Menopause marks the transitional time in a woman's life where ovulation and menstruation come to an end. According to Chinese Medical theory, menopause occurs when a woman's body begins to preserve blood and energy in order to sustain her vitality and extend her longevity. Menopause is seen as a true change in life from mother to enlightened and wise being and can be a special time for personal growth.
The age at which menopause begins and ends and the associated symptoms can vary from woman to woman. For some it will be a very easy transition with mild or no symptoms, but others may experience things like hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, insomnia, vaginal dryness or itchiness, mood swings, fatigue, skin problems, and more as her hormonal balance changes. Much of what a woman will experiences during menopause will be genetic, particularly the age at which she starts, but so much is also dependent on her lifestyle and diet during her reproductive years. A healthy diet, exercise, and not allowing yourself to burn out will help to lessen symptoms of menopause later on.
In relation to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), menopausal symptoms are generally due to a decline of the Kidney Essence. The Kidney organ (I capitalize "Kidney" when I'm talking about it in terms of TCM) has overlapping and additional functions of the kidney organ as we understand it in Western medicine. Apart from being the body's filter through the urinary process, the Kidney is also responsible for growth, maturation, and reproduction. When we age the energy of the Kidney inevitably declines. This is true for both men and women I should add, but this post is about what that means in connection to the menstrual cycle.
The Kidney has both Yin and Yang aspects and when one or both are deficient, we see the symptoms associated with menopause. When Yin is more deficient it indicates there is not enough fluid to nourish the body and too much heat, giving rise to hot symptoms such as thirst, flushes, and constipation. When the Yang is deficient, there is an abundance of fluid and a lack of warmth, leading to symptoms such as swelling in the lower legs and frequent urination. It is not uncommon in clinical practice to see a combination of Yin and Yang Kidney deficiency. If you'd like to read a little more about Yin/Yang theory, click this link to a previous post I wrote about Hashimoto's.
Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine treat menopausal problems by tonifying and balancing the Kidney energy so that you can move into the next phase of womanhood feeling healthy and empowered. When Kidney Yin is more deficient, we prescribe herbs that nourish the Yin and clear the heat such as rehmannia. When Kidney Yang is more deficient, we prescribe herbs like morinda root which tonifies the Yang and warms the body. And when there are other factors causing an imbalance, we help to correct them with other herbs and our little needles. Once we have established the individual causes of your menopausal symptoms we can also give you dietary, lifestyle, and exercise advice to best support you and your body.
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