As women approach their late 40s to early 50s, many are anxious about what menopause will mean for them. I've heard women compare this experience to how they felt before puberty or pregnancy. Menopause changes the way a woman’s body looks, feels and operates. With menstruation ceasing, the body needs to find a new balance and get realigned for this next phase of life. No wonder it can be a nerve-wracking time for many!
Without all of the cultural anxieties attached to it, menopause can simply be thought of as a transition in a woman's life. And it can actually be liberating and wonderful: there are no more painful periods, and many women often report feeling an increased sex drive, as they have more free time without the kids home.
Whether you're anxious or excited (or both!) about menopause, read on to find out those things you probably didn’t know about menopause but should. Remember: knowledge is power, so starting here will help you manage the transition and ease the anxiety that can often exacerbate the unfamiliarity of the symptoms.
1. Hot flashes are more like hot hours.
Studies show more than 75% of menopausal women experience hot flashes, but not only that, 33% have them for 10 years! A decade is a long time to cope with being uncomfortably hot for extended periods of time!
It might not be so bad if the episodes were really just “flashes” of feeling like you’re on fire from the inside-out, but they can actually last for hours. These hot hours cause difficulty living a normal life and can keep women up for many a sleepless night.
2. Western and Eastern medicines approach menopause differently.
Western medicine offers a solution to help with hormonal changes known as Hormonal Replacement therapy. Unfortunately, it can come with many risks including cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke. What many women don’t know is that Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine have been used in the successful treatment of menopausal symptoms in Asian countries for centuries.
3. Imbalances in the body can cause further menopausal symptoms.
Traditional Chinese Medicine takes a unique approach to treating the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. Treatments are individualized, and entirely dependent on any particular woman's symptoms. These symptoms are ultimately associated with a corresponding deficiency elsewhere in the body; it's the deficiency, rather than the symptoms themselves, that comprise the diagnosis.
For example, hot flashes and night sweats are typically associated with what's known as “Kidney Yin Deficiency," while insomnia, emotional instability and constipation are associated with “Liver Qi Stagnation." To learn more about the idea of "qi" or life-force, read on here.
4. You can reinstate a sense of balance in your body.
Once a diagnosis is made in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the practioner can begin the path to healing. Acupuncture points are used according to the corresponding organ pathology. Then herbal remedies and combinations thereof (all of which have been used for hundreds and hundreds of years), are given to correct hormonal imbalances causing the symptoms. As a result, symptoms are minimized, while the root cause is addressed.
5. Chinese herbs have minimal side effects.
Chinese Herbal Medicines used for menopause such as “Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan” are made entirely from plants, which is great news for women in menopause, as it means there are minimal side effects.
6. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a sustainable long-term approach to hormonal balance.
Western doctors recommend that patients do not sustain their Hormone Replacement Therapy for longer than five years, as it increases the risk of cancer. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine can be used as long as needed and the herbal formulas adjusted gently as a woman’s body changes. Therefore, this alternative is available for use in conjunction with Hormone Replacement Therapy, or in its place.
The hot hours of sweating, insomnia, mood swings and increased stress associated with menopause are real, though they can be worked with, rather than fought. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine approach the root causes of the symptoms, rather than masking them, and help make this life change a smooth one. To learn more about these approaches, reach out to an Acupuncturist who is licensed in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Herbology.
Robert Youngs, LAc, Dipl.OM, is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist and Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner, educated at Columbia University and Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is the founder of Robert Youngs Acupuncture in Beverly Hills, CA. Find him at his website.