Understanding Menopause and Its Management through Chinese Medicine

Woman feeling unwell, holding ice pack on head.

What is Menopause?

Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years, signifying the cessation of menstrual periods for twelve consecutive months. Typically occurring between ages 45 and 55, menopause is a natural biological process. It is characterized by a decline in the production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone by the ovaries, leading to various physical and emotional changes.

Common Symptoms of Menopause

Menopause manifests through a range of symptoms that can vary in intensity among individuals. Common symptoms include:

  • Hot Flashes: Sudden feelings of warmth, often accompanied by sweating and flushing.
  • Night Sweats: Episodes of excessive sweating during sleep, often disrupting rest.
  • Mood Swings: Emotional instability, including irritability, anxiety, and depression.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling or staying asleep, often exacerbated by night sweats.
  • Vaginal Dryness: Decreased vaginal lubrication, leading to discomfort during intercourse.
  • Decreased Libido: A reduction in sexual desire and arousal.
  • Cognitive Changes: Issues with concentration and memory, often referred to as “brain fog”.

Chinese Medicine's Perspective on Menopause

In Chinese Medicine (CM), menopause is viewed as a natural transition rather than a disorder. It is seen through the lens of Yin and Yang, the fundamental concepts representing opposite but complementary forces in the body. Menopause is often associated with a decline in Kidney Yin and Yang, which play crucial roles in reproductive health and overall vitality.

The Kidneys are believed to govern the reproductive system and the essence (Jing), which diminishes with age. This depletion leads to an imbalance, manifesting as the various symptoms of menopause. Additionally, CM recognizes the involvement of other organ systems, such as the Liver and Heart, in managing emotional and physical health during this transition.

Chinese Medicine Treatments for Menopause Symptoms

Chinese Medicine offers a holistic approach to managing menopause symptoms, emphasizing balance and harmony within the body. Treatments typically include acupuncture, herbal medicine, and lifestyle adjustments.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to regulate Qi (energy) flow and restore balance. It has been shown to alleviate hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and sleep disturbances by harmonizing the body’s energy and supporting the functions of the Kidney, Liver, and Heart .

Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal formulas are tailored to each individual’s specific symptoms and constitution. Commonly used herbs for menopause include:

  • Dang Gui (Angelica Sinensis): Nourishes the blood and regulates menstruation.
  • Bai Shao (White Peony Root): Calms the Liver and alleviates pain.
  • Shu Di Huang (Prepared Rehmannia Root): Tonifies the Kidney Yin.
  • Huang Qi (Astragalus Root): Strengthens the immune system and boosts Qi.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Chinese Medicine also emphasizes the importance of diet, exercise, and stress management. Recommendations often include:

  • Diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in phytoestrogens, such as soy products, and avoiding excessive cold or raw foods to support digestive health.
  • Exercise: Engaging in regular, moderate exercise such as Tai Chi or Qigong to enhance Qi circulation and reduce stress.
  • Stress Management: Practicing meditation, deep breathing exercises, and other relaxation techniques to maintain emotional balance.

Conclusion

Menopause is a significant transition in a woman’s life, and Chinese Medicine offers comprehensive, individualized care to manage its symptoms. By addressing the underlying imbalances through acupuncture, herbal medicine, and lifestyle modifications, CM aims to support women in achieving optimal health and well-being during this phase of life.

 

Please call Pearl River Acupuncture at 845-668-1700 if you would like to seek acupuncture treatment for your menopausal symptoms. Dr. Lee is a licensed acupuncturist and board-certified herbalist who creates individualistic treatment plans for all of her patients, we are always here to help!

References
  1. National Institute on Aging. Menopause: Overview. NIA.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Menopause Symptoms: Overview. Mayo Clinic.
  3. North American Menopause Society. Menopause Symptoms. NAMS.
  4. Chen, J. K., & Chen, T. T. (2004). Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Art of Medicine Press.
  5. Maciocia, G. (1998). Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chinese Medicine. Churchill Livingstone.
  6. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Acupuncture: In Depth. NCCIH.
  7. Bensky, D., Clavey, S., & Stoger, E. (2004). Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Eastland Press.
  8. Leggett, D. (1990). Helping Ourselves: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics. Meridian Press.