Menopause and TCM

As the menopause approaches many women are filled with dread at the prospect of hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, dizziness and the long list of other debilitating symptoms which seem to plague women as they pass through this transition in their lives. However did you know that Chinese women don't suffer from some of the symptoms Western women seem to accept as inevitable? Recent research has shown that only 10% of Asian women experience noticeable menopausal symptoms, compared with over 75% of women in the United States. It appears that this difference can be explained by a combination of things: diet together with regular acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine. While Western women tend to accept that HRT is the answer to controlling the changes in our body, there are many natural and safe alternatives which have been used by Chinese women for hundreds of years to alleviate the discomfort experienced during the menopausal years. 

Our menopausal symptoms begin as we come to the end of our fertility and our body stops producing the hormone, estrogen. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) supplements our estrogen production to keep our hormones stabilised, however many women are reluctant to put synthetic hormones into their bodies and so there's a constant quest to find more natural remedies. Research into the chemistry of plants has shown that phytoestrogens, produced by certain species of plants, closely resemble the estrogen produced in the human body and although they are a weaker version of human estrogen, they are able to 'bind' onto the estrogen receptors in the body. One such example is the humble soy bean, which is the richest form of phytoestrogen. 

The idea of using the food we eat as a medicine has been a basic premise in Chinese culture for centuries and is a fundamental principle in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which believes that 75% of health problems are attributable to the foods we put in our mouths. Studies have shown that eating a diet which is rich in these phytoestrogens can have a very positive effect by alleviating menopausal symptoms. These plant estrogens attach themselves to the estrogen receptors in our bodies and then are released slowly into the blood stream, providing a continual flow of estrogen as the body's own supply starts to diminish. As long as the woman continues to eat phytoestrogen rich food, she will receive a safe and natural supply of this important hormone, although it has to be eaten in fairly large quantities over a long period of time to gain the full benefits. Soy is one of the main ingredients in Chinese and Asian diets, with most people consuming somewhere in the region of 50g of soy each day through products such as soymilk and tofu. In comparison American women typically consume less that 5g per day. So while soy has been shown to improve symptoms, women need to be eating this in their diet prior to menopause to gain the most benefit, as it is not a quick cure.

However, for those women that are already experiencing menopausal symptoms, such as night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia and headaches; acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine have both proved to be safe and effective ways to control the symptoms. Based on the premise that the kidney is the organ which is directly responsible for the maturation and aging process, it is believed that a deficiency in the kidney yin causes the symptoms of the menopause.

Bi-weekly acupuncture treatments have been shown to greatly reduce hot flashes and night sweats until they are virtually unnoticeable. This improvement can then be maintained with a monthly treatment. 

Chinese Medicines are basically herbal formulas or tonics which work to balance the Chi, Blood, Yin and Yang and which can be used  to great effect with no adverse side effects. There are several time tested formulas which have proved to be extremely beneficial for suppressing pre-menopausal and menopausal symptoms. Herbs such as Dang kui and ginseng have also proved to be very effective, although practitioners believe that single herbs are not as effective as using a blended formula. Several herbal formulas have been developed to relieve the symptoms of the menopause, including blends which have been used for hundreds of years to fight tiredness and fatigue and which have proven to be extremely successful in controlling those dreaded hot flashes and night sweats. They work by nourishing the Yin energy, clearing away heat and restlessness and calming the mind. These formulas have been tested by Chinese and Asian women for centuries and offer a gentle, effective way to alleviate menopausal symptoms.  

So if you find your symptoms are becoming too much to bear and you would like to try a natural alternative, then one of these formulas could be exactly what you need.