By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.
Menopause is a natural, transformative process that is experienced by half of the population of the world. Like any life process that involves change, it can be accompanied by intense discomfort. Menopause symptoms affect women in middle age physically, emotionally, and mentally. TCM and acupuncture treatment are ideally suited to bring balance and allow women to navigate this time with greater ease and menopause symptom relief. Several studies have shown that the three most commonly prescribed forms of Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) or Hormone Replacement all increase the risk of breast cancer, and the risks increase the longer these therapies are used. Acupuncture and TCM treat menopausal hot flashes effectively without any side effects.
Signs of Menopause Symptoms: Hot Flashes, Night Sweats and More
Menopause is technically defined as when a woman has not had a period for a full twelve months. The period of time during which a woman begins experiencing symptoms related to menopause is actually the pre-menopausal or “perimenopausal” state. This phase can unfold over the course of a few months or up to several years; the average amount of time is about four years. Most women begin experiencing perimenopause in their 40s, although some women begin feeling different and having irregular periods as early as their 30s, and other women don’t feel changes until their 50s.
Perimenopausal symptoms and signs can include:
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Hot flashes, hot flushes, night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping, sleep apnea, snoring
- Vaginal dryness
- Low libido
- Urinary incontinence
- Loss of bone density
- Higher “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol
- Anxiety, irritability, depression, PMS or PMDD
- Weight gain
About 80% of women will experience hot flashes at some point during their perimenopausal phase. These sudden hot flushes are caused by lower estrogen levels, which can confuse the brain’s typical regulation of internal temperature. These episodes can feel really disconcerting and disruptive.
Acupuncture for Menopause Treatment and Menopause Supplements
Studies have shown that acupuncture treatments can reduce the frequency of hot flashes. As few as three treatments produced significant positive results, while a full course of treatment (at least eight sessions) provided relief for many women for up to six months. In addition to relieving hot flashes, acupuncture also improves quality of life in many other ways: reducing headaches and other body aches, alleviating anxiety and depression, and improving sleep. TCM also offers customized herbal formulae that support the body’s hormone balance and help with menopause symptom relief. In many ways, the effects of perimenopause and menopause are not quantifiable, as some are more emotional in nature. This change occurs not just in the body, but in the mind. At this time, a woman is seeing herself differently, reevaluating her own sense of identity and purpose, and in some cases, shifting her focus and energies in life.
Acupuncture for PMS Symptoms and Menopause
Physically, a woman goes through many significant changes over the years, and different factors come into play. If a woman’s body is out of balance — due to trauma, stress, illness, injury, diet, environment, etc.–she may experience difficulties with her female organ function. Painful periods, irregular periods, cysts, fibroids and endometriosis are all common conditions — but they do not happen without some imbalances causing them. A lifetime of choices, experiences, pains and pleasures add up to create the health status we live with now, in this moment.
Women’s health issues can be addressed, at any stage of life, with acupuncture and herbs, as well as the right kind of food and lifestyle choices. If a woman finds and partners with a good healthcare practitioner, and practices a lifestyle that helps her achieve optimal health, she does not have to suffer through years of PMS, unpleasant symptoms during pregnancy like morning sickness, nor through years of menopausal symptoms, either. Unfortunately, many women do not know there is an alternative to using pain relief medicines, oral contraceptives and hormone replacement to manage symptoms. These drugs do not offer a real solution to the problems; they mask them. As women, we are often expected to simply accept these problems and learn to cope. But why settle for that, when we have the means to correct them?
What is a Natural Remedy for Hot Flashes? Acupuncture and Menopause Supplements
TCM looks at female care as “ovarian care.” Besides paying attention to our liver, heart, lungs, and kidneys, we also focus on menstrual and premenstrual care, pregnancy and postpartum care, and menopause care. These are unique to women. The ovaries are the major players when it comes to female hormones, cycles, and reproductive health. Girls, young women and older women can all benefit from regular treatment, herbal supplementation, and lifestyle improvements to encourage healthy and smooth functioning of these processes. If, as a younger woman, you are able to manage your hormones, then, when menopause comes, it hopefully will not be too much of a problem. If you are already experiencing menopause symptoms, it is not too late to get Yin and Yang balance restored, so that you can enjoy this phase of life and many healthy years to come!
According to TCM, most menopausal disorders fall under kidney and/or liver Yin deficiency. This manifests in hot flashes, waking often at night around 3:00-4:00 a.m., dreamy light sleep, irritability, memory loss, dry eyes, mood swings, and irregular periods. A smaller percentage of symptoms fall under kidney Yang deficiency; low back soreness, incontinence, water retention, fatigue, indigestion, and weight gain. We use very specific acupuncture points to help with each of these different problems, and are able to treat each woman’s unique combination of issues. We also have our unique techniques (needling and massage) and herbal products to help skin stay firm and smooth.
8 Self-Care Best Practices for Menopause
Acupuncture and herbal modalities have been taking care of these women’s health issues for thousands of years. Besides seeking these professional services, there are many things you can do at home to facilitate a smooth transition:
- For Yin deficiency, stick with cooling and juicy foods like fresh veggies, fruit, yams, sweet rice, mung beans, lotus roots or seeds. Stay away from alcohol, coffee, and spicy foods which increase internal fire or heat. Snacking on Goji berries is recommended, drinking chrysanthemum tea, chamomile tea or Art of Wellness’s own Night Tea can help you rest and sleep better.
- For Yang deficiency, drink warm lemon water upon rising, eat more cooked and warm food, nuts, especially walnuts and pecans, stay away from dairy, icy foods and drinks and greasy, heavy meals. 20-30 minute hot foot spa before bedtime is recommended. Rub the low back along the midline of the spine and on both sides until very warm.
- For saggy or loose skin, facial rejuvenation acupuncture needling will help stimulate collagen production and improve facial circulation.
- Speed-walk 30-45 minutes per day.
- Rub hands to warm them, then rub the soles of each foot 100 times. Practice daily.
- Meditate 20 minutes daily, in the morning or ideally, at bedtime.
- Suggested Menopause Meditation: focus on the lower abdominal area (Dan Tian), until it feels warm. Then, move the warm sensation into your kidney area.
- Try this Lotus smoothie recipe. Good for anyone, but especially for women experiencing menopausal symptoms: ½ cup lotus seed, ½ lily bulbs, 1 tablespoon mung beans, 1 tablespoon sweet rice, 10 pieces of honey dates. Rinse all ingredients but dates. Add 6 cups of water, cook for 20 minutes. Blend. Garnish with a few goji berries. Make 4 servings. Serve warm for breakfast, or cold for an afternoon snack. Feel free to add fruit, such as banana, berries, apple, pear, etc.
If you or a woman you care about is experiencing menopause symptoms, look for acupuncture near me, and call Art of Wellness, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, CA. Our clinic is one of the top 19 pick among 825 similar clinics in the great Los Angeles area. Our doctors have over 30-years experiences of practicing TCM and acupuncture. Dr. Cai is a specialist in all women’s health issues.
*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.