September is the official month of Menopause awareness and Balance Integrative Health will be doing our part to spread awareness to those men and women who don’t fully understand what menopause is and how it affect women.
Menopause is the permanent cessation of the menstrual cycle, which typically occurs in women over 50, but the process may begin as early as 40. Unless brought on prematurely through chemotherapy or surgery, menopause is a natural transition. Conventional medicine, however often views it as disease and it often carries a stigma with it as a time women come to dread. But, did you know that in many other cultures around the world, women don’t experience the symptoms we experience in Western industrial societies?
• Hot flashes and night sweats
• Frequent bladder infections
• Decreased libido and vaginal dryness
• Weight gain
• Depression and anxiety
This phenomenon may be due in part to negative attitudes about aging in our culture, which may be particularly devaluing for women. Other factors include high stress lifestyles, lack of exercise, diets high in processed foods, and the use of plastics that disrupt our hormone receptors. Hormone replacement therapy is the standard Western treatment for menopausal difficulties; however, estrogen supplements have been linked to undesired side effects and increased health risks, like increased rates of breast cancer. Menopausal complications may reduce the quality of a woman’s life and result in discomfort or even debilitation, but they don’t have to.
Oriental Medicine Offers an Alternative
According to Chinese medicine, imbalanced interaction between kidney yin and yang leads to difficulties during menopause. The theoretic framework of yin-yang is used to explain aspects of the human body as well as to guide diagnosis and treatment. Women may have yin or yang deficiencies that affect how they experience menopause.
The kidneys are viewed as the central organs responsible for controlling other bodily functions, and kidney yin and yang deficiencies lead to certain associated menopausal symptoms, with different treatment existing for each type. Symptoms of yang deficiency in menopause may include tiredness, lower back pain, incontinence, and aversion to cold. Symptoms of yin deficiency (the far more common type) include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and irritability. A common treatment plan may include a prescribed herbal formula and a course of weekly Acupuncture treatments over the course of 1 to 3 months.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Liu Wei Di Huang Wan is one of the most commonly used Chinese Herbal formulas for the relief of menopausal symptoms. It works on the principle of restoring Yin due to Kidney Yin deficiency that can cause symptoms such as hot flashes, anxiety and insomnia, mood swings, tinnitus and sore low back. Yin Yang theory works on the principle that we are made up of opposing but complementary dynamic forces that are constantly shifting. Normally Yin and Yang change harmoniously, yet when Yin or Yang are out of balance they affect each other, and too much of one can eventually weaken the other. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can work to restore the Yin Yang balance.
In one clinical study*, 23 patients with menopausal symptoms were treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan and experienced marked improvement in 9 patients (39.1%), and moderate improvement in 14 patients (60.9%). The treatment protocol was to administer this formula in pills, 9 grams twice daily, in the morning and at night, for 3 months. Clinical improvements included relief of hot flashes, night sweats, palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, forgetfulness, and others. In addition, after taking the herbs continuously for one year, it was noted that there was a decrease in FSH and an increase of estradiol. The mechanism of action was attributed to the formula’s stimulating effect on the endocrine system. (Zhong Hua Yi Xue Za Zhi; Chinese Journal of Medicine) 1956; 6:546.
Acupuncture can also offer highly effective relief. One randomized, controlled pilot study of acupuncture treatment for menopausal hot flashes showed a significant decrease in the frequency of hot flashes in 56 women ages 44-55 after receiving Acupuncture 2 weekly for 8 weeks. (The North American Menopause Society December 2008 – Volume 15 – Issue 6 – pp 1070-1078).
Oriental Medicine offers many safe and effective means to minimize stress and balance your body and emotions. We’re here to help you reap the rewards of this valuable life transition! Call for a consultation today!