What is the Chinese medicine perspective of menopause and how does it diagnose and treat menopause symptoms?
Menopause may receive a lot of negative attention, but it is a natural part of a woman’s life. It signals the permanent completion of menstruation (periods) and the end of a woman’s ability to reproduce.
Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 48 to 55 years and the transition can take six to 12 months.
Many women experience very mild or no symptoms during this time, while others can notice many symptoms of varying degrees.
Menopause symptoms and their causes
From a Chinese medicine perspective, menopausal symptoms are generally due to a decline and weakening of the Kidney Essence in both the Yin and Yang aspects.
When Yin is deficient it indicates a lack of fluid to nourish the body, along with too much heat. This causes the heat symptoms such as thirst, hot flushes and constipation.
When Yang is deficient, there is too much fluid and lack of warmth in the body. This can lead to symptoms such as swelling in the lower legs and frequent urination.
Deficiencies in both the Yin and Yang are very common, which cause women to experience any of the following symptoms:
- hot flushes or redness in the face day and/or night
- feeling hot, followed by feeling cold
- excessive sweating, especially with hot flushes
- insomnia and dream-disturbed sleep
- thirst and dry mouth
- frequent urination during day or night
- anxiety, restlessness, irritability, depression
- swollen lower legs, ankles, feet
- tiredness and headaches
- lower back ache
- vaginal dryness or itchiness.
Imbalances in the Liver and Spleen organs, such as Liver Yin deficiency or Spleen Blood deficiency, can also lead to women experiencing these menopausal symptoms.
The severity of these symptoms will depend upon a woman’s lifestyle and dietary habits throughout her life.
The role of stress
Women are no strangers to stress. According to Chinese medicine theory, emotional stress, built up over time before the onset of menopause, can make symptoms even worse.
Worry, anxiety, fear and stress weaken the Kidney function, which leads to Kidney Yin/Yang deficiency. Working long hours without adequate rest, and an irregular diet also affects the Kidney function.
So, if you haven’t reached menopause yet, it may be wise to slow down, take time out for yourself and reduce stress where you can.
How does Chinese medicine treat menopause?
Treating problems associated with menopause through Chinese medicine involves tonifying and balancing the Kidney function with acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine.
When Kidney Yin is deficient the body will lack fluid, or will become dry and will easily overheat. Therefore, Chinese herbs that nourish and clear the heat are given.
When Kidney Yang is deficient there is not enough warmth and too much fluid in the body. Therefore, Yang tonifying and warming herbs are prescribed.
Acupuncture is recommended in treating menopausal symptoms as it effectively tonifies the Kidney function, and helps to re-establish balance in the body.
Once the causes of your menopause symptoms have been established, a Chinese medicine practitioner will give you advice about specific diet, lifestyle and exercise choices that would best support your body.