By Jiang Liu, Diplomate of Oriental Medicine
AR Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist
Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Clinic
2024 Arkansas Valley Dr., Suite 402
Little Rock, AR 72212
Menopause is a natural event that normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Menopause is the transition period in both woman’s life and men’s life. When woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs, her body produces less estrogen and progesterone, and menstruation becomes less frequent, eventually stopping completely. Men also experience menopause but it differs in cause, age and symptoms from women.
The symptoms of menopause are caused by changes in estrogen and progesterone levels. As the ovaries become less functional, they produce less of these hormones and the body responds accordingly. The specific symptoms you experience and how significant (mild, moderate, or severe) varies from woman to woman. In some women, menstrual flow comes to a sudden halt. During this time, the menstrual periods generally become either more closely or more widely spaced. This irregularity may last for 1 – 3 years before menstruation finally ends completely.
Common symptoms of menopause include:
• Heart pounding or racing
• Hot flashes
• Night sweats
• Skin flushing
• Sleeping problems (insomnia)
Other symptoms of menopause may include:
• Decreased interest in sex, possibly decreased response to sexual stimulation
• Irregular menstrual periods
• Mood swings including irritability, depression and anxiety
• Spotting of blood in between periods
• Urine leakage
• Vaginal dryness and painful sexual intercourse
• Vaginal infections
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could relieve menopause-related symptoms such as hot flashes and reduced loss of bone. Until July 2002, hormone therapy had been the standard therapy in the United States for treating menopausal symptoms. However, a large clinical trial showed HRT posed more health risks than benefits for most women, such as causing heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, blood clots or dementia. Therefore, doctors discontinued routine prescription for menopause patients.
Alternative to HRT There are some medications available to help with mood swings, hot flashes and other symptoms. These include low doses of antidepressants or clonidine, which is normally used to control high blood pressure. Gabapentin is also effective for reducing hot flashes. However, most of them have side effects.
Research shows that acupuncture can trigger the release of endorphins, the hormone which is partially responsible for our sense of well-being as well as having a pain-relieving effect. Recent research suggests acupuncture is also responsible for the release serotonin, which helps in menopausal symptoms such as abdominal pain or cramping, and changes in mood and sleep.
Numerous clinical trials indicates that acupuncture is successful at relieving the most common symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, mood swings and insomnia, which lead to an increase in energy, appetite and sense of well-being without side-effects. The World Health Organization has approved acupuncture as a safe treatment for menopause and is helping to fund clinical trials of larger sample sizes currently.
• Overcome fatigue and insomnia
• Improve symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression
• Increase your appetite
• Improve your body’s circulation and cardio-pulmonary functions
• Regulate menstruation
• Relieve aches and pains
Chinese Medicine considers that menopause is a natural process that alters the balance of yin and yang, which is most caused by kidney deficiency such as qi deficiency, yin deficiency, yang deficiency, or essence deficiency. Some other organs (such as liver, spleen and heart) or some meridians (such as chong and ren) are also involved in menopause.
Restoring and maintaining yin and yang balance of internal organs are the principles.
• For yin deficiency: nourish yin of kidney, liver and heart
• For yang deficiency: warm the yang of kidney and spleen
• For both yin and yang deficiency: tonify both yin and yang
According to individual patient symptoms, menopause can be treated with acupuncture alone, herbal medicine alone, or acupuncture combined with herbal medicine.
Lifestyle and Dietary Instructions
Maintain a healthy weight: regular exercise, cut back on your sugar intake and follow a diet with high content of raw foods, fruits and vegetables.
Restrict carbohydrate consumption: excessive carbohydrates lead to excessive levels of insulin that reduces the cell’s ability to respond to hormone stimulation. Excessive sweetness will produce dampness and stagnation. This results in feelings of heaviness, lethargy, distension, constipation, diarrhea, muscle soreness and puffiness. Spleen qi stagnation leads to liver qi stagnation, causing irritability, frustration, hypersensitivity, cramps, swollen breasts, mood swings and headaches.
Restrain caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol and cigarette, which may exacerbate hot flashes or increase mood swings.
Reduce milk products: many menopausal women become lactose intolerant and eliminating milk products can dramatically reduce symptoms of indigestion like bloating and gas.
Eat more foods rich in phyto-estrogens and progesterones: soy flours and beans, red clover sprouts, yams and linseed.
Eliminate stress, tension and anxiety or learn techniques to cope with stress so that you can diminish the effects that it has on your body and mind.
With support from Chinese Medicine along with small changes in lifestyle and diet, menopause can be a time of a revival of vital energy and an opportunity for personal growth.