Menopause is an experience that unites women of all backgrounds and lifestyles, with symptoms ranging wildly from the severe to the manageable - and everything in between.

Chinese medicine views menopause as one of the “great gates of life” and is an effective treatment for managing both perimenopause and menopausal symptoms. And with more and more women turning to alternative therapies and medicines to overcome the symptoms associated with menopause, this article looks specifically at Chinese medicine and some of the most common therapies being employed by women around the world.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is an entirely natural process of ageing, which commonly affects women aged 40 and over (though early menopause is not uncommon). The symptoms vary, with the menopause transition starting around when the ovaries stop producing reproductive hormones on their own, and it is important to understand that every woman experiences these symptoms and signs differently.

Some of the most commonly reported symptoms associated with the menopause transition include hot flushes, mood swings, excessive sweating, frequent UTIs, fatigue, weight gain, and vaginal dryness. With menopause a natural occurrence that cannot be halted, most women will find themselves looking for treatments that help them to manage the symptoms and make the process more comfortable. This is where we start to see differences between Western medicine, and the alternative methods associated with Chinese medicine.

Can You Reduce the Symptoms of Menopause?

There are increasing numbers of women around the world looking to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a treatment in the face of menopause - using the therapy to reignite the body with some of the sex hormones that are lost during the menopausal transition. By giving the body a boost of estrogens and progestogens, not only can this therapy help to manage the symptoms associated with the reduction in sex hormones but it has also been shown to offer a range of long-term benefits. A Women's Health Initiative ongoing study shows that HRT, when conducted within 10 years of menopause, reduces the risk of coronary disease, osteoporosis and dementia.

But HRT is not the only option available to women - and it is increasingly becoming less popular in the face of alternative and more natural options. A recent survey by the Women’s Health Concern (2020) suggests that 95% of women going through the menopausal transition would consider complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) because they are natural and based on the health risks associated with HRT. Acupuncture is one of the forms of CAM therapy that is increasingly been used by women to help treat menopausal symptoms and has been shown to be effective in treating various symptoms related to the menopause. 

Chinese medicine offers an alternative to HRT and the store-bought vitamins and supplements that women turn to in Western society - not just in treatment but in mindset too. In Chinese culture, menopause is an important and positive time in a woman's life. As such, the embracing of alternative medicine can do just as much good for mindset as it can for the more physical symptoms.

Let’s take a closer look at Chinese medicine, the options and how they can help women facing menopause.

How can Chinese Medicine Help?

Chinese medicine believes that the harsher symptoms of menopause are a direct result of our imbalance with the internal yin/yang circuit. Women are characterised with a very yin energy, while the masculine yang energy is not only expressed through male figures but also in much of our modern lifestyle such as the fast-paced movement, hard work, physical demands, and full-on intensity of life. With an overwhelm of yang, we start to lose the balance between our yin and yang, and for women, it is this which causes menopausal symptoms.

One of the major causes of menopause from a scientific point of view is the slowing down of the ovulation process. This is another change that occurs in the body and affects that delicate balance of yin and yang, as it causes the body to hold onto something which should be expelled - creating a build-up and imbalance.

Then we have the effect of menopause on the kidneys. These are intrinsically linked to ageing and fertility in Chinese medicine and thus need to be looked after to progress menopause as smoothly as possible. This is where the idea of food being medicine becomes important, using diet (and mindfulness) alongside acupuncture as a way of toning the energy in the kidneys.

In short, the concept of Chinese medicine seeks to correct the internal imbalance of hormones that leads to menopause, providing a far more introspective view on the menopausal changes and helping the body to adjust to these hormonal changes in the most effective way.

Chinese herbs are one such alternative therapy that is regularly employed by women around the world to settle their symptoms and especially combat the effect of hot flushes. Most herbal remedies recommended by Chinese medicine seek to boost the levels of yin in the body to correct the core imbalance between yin and yang - with other benefits including relieving pain, correcting dryness and thirst, and helping the body to embrace the relaxing time of life associated with menopause.

Another alternative, popular therapy heralded by Chinese medicine is acupuncture, and it is this which has been linked to a range of benefits for women as noted by the British Medical Journal. The concept of acupuncture forms a big part of the rebalancing process in Chinese medicine, redefining the yin levels for those suffering from menopause by using acupuncture combined with other lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.

The therapist conducting your acupuncture will work with you to define the strategic points of your body which could benefit from acupuncture, before inserting minimally invasive and very thing needles into those crucial parts of the body to restore balance and release a blocked flow of energy. From the study conducted by the British Medical Journal, the success rate for acupuncture as a therapy was at 80% after just 6 weeks - with women reporting the sessions had helped to relieve their symptoms.

Chinese Medicine: A Menopause Alternative

Menopause is not something that can be avoided or treated; rather, women must select a means of managing their symptoms that works for them. Chinese medicine presents an alternative to Western vitamins and supplements, with acupuncture considered one of the most popular minimally invasive methods for rebalancing the body and managing menopause at its core.

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