Pre-Menopause and Menopause
What are pre-menopause and menopause?
Menopause is the end of female reproduction and pre-menopause can be the symptoms that can allow someone to detect when their body will stop menstruating. There are a few different stages and symptoms within pre-menopause that are all important for people to recognize and understand. There is a transitional stage in between pre-menopause and menopause which is called Perimenopause which stands for “around menopause”(Cherney, 2020). This is the transitional phase that will ultimately lead up to menopause.
How does it happen?
Menopause is a natural occurance within a womans body when their ovaries stop producing eggs, and the production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone declines (Mount Sinai, 2022). These occurrences may also happen if a woman's ovaries are being affected by some disease or cancer. This menopause transition period typically happens to woman in the age range of 45-55 years old(NIH, 2021). There are many various lifestyle factors such as being a smoker that determines the duration of a womans menopausal cycle. This cycle could last anywhere from 7 to 14 years due to each person partaking in various lifestyle decisions.
What are the symptoms?
In the beginning stages of someones menopausal cycle there are various symptoms such as irregular periods, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, changes in menstruation, etc(Mayo Clinic, 2020). While symptoms can vary among women, many will also have to experience skipping periods for multiple days or even months at a time.
What are the causes of menopause in Oriental Medicine?
From a TCM perspective, menopause is associated with ‘kidney deficiency or dysfunction’, since, in TCM, the kidney is conceptualized as a system rather than an organ that is responsible for temperature, fertility and sterility, and fluid balance regulation(Yu, 2018). Qi is also a TCM concept that refers to the maintenance of activities of daily life, visceral function, and metabolism. Yin and Yang, two opposite, complementary, and inter-related components of matters in nature, ensure that every system functions smoothly through the balance of Qi and blood. During perimenopause, women experience a gradual reduction in kidney Qi, essence, and blood, thereby leading to an imbalance between Qi and blood, kidney Yin–Yang disharmony with subsequent visceral organ dysfunction(Yu, 2018).
What can Oriental Medicine do to treat pre-menopause and menopause?
There are many TCM modalities that may help relieve many of the symptoms that come along with menopause. Among women dealing with moderate to severe symptoms, acupuncture was associated with reductions in hot flushes, excess sweating, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and skin and hair problems(BMJ, 2019). Throughout research conducted Acupuncture proved to provide the best results for combatting menopause symptoms. Acupuncturists use specific points to help with each of these different problems, and are able to treat each woman’s unique combination of issues which is why it's proven to be beneficial(Cai, 2021). Many women who experience hot flashes may also want to try ear acupuncture/ear acupressure because it has been proven as a helpful alternative to relieve those symptoms especially for those who don't want to receive hormone therapy(Zhou et al., 2010). According to modern TCM beliefs, physicians aim to enhance the kidney, spleen and liver systems, and they also select points related to the endocrine organs, sympathetic nerves and ovaries that can help regulate the female reproductive organs(Nong, 2008). Moxibustion is also known to help lower the frequency and severity of hot flashes which can be another helpful TCM modality(Park et al., 2009). Moxa treatment strengthens and stimulates the blood flow and qi (life energy) of the body. This process is usually used to treat diseases, provide pain relief, expel colds, and upkeep health in general(PCOM, 2019). Another TCM modality that can be helpful in providing relief to women with menopause are traditional chinese herbs. Black Cohosh, or Sheng Ma, is also a cooling herb that goes to the stomach, large intestine, and lung channels. Its main functions are to get rid of toxic heat and raise yang- think of raising yang as raising energy, increasing overall health, and wellness(Lohmeyer, 2020). Another herb that is know to help prevent some menopause symptoms is called Ashwagandha, also known as Shiu Qie, which has properties known to help cool the liver, increase oxygen intake, give your body more energy, and give your immune system a boost(Lohmeyer, 2020). The last two treatment modalities are ensuring a healthy diet and adequate exercises to help keep up a good quality of life. Yin can be nourished by foods that help to build up internal moisture and cool the system down(Bachman, 2021). Foods like asparagus, baked yams, miso soup, white fish, chia seed pudding, bananas, and blueberries can all be beneficial to eat. Just like diet, exercise is just as important because any type of physical activities can help lead to a reduction in menopause symptoms and stress levels(Cappelloni, 2017). Depending on your level of fitness you can determine what exercises may best fit your desired needs and increase the amount of repetitions or time gradually. Each of these TCM alternative healing methods can help better the quality of life for patients with menopause which is why it can be important to seek out which option may be the best fit for you.
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