Menopause: A Warm Friend or a Persistent Enemy?
What is menopause?
Menopause is a transitional period marking the cessation of ovulation in a woman’s body. This time of change may last a few months to many years. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, and are brought on as our bodies try to adapt to decreasing amounts of estrogen. Symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, vaginal dryness, headaches, joint pain, and weight gain.
Why do some women find it harder to go through than others?
In Chinese medicine, menopausal symptoms arise from a decline of kidney essence. The kidneys are considered the ‘life batteries’ of your body. The severity of your symptoms is highly related to how well you have taken care of your kidney essence prior to menopause. Emotional stress (anxiety, worry, fear), overworking, and having children close together are all factors that can cause the kidney energy to diminish. Women who smoke, and/or have a poor diet consisting of many processed foods, tend to have more severe symptoms as well.
How come women in Asia seem to be immune to this?
Diet and lifestyle in Asia tend to be quite different from those of North Americans. Typically, Asian women eat more soy products, which nourish the kidney. They also engage in some form of Tai chi or Qi gong exercises, which strengthen and balance the energies of the body. Culturally, the aging process itself is less stressful because age and maturity are respected.
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Some women undergo Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). It works by tricking the body into believing it is still ovulating and producing estrogen. The results for this therapy are more immediate than with Chinese medicine in terms of reduction of symptoms. However, HRT does not nourish the kidneys, nor does it get to the root of why you may be having symptoms. These are synthetic hormones, much like the ones used in birth control pills, and have potential side effects such as breast and endometrial cancer, thrombolism, strokes, hypertension, Gall Bladder dysfunction, gallstones, water retention, and headaches. With this in mind, HRT is not an ideal long-term solution.
How Can Chinese Medicine help with this?
For many, Chinese medicine is all that is needed to manage menopause. It works by gently nourishing the kidneys. This is achieved through acupuncture, herbs, and dietary recommendations. In more severe cases, Chinese medicine can be combined with HRT because each works through different mechanisms. Once the Chinese herbs kick in, (within about 2 months use), you can start to wean yourself off of the HRT. By combining these two modalities, the symptoms will be more manageable.
Chinese medicine will help you whether you are currently going through menopause, or are interested in seeking preventative means. Your Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine will be able to help you understand the changes that are occurring during this transitional period. For questions or a consultation, please call Lynn Truong at (604) 734-5966.