Recognizing and alleviating menopause

Though many of us have been taught otherwise, menopause in not a disease; it is a normal physiological transition in a woman’s life from a reproductive to a non-reproductive age.

by Dasha Trebichavska — 

Though many of us have been taught otherwise, menopause in not a disease; it is a normal physiological transition in a woman’s life from a reproductive to a non-reproductive age.

The main problems a woman is likely to experience with menopause, with varying degrees of severity, are tiredness, lethargy, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, depression, insomnia, inability to concentrate, hot flushes, vaginal dryness and sweating. The severity of the problems depends on a woman’s lifestyle, dietary habits, and constitutional strengths and weaknesses.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) demonstrates high efficacy in the treatment of many gynecological problems, including menopause, and it can reliably offer relief to those experiencing a rocky transition in their menopausal years. TCM practitioners treat every woman according to her specific physical, mental and emotional signs.

From the standpoint of Chinese medicine, menopausal symptoms are generally due to a decline of kidney essence. There are many variations of approaches, based on which specific organ system is most instrumental in creating the disharmony (liver and kidney yin deficiency, heart blood deficiency, excess fire, etc.). A skillful TCM practitioner can recognize these patterns and treat them accordingly with acupuncture and/or herbs.

If a woman is on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), treatment with Chinese herbs is not a contraindication because the two work in significantly different ways. HRT can be stopped without dangerous reactions. Although the symptoms of menopause might return, well-tailored Chinese herbal formulas can help ameliorate them.

The following symptoms can be alleviated with TCM: hot flashes, irregular menses, fatigue, decreased sexual desire, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, urinary incontinence, irritability, urinary tract infection, heart palpitations, forgetfulness, memory loss, indigestion, dizziness, headaches and more.

Beyond hormone replacement therapy

Many women, as early as their mid-30s, begin to experience a decline in their endocrine functions. Signs of this decline include frequent tiredness, low libido, night sweating, feeling excessively hot and/or cold, blood sugar imbalance (gaining weight easily), water retention, anxiousness, depression and irregular periods. These women will probably enter their menopausal years early, and their symptoms will be severe unless they balance their organs with nutrients, herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture or other types of natural therapies.

Taking synthetic hormones like estrogen or progestin, as many doctors suggest, only helps to extinguish the fire temporarily and poses other health dangers such as blood clotting, high cholesterol and an increased risk of cancer. (A recent government study showed that adding progestin to estrogen did not protect those women from getting cancer.)

Other options are available. A woman can ask her gynecologist or practitioner to prescribe bio-identical hormones, such as estriol and progesterone, which do not produce side-effects like synthetic hormones do, as their molecular structures are identical to a woman’s own hormones. The other sources of hormones are plants or phyto-hormones. Phyto-hormones vary in their strength and, therefore, should be prescribed and monitored by a trained practitioner such as an acupuncturist, naturopath, osteopath or health practitioner.

Remifemin is a product often used in Europe. It is a source of plant estrogen from black cohosh, and long-term studies have shown no negative side-effects. Be warned, however, that plant hormones — especially when concentrated — can be as potent and potentially harmful as pharmaceutical hormones; women with a history of cancer should be cautious.

The best approach is to regulate endocrine function by strengthening the adrenal, thyroid and pituitary functions through homeopathy, diet, yoga, etc., rather than supplementing with natural or synthetic hormones. Hormones are very powerful cellular modulators and should be used with caution.

Hints for menopausal women

  • Eat a healthy diet. Reduce carbohydrates from pastas, breads, sugars. Consume sufficient protein; good oils such as olive, flax, fish and omega-3s; and organic vegetables and fruits.
  • Use specific nutrients and herbal remedies to strengthen the liver, adrenal glands, thyroid and digestion, the organs which tend to become hypo-functional with age (consult a health practitioner).
  • Resort to natural hormones for a short period of time, if the symptoms are strong and unbearable, while balancing the body with homeopathy, dietary and lifestyle changes.
  • Adopt an exercise regime to improve hormone levels and circulation, and learn to relax with yoga, tai chi, qi kung, meditation and breathing exercises.

See www.authentic-breathing.com for help and information on natural breathing.

 

Dasha Trebichavska, R.N., M.S., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist practicing in Scottsdale. She specializes in gynecology — specifically helping women get pregnant. 415-420-3750, 480-272-6572 or www.healthtransformations.net.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 3, June/July 2008.

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