Healthy Menopause: A Second Spring
Menopause is a naturally occurring transition. As a physiological event, it is not a disease and it need not be accompanied by any discomfort. Indeed, statistics show that in 20% of all American women, there are no symptoms at all, and in cultures where age brings power and status to women, close to 100% of menopausal women have reported no symptoms. (Lyttleton, Jane, op.cit., p. 5)
However, in Western societies where older women are less valued and respected than their younger sisters, approximately 80% of women do have symptoms, ranging from mild and quite transient to severe and debilitating.
Going through menopause does not automatically mean that symptoms will arise. Just on the Physical level, if a woman’s diet is good, if she exercises moderately but regularly, if she limits stress in her life where possible and has an effective way of dealing with stress when it does arise, that woman is less likely to experience symptoms when she reaches menopause or at any other time for that matter! There are women who sail through menopause with little or no discomfort whatsoever.
Menopausal women need not believe that they are doomed to years of hormonal nightmare. Pre-menopausal women need not anticipate with dread the menopausal years. All women, however, need to act with intelligence to bring their being into a state of health whereby menopausal discomforts may be reduced or eliminated. On the one hand, it I important for all of us to recognize and accept the facts of aging and decline. These are part of the human condition and used to be accepted as such. On the other hand, we need not believe that either menopause of the post-menopausal years doom us to several decades of excessive and continual suffering. It is up to us to determine how these years will be experienced, and it is up to us to act upon that determination.
Many menopausal complaints respond very well to correctly prescribed and administered acupuncture. Acupuncture also includes several other methods of stimulating acupuncture points, thus regulating the flow of qi in the body. The main other modality is moxibustion. This means the warming of acupuncture points mainly by burning dried, aged Oriental mugwort on, near, or over acupuncture points. The purposes of this warming treatment are: 1) to even more strongly stimulate the flow of qi and blood, 2) add warmth to areas of body which are too cold, and 3) add yang qi to the body to supplement a yang qi deficiency. Other acupuncture modalities are to apply suction cups over points, to prick the points to allow a drop or two of blood to exit, to apply Chinese medicinals to the points, to apply magnets to the points, and to stimulate the points by either electricity or laser.
One of the best things about the acupuncture treatment of menopausal complaints I that its effects are often immediate. Since many of the mechanisms of menopausal syndrome have to do with stuck qi, as soon as the qi is made to flow, the symptoms disappear. Therefore, many patients begin to feel better after the very first treatment.
Patients with irritability and nervous tension will feel an immediate relief of these symptoms while still on the table. Typically, one will feel a pronounced tranquillity and relaxation within five to ten minutes of the insertion of the needles. Many patients do drop off to sleep for a few minutes while the needles are in place.
In China, acupuncture treatments are given every day of every other day, three to five times a week depending on the nature and severity of the condition. In the West however, health care delivery differs greatly form China, making it financially unfeasible for most patients to receive as many treatments per week. Western patients suffering from menopausal complaints typically respond very well to acupuncture treatment performed twice a week for another several weeks. After that, a maintenance course of monthly sessions is highly recommended. In severe, stubborn cases, acupuncture treatment may have to continue for several months. In general, one can expect their improvement from acupuncture to be gradual and progressive. Based on my clinical experience, if acupuncture is combined with diet and life-style changes, Chinese herbs, and a selection of the self-care treatments recommended above the results will be even quicker and the relief of symptoms even more complete.
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Menopause
Chinese herbal medicine is one of the most effective natural methods of treating menopausal complaints or preventing their arisal. Studies on the effectiveness of herbal medicine for treating menopausal women for a variety of symptoms are written about in Traditional Chinese Medical journals on a regular basis. Typical amelioration rates of these studies are in the 80-95% range. In professionally practiced Chinese medicine, herbs are rarely used singly. Most formulas, whether prepared as a powder, pill, tincture, or tea are a combination of from six to twenty herbs.
Herbs are effective in cases of vacuity because they can actually add qi, blood, yin, and/or yang to the body. Since most menopausal health issues relate to the blood and yin and to insufficiency or vacuity, herbs are often an appropriate choice. Herbs have the added advantage of being whole and biochemically complex substances made up of a balance of various synergistic chemical parts and hormone precursors. This means that they are easier for the body to utilize than single, synthesized drugs, and that in turn means they are less likely to cause side effects.
However, such freedom from side effects is based on correct administration in turn based on a correct professional diagnosis.
This is why it is usually a good idea not to self-medicate. Do not make the mistake of thinking that since herbal medicines are natural substances, herbs are completely benign. The wrong herbs or the wrong dosage can make a person sick or worsen their health.
So if you are seriously interested in taking herbs for preventive of remedial menopausal care, it is wise to seek professional assistance in choosing the appropriate formulas.
One of the best things about the acupuncture treatment of menopausal complains is that its effects are often immediate. Since many of the mechanisms of menopausal syndrome have to do with stuck qi, as soon as the qi is made to flow, the symptoms begin to feel better after the very first treatment.
Patients with irritability and nervous tension will feel an immediate relief while still on the table. Typically, one will feel a pronounced tranquillity and relaxation within five to ten minutes of the insertion of the needles. Many patients do drop off to sleep for a few minutes while the needles are in place.