Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and Yoga are all be effective in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. A recent study in the British Medical Journal found acupuncture reduced the severity of hot flushes.
Unless a woman dies young she will go through the menopause. For some, it is part of life’s natural patterns and they manage the changes for others it is debilitating and life-changing.
Chinese medicine provides many useful tools in the treatment of the menopause. Herbal medicine is the most effective, with a wide range of herbal formulas treating all the main symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disorders, vaginal dryness, headaches, anxiety and mood swings and palpitations. The herbs can be used on their own or in combination with acupuncture which can really help with joint stiffness, aches and pains, headaches and sleep problems.
Yoga and Tai chi can also help during this adjustment in life, reducing stress and anxiety, calming the mind, improving energy and helping sleep.
Technically the menopause is the last menstrual period, this term also covers the time when the menstrual cycle gradually ceases and with it ovulation (and fertility ). This is also called perimenopause. The menopause is a natural part of ageing and usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s estrogen levels decline. Some women can go through a premature menopause ( before the age of 45) for various different medical reasons.
The most common menopausal symptoms are:
Hot flushes – short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest which can make the skin red and sweaty.
Night sweats – hot flushes at night
Difficulty sleeping – this can cause tiredness, irritability and brain fog during the day.
Reduced sex drive (Libido)
Problems with memory and concentration
Vaginal dryness – and pain, itching and discomfort during sex.
Mood changes – low mood and anxiety
Palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
Joint stiffness, aches and pains
Reduced muscle mass
Recurrent urinary tract infections
Osteoporosis – weak bones, low density
On average, most symptoms last around 1 to 4 years from the last period. However, around 1 in 10 women experience these for up to 12 years.
The beauty of Chinese herbal medicine is that it can treat very specific symptoms. There are different herbal formulas for hot flushes with excessive sweating to hot flushes that burn up and dry out. There are remedies for sleep disorders with palpitations and night sweats and other where the sleep disorder causes headaches and low mood. There are also herbs that can improve bone density. Adding acupuncture to the herbs can target the treatment more specifically for each patient.
Over the counter, natural remedies can also be very effective.
Black cohosh is probably the most well known having had the most research, it is effective. For hot flushes, however, it should not be used if there is a history of liver disease.
Red clover contains isoflavones which have an oestrogen like effect and can relieve menopausal symptoms. This should not be used if there is a history of breast cancer.
Red sage can be used as a supplement, in food or as a tea, this can reduce excess sweating, hot flushes and poor memory.
St John’s Wort is good for sleep disorders, mood swings and anxiety.
Dong Quai or Chinese Angelica helps reduce hot flushes, but should not be used if there is a history of blood clotting.
Ginseng can help mood swings and sleep disturbances
Kava can decrease anxiety, but should not be used if a history of liver disease.
Evening Primrose Oil reduces hot flushes.
Foods that contain isoflavones or phytoestrogens like Soya, tofu, soya beans and edamame reduce hot flushes, night sweats and improve vaginal dryness. In countries where these foods are eaten regularly like the Far East, women experience fewer menopausal symptoms.
Vitamin D either from exposure to the sun or in supplement improves bone density and mood swings.
Natural progesterone cream used topically can reduce hot flushes.
Anti flush knickers and vests draw away the sweat and reduce the severity of hot flushes with anti-flush fabric.
Menopause magnet works by rebalancing part of the autonomic nervous system.
Yoga has many benefits for the menopausal woman. It can help reduce anxiety, irritability, insomnia and hot flushes. It also keeps the body supple and helps with muscle and joint pains.
Exercise – vigorous exercise increases bone density, the more impact the more effective. Running and dancing have more impact on bone density than swimming and cycling,
So how does a woman naturally ride the menopause with the minimum symptoms? Diet and exercise both play very important roles. A diet high in phytoestrogens, such as soya products, linseed, rhubarb, celery, fennel, Chickpeas and lentils ( all pulses are good), sage and yarrow. Plenty of oily fish and either a good supplement of vitamin D or sun exposure (or both) will all help reduce symptoms and reduce the chances of osteoporosis. Regular exercise, combining high impact for bone density with yoga or Pilates for relaxation and stretching. If this is not sufficient then a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine should help treat the worst of the symptoms.
One of the real issues with treating and coping with the menopause is that the symptoms wax and wane and change, so one needs to keep ahead of them and change treatment tactics to keep one step ahead and keep in control.