Menopause is a natural life process that defined by the complete cessation of menstruation after a period of one year. It typically occurs between the ages of 48 and 55, with many women experiencing perimenopausal symptoms in the years leading up to the point of menopause.
These symptoms can include:
- hot flashes
- night sweating
- dryness in hair, skin, nails and vagina
- foggy mind
- low libido
- reduced bone density
- flushed face or chest
All in all, menopausal symptoms can be uncomfortable and negatively impact quality of life. However, it doesn’t have to be the norm and something to just put up with and suffer through!
Read on to see how Traditional Chinese Medicine defines menopause and how it can be used to alleviate menopause symptoms naturally.
How is menopause defined by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
Before understanding how menopause symptoms can be treated naturally, it's important to have a basic understanding of how menopause is viewed in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which differs from western medicine.
In TCM, the body is considered in constant flux as the body balances yin and yang. The yin is considered the material and the nourishment of the body, while the yang aspects are considered the function and the energy behind it.
Additionally, the body has a foundational substance referred to as Essence, or Jing. A person’s essence is in determined, in part, at birth, as our “prenatal essence” given to us by our parents, but also throughout our lives as “postnatal essence”, impacted by how we live and support our overall health.
Ideally, if the body were to be completely balanced, there would be no symptoms, dysfunction, or pain. However, many factors in life, such as diet, lifestyle, stress, emotions, overwork, injuries or trauma, and the natural process of aging can take their toll on the body, impact the yin/yang essence, and cause symptoms. For women, menstruation and childbirth also impact the yin/yang balance and naturally deplete essence.
Therefore, menopausal symptoms are considered side effects of the decline in our essence and an imbalance between the yin and yang aspects within the body that can be common as women age.
There are particular TCM patterns that occur in relation to menopause, including: Kidney Yin deficiency, Kidney Yang deficiency, Kidney and Liver Yin deficiency with Liver-Yang rising, Kidney and Heart not harmonized, Phlegm and Qi stagnation, and Blood Stasis.
When the yin is deficient, there will be symptoms of dryness, night sweating/heat, and, as it is also unable to anchor the yang energy, the feeling of heat rising, such as in the hot flashes and flushed appearance seen in menopause.
If the yang is deficient there may also be additional symptoms such as cold hands and feet, fluid retention, and low mood.
Additional symptoms of digestive upset, fullness/bloating, breast distension, and body pain may indicate stagnation of phlegm, qi, or blood, that also needs to be addressed.
How can acupuncture and TCM treat menopause?
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese herbal medicine can help to bring the body back to that balanced state, balance yin/yang, work to preserve essence, and assist with symptom management.
Clinical studies have shown a decrease in the severity and total overall amount of hot flashes experienced, as well as a decrease in sleep and mood disturbances, with regular acupuncture treatments.
Additionally, the use of herbal medicine can help provide support for menopausal symptoms, with certain individual herbs and herbal formulas indicated for tonifying yin and yang, nourishing dryness, calming the mind, and reducing the heat symptoms behind hot flashes and night sweating.
The use of tongue and pulse diagnosis (looking at the appearance of the tongue and feeling the quality of the pulses on the wrists) is utilized to help choose the points needed during each appointment, identify the patterns the symptoms fall into, and help to monitor progress throughout the course of treatment.
The exact treatment plan will look different for each woman and be personalized to her individual set of symptoms but the treatment goals will include managing uncomfortable symptoms, helping to achieve more restful sleep, and improving overall energy and mood.
Manage your menopause symptoms with TCM and Acupuncture
Book an customized acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment with Dr. Alyssa Cochrane. Call the clinic for available appointment times at 403-457-6683, or book online today!
Cohen, Susan M. DSN, C-FNP; Rousseau, Mary Ellen MS, CNM; Carey, Bonnie L. OMD, LAc, RN Can Acupuncture Ease the Symptoms of Menopause?, Holistic Nursing Practice: November 2003 - Volume 17 - Issue 6 - p 295-299
Dodin S, Blanchet C, Marc I, Ernst E, Wu T, Vaillancourt C, Paquette J, Maunsell E. Acupuncture for menopausal hot flushes. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD007410. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007410.pub2.
Maciocia, Giovanni. Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chinese Medicine. 2nd ed., Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2011, pp. 735-767.
Maciocia, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. 2nd ed., Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014, pp. 3-92.
Scheid, Volker. "Traditional Chinese Medicine--What are we investigating? The case of menopause." Complementary Therapies in Medicine, vol. 156, no. 1, Mar. 2007, pp. 54-68, doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2005.12.002.
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