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Markham Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine--River Clinic, Richmond Hill, Scarborough正體字 - Chinese Traditional简体字 - Chinese Simplified日本語 - Japanese

Menopause


How does Western medicine view menopause?

“Menopause” is defined as the permanent cessation of menstruation and is diagnosed when a woman has had no menstruation for 12 consecutive months.  It is due to the primary dysfunction of the ovaries’ production of hormones, estrogen and progesterone. This is a normal aging process for all women. The average age of menopause in Canadian women is 51 years old, but it usually occurs at the age raging from 45 to 55.  However, women going though this change experience many symptoms as the levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate and decline for some years before and after “menopause” actually hits – this period is called “perimenopause” and lasts for 2-8 years.

The rise and fall of hormone levels cause various symptoms such as irregular menstruation, hot flashes, night sweats, palpitations, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, joint pain, fatigue, mood swings, depression, low libido, virginal dryness etc. etc…  Some women experience mild symptoms; however, some suffer from severe symptoms that affect their daily life activities.  In addition to these subjective symptoms, this hormonal change brings on osteoporosis and high cholesterol that could lead to fractures and cardiovascular diseases (e.g. high blood pressure, heart attack) in the future, respectively.


What are the conventional Western medical treatments for menopausal symptoms?

Conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with synthetic hormones is considered the standard treatment for menopause and related conditions in Western Medicine.  It may alleviate symptoms, but will also have many significant side effects with the increased risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer - although it is well known that taking estrogen with progesterone avoids the risk, the risk still remains.

Recently, bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) with hormones derived from plants such as yams and soy is becoming more popular, and is considered as safe alternatives to conventional HRT.  However, recent news reports say BHRT, like HRT, may also increase the risk of cancers.  BHRT creams, which are hand-mixed by pharmacists, are untested and unregulated by Health Canada, and therefore women on BHRT can’t be sure of the levels of hormones they are actually absorbing.

 

How does Traditional Chinese Medicine views menopause?

Let me start by providing some background on how aging is understood in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  In TCM, your Kidneys are the organs responsible for growth, development, sexual maturation, reproduction and aging, unlike the anatomical kidneys in Western medicine.  The Kidneys stores essence, which is something that you inherit from our parents (equivalent to genes).  The decline of the Kidney-Essence is directly related to aging.  The Kidney-essence is said to produce the marrow that fills the bones.  Therefore as the Kidney-essence declines, our bones become fragile (osteoporosis).  Secondly, the essence nourishes our hair, therefore deficiency of the Kidney-essence causes fall-out and/or graying of the hair.

The Kidneys essence is the foundation of the entire body.  This foundation has two balancing aspects; one is the Kidney-yang that is the root of fire in the body.  It keeps our organs and body warm and provides energy (qi) for all physical activities.  The other aspect is the Kidney-yin that is the root of water of the body that reserves nutrients including the blood and moisture and fuel for all physiological activities.

As the Kidney-essence declines with aging, both of the Kidney-yin and yang also decline.  In health, the Kidney-yin & yang balance each other, but as they decline with the essence during perimenopause, they become out of balance.

When you don’t have enough yin water to balance the yang fire, the fire flares up and causes hot flashes and sweating.  Decline of the yin water also causes dryness in many parts of the body such as vaginal dryness, skin dryness etc.

As the source of qi energy and yang fire in the body, decline of the kidney-yang brings about fatigue, a feeling of cold to the body and limbs.

 

How TCM can treat menopause?

The main principle for treating perimenopause or menopause is to balance the yin and yang.  If yin decline is causing fire flaring up in the body, the fire needs to be cooled off.  If there is yang decline causing cold accumulation in the body, the cold needs to be scattered by warming the body.  At times we need to address the decline in yin or yang directly by supplementing yin, yang, often both.  Depending on each woman’s individual state of essence, yin, yang and their relative imbalance, everyone will present with different menopausal symptoms that TCM practitioners will tailor-make a treatment strategy specific to each woman.

Acupuncture is effective in the treatment of palpitations, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, joint pain, fatigue, mood swings and depression symptoms associated with menopause.  Tailor-made Chinese herbal decoctions may contain cooling herbs that control over-abundant fire, or warming herbs that offset cold conditions.   Herbal formulations are further designed to supplement each person’s unique combination of essence, yin and yang deficiencies to get to the root imbalances in the body.

Chinese medicine has a long history in treating gynecological disorders including menopause, and offers a gentle yet and effective way to reduce menopausal symptoms.  When prescribed by a qualified herbalist, Chinese herbal medicine are very safe and without adverse effects.  Acupuncture performed by licensed acupuncturist is both effective and safe.

 


 

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