What comes to mind when you see this word? It has a lot of connotation doesn’t it? I think for many women, it conjures up horror stories from their moms and aunts about hot flashes and insomnia. But I want to turn the tables and make this time of life less dreadful and more embraceable!
What really is menopause? What does it mean biologically?
According to Chinese Medicine, changes occur every seven years, with menstruation beginning at an average of 2×7 years, and at 7×7 years is the average time when the menstrual cycle ceases and our fertility ends. In medical terms, menopause is the result of a natural decline of our two main sex hormones, progesterone and estrogen.
Of course this is general, and we now know that changes to our hormones can begin years before we’re officially in menopause, which is counted from 1 year after the last period. This leading up time is called perimenopause. Usually in our mid to late forties, the menstrual cycle can change. For many women, this time is not smooth sailing.
What are symptoms of Perimenopause?
During this time in the few years leading up to menopause, women may experience any of the following:
- The menstrual cycle gets shorter, longer, lighter, or heavier, and you can no longer set your clock by them if you could before.
- Sleep patterns are disrupted, sometimes characterized by waking up too early in the morning with difficulty falling back to sleep.
- Decreased libido
- Unexplained weight gain especially around your middle.
- Overall feeling warmer, often with flushes of heat, which are random and intense
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood changes such as increased anxiousness or irritability
These symptoms can arise because our reproductive hormones progesterone and estrogen impact so many functions. Especially estrogen, as it is a major hormone in the body.
“What can I do about it? I don’t want all that awful stuff to happen to me!”
Yes, do something about it, exactly! You can do many things on your own to improve the transition into the wisdom years as I like to think of it.
This is when lifestyle, dietary, and therapeutic interventions or changes can really make a difference. And starting years before menopause is your best bet. If you are already experiencing symptoms or cycle changes, don’t worry because acupuncture and herbal medicine work great for most of these issues.
Positive Results I’ve seen with acupuncture and or herbal therapy for my patients includes:
Better vaginal lubrication
Reduction and elimination of hot flashes and night sweats
More comfortable menstrual cycles – less heavy bleeding and less pain.
How do acupuncture and herbs help menopausal symptoms?
Chinese Medicine works by balancing the hormones, which it does by helping regulate the flow of blood and nerve conduction throughout the body. Chinese Medicine is based on the principle of Qi, which is energy that flows in invisible channels throughout the body. Hormonal imbalances occur when there are blockages in these pathways, which disrupts our bodies’ normal processes.
What Else can I do to help balance my hormones?
- Reduce Toxic Burden — All the toxins in our homes, food, the air around us most definitely messes with our hormonal balance. There is plenty of research. What can you do? Reducing your contact with plastics is a biggie. Stop buying disposable water bottles if you can help it. Even the plastic lids on disposable coffee cups can leach chemicals. Switching to non-toxic containers such as glass or silicone is worth it. What are you putting on your skin? Lotions, sunblocks and makeup seep into our blood stream, so know what is in your products. This article gives the top ten to avoid.
- Reduce Alcohol Intake — the number one substance people ingest that will have a negative impact on their hormones is alcohol. Of course a small amount is ok for most women, but some people are more sensitive. It is a good idea to pay attention to how you feel after consuming alcohol.
- Stress Reduction!! — By all means available to you! Stress taxes the adrenal glands, and the adrenal glands are key for producing post-menopausal estrogen. There are several ways to check your stress response. Of course #1 is getting enough sleep. If you already are experiencing sleep issues then it definitely needs to be addressed. This can include no screens at least 1 hour before bed, and I really like this product for deepening sleep. It is natural and gentle, and does not require a prescription. Acupuncture is one of the most effective and deepest working ways we can improve our sleep. It works at an energetic and holistic level to restore our body’s natural cortisol levels.
- Just Eat Real Food (JERF) — This means don’t eat packaged foods with ingredients you can’t buy in a grocery store. It also means focusing on whole foods – fruits, vegetables, some whole grains if tolerated, organic grass-fed meats and dairy if tolerated. The quality of the life of the animals and animal products you consume directly impacts your own health. If an animal was confined, fed GMO corn and soy and fillers, and was over-treated with antibiotics, then this is what you are putting into your body. We should be conscious of the source of our food.
- Protect your Sleep – Our hormones get even more out of whack if we are sleep deprived, because the adrenals have to produce more cortisol the more we’re awake and the circadian rhythm is disturbed. This means less sex hormones can be produced, thus worsening symptoms.
The mid-forties to early fifties is a time of change and transition for women. But it does not have to be dreaded. Let’s celebrate all we’ve accomplished in the first half of our lives, and give ourselves the best beginning of the latter half. Please call/text me at 630-335-1069 to learn more, or to schedule an appointment to get your balance back!