Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings… the realization that you are aging. Could this really be the best time in your life? Well yes! Of course! And Traditional Chinese Medicine can help.
In order to soar through this stage with the wings of an eagle, there are some important concepts to look into. First, there must be an understanding of what perimenopausal syndrome is. Second is your attitude towards these symptoms, and third is the treatment of this syndrome with Chinese medicine.
Recognizing & Understanding Menopause:
- Menopause is the permanent cessation of menstruation: when there is a transition from a reproductive state to a non-reproductive state. It takes 6-12 months to establish a diagnosis.
- Perimenopausal Period is the time before, during and after menopause. This includes pre-menopause, menopause and post-menopause
- Perimenopausal Syndrome is the accumulation of symptoms that women experience in response to menopause. It can be diagnosed through examination of age, menstrual irregularity, characteristic symptoms and blood tests. At this stage, it is important to take measures to manage these symptoms.
It is of the utmost importance to recognize the symptoms of menopause. Perimenopausal Syndrome can present as irregular uterine bleeding such as polymenorrhea, menorrhea, metrorrhagia, menomenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, or final cessation of menses. Symptoms suggesting disturbance of the cardiovascular-cerebral system and the autonomic nervous system can occur such as hot flush, palpitation, dizziness, headache, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and loss of short-term memory, etc. Without proper management of these symptoms, women are at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, coronary artery disease, and venous thrombosis, chronic headache or vertigo, insomnia. Psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety and irritability, and personality changes can occur and if left untreated can develop into psychological disorders. Atrophy of vaginal tissue and tissue inside the urethra and bladder if untreated tends to cause recurrent vaginal infections, recurrent urine tract infections, and urinary incontinence. Lack of lustre in the skin tone can result in increased facial wrinkles, flaccid muscles, weak ligaments, osteoporosis, and increased susceptibility to osteoarthritis.
Therefore, the management of symptoms in the perimenopausal time can greatly impact the productive life during this golden stage. It can cause increasing conflict in relationships with family, friends and co-workers, as well as lead to permanent suffering for the rest of one’s life. Understanding menopause is the first key to keeping it golden. Here are some key things to remember:
- Menopausal Transition takes time to get through. The average length is 3-5 years with the most intense symptoms occurring at the menopausal time.
- Perimenopausal symptoms are as variable as women are and individual management is needed – there are many manifestations related to perimenopause that you might not realize.
- Preventing perimenopausal syndrome before entering into the menopause stage is key. The women most likely to suffer from perimenopausal syndrome are those with heavy bleeding during menopause, those who are over worked and over stressed, and those with a poor diet.
Accepting Menopause: the concept of the Golden 50
In China, the lifespan is divided into 25 year cycles. It starts with the China stage (0-25), goes to the silver stage (25-50), then to the golden stage (50-75) and back to the china stage (75-100). It is believed that in the golden age, women achieve freedom and can fully delve in creativity. Accepting menopause is the second key for golden success. Symptoms like hot flashes can be bothersome, but instead of becoming irritated, just let them come and let them go again and seek treatment to help ease their passing. Reducing the worry of physiological change leads to a women with a tough but optimistic mind.
In relation to western medicine, this is the time when progesterone production ceases and conditions related to the menstrual cycle improve, such as cramping, PMS and migraines. The androgen produced by the ovaries helps to create a strong personality, a willed and tough mind but also a clear mind, and decisions are made more easily.
Life is a cycle, and within each cycle there is neither good nor bad, merely stages between birth and death; like the changing of seasons. The golden stage is the harvest season and the best time in life.
Under the first heading of ‘Recognizing & Understanding Menopause,’ the symptoms and their inevitable progression was described, thus the importance of treatment be reiterated so that the golden age doesn’t get tarnished. Using traditional Chinese medicine to treat these symptoms and syndromes is a safe and effective way of balancing the mind and body. Depending on the symptoms that are presented, different treatments are required. This is not an exclusive list of disease diagnoses, these are merely the most common. Please see your TCM doctor to help you figure out which category you fit into. Modifications of herbal prescriptions may need to be made to properly treat the symptoms.
- Kidney Yin (or Blood) Deficiency: manifests as malar flush, night sweating, hot flush, dry mouth, dry hair, dry skin, insomnia, irritability, reddish tongue, and thready pulse.
- Treatment includes herbs such as Sheng Di Huang, Gou Qi Zi, Nu Zhen Zi, Shan Yao, Zhen Zhu Mu, Shan Yu Rou, Yin Yang Huo, Huang Bai, Zhi Mu, Ji Xue Teng, He Shou Wu, Bai Shao, He Huan Pi, Gou Teng, etc.
- Kidney Yin & Yang Deficiency: manifests as hot flush with cold hands and feet, aversion to cold after sweating, pale or sallow complexion, frequent urination, low back ache, floating-empty or deep-weak pulse.
- Treatment includes herbs such as Shu Di Huang, Gou Qi Zi, Bu Gu Zhi, Ji Xue Teng, He Shou Wu, Zhen Zhu Mu, Shan Yao, Yin Yang Huo, Shan Yu Rou, Lu Jiao Shuang, Ba Ji Tian, Sheng Yi Yi Ren, Dang Shen, etc.
Acupuncture can help sleep, reduce anxiety and depression, increase energy and reduce fatigue and keep one young looking. Point selection generally includes those on the Ren and Du meridian, Yangming meridian on the face and a combination of acupuncture and moxibustion.
In western medicine, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most common therapy used to reduce perimenopausal symptoms and prevent other age-related medical conditions. However, because of the potential health risks associated with HRT, including increased risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, gallbladder disease, thrombophlebitis, and hypertension, the risk of the implementation of HRT remains controversial. The use of Chinese medicine such as acupuncture and herbs has successfully dealt with perimenopausal syndrome for hundreds of years – through natural means which eliminate the health risks of using treatments like HRT. In this golden age, there are at least 25 years of brilliant shine. We need to keep healthy and enjoy every moment of glowing.
Yuxiang Wang, CMD
Caroline Prodoehl, D.Ac
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