30 minutes and can lead to sleepless and uncomfortable nights. Acupuncture treats hot flushes by cooling and calming the body and reducing perspiration. We can also use herbal formulas. With titles such as ‘ease the journey yin’ and ‘ease the journey yang’ you can see that these are aimed at the two different aspects of Kidney energy. A lot of western herbs can be used too. Sage is a herb, which people find reduces the frequency and intensity of hot flushes substantially sometimes stopping them altogether.

Alternatives to HRT

Hormone Replacement Therapy is less in fashion than it once was and people are looking for alternatives. Looking at lifestyle changes can really help. Reducing stress, and doing things that increase relaxation such as yoga and meditation have been shown to actively reduce menopausal symptoms. Exercise can really help as can cutting down on stimulants such as coffee, hot spicy curries or fizzy drinks. Keeping blood sugar levels balanced is useful and helps support the adrenals.

It is really worth considering using complementary therapies such as Acupuncture for help with the menopause. As well as helping with physical symptoms, a good therapist may help with the transition on an emotional level and offer appropriate nutritional and lifestyle advice.

About the author

Francesca Howell is an acupuncturist and a founder partner of Life Medicine. For more information: www.acupuncture-glasgow.co.uk