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!
As Chinese Medicine is a system of 8 complimentary modalities, acupuncture is not always the one and only therapy I use for kids. Another super effective and important solution is HERBS! I don’t prescribe herbs for every kid I see, however, we will discuss whether this approach is the right approach for your child depending on his or her specific case.
This brings up another objection from kids (and adults alike) – “If it tastes bad I won’t take it!” – Ah, yes, the almighty tastebuds. It’s amazing how much influence such tiny things have over so many of us, kids especially! Of course nature intended this to prevent us from poisoning ourselves, but I assure you, our tastebuds nowadays have been well trained by the Standard American Diet which is markedly devoid of some of the main healing flavors such as Bitter or Sour or Acrid while being, honestly, overpoweringly sweet. But it’s the use of 5 Flavors that is the secret to how this stuff works.
So what advice do I have to get the stuff into your kiddos?
- Just get it down! This could mean using a straw to get it down the hatch bypassing as much of the tongue as possible.
- For very little kids, I’m ok with mixing it with applesauce or a spoonful of honey (sorry Mary Poppins, we’re going unrefined here ;).
- Incentives? Bribery? Parents may need to resort to some sort of compensatory bargain to get kids to take their herbs.
Some kids are just motivated to feel better so when I explain that just 2 cups of a funny tasting tea a day will help them, they’re willing to go along. Of course, it really helps if they see Mom or Dad taking their herbs! (Hint, hint. More on that in another blog).
Why Do Parents Bring Their Kids In For Treatment? What can herbs help with?
Some conditions that may be best treated with acupuncture and/or herbs include:
- ADHD/ Behavioral or Emotional Disorders
- Menstrual Issues with preteen and teen girls
- Coughs and Colds
- More serious conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Joint Pain/Juvenile RA, etc.
Overall, we can help your child’s natural immunity and healing mechanisms to work better by removing impediments, calming the nervous system, and creating internal balance.
Before parents decide to bring their kids in for treatment, they may encounter some obstacles. Let’s talk about it so we can clear up some myths and misconceptions and get on to healing!
Objections and Gaining Trust
Your kids might say something like this:
“No way! I hate needles! They hurt!” – Most kids in the US are vaccinated from birth through adolescence, and so their main exposure to needles is the syringe used to give “shots”. Let me reassure you right now – I do NOT use syringes! Here’s a couple fun facts that give perspective:
- Did you know that anywhere from 20-40 acupuncture needles can fit inside a syringe?
- The average human hair at about .10mm in diameter is just a touch thinner than my needles, which are .14-.20mm in diameter.
While that may be reassuring to you, some kids may not grasp the concept. Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to gain their trust to try it. Usually once they try it they like it. My youngest patients like to tell me how many they want and where! As a mom I have a good rapport with kids to put them at ease on the treatment table.
Still not convinced your cutie will fall for it? Well, they don’t have to get acupuncture w/needles. I also have non-needle techniques such as acupressure and massage that are effective for young kids due to their very sensitive nervous systems. There are also other tools used to stimulate acupuncture points without penetrating the skin.
In the next blog in this series, I will explain how herbal medicine is so great for getting kids healthier.
Do kids get acupuncture and take herbs? You bet they do! Here’s an intro to Chinese medicine for children. It’s the first in a series of blogs on this topic.
*The beauty of choosing Chinese Medicine as a treatment modality for your kids is that they get better fast! The key is to bring them in at first signs of an issue – or even if they’re overall pretty healthy. My methods find underlying patterns that have in the past or may in the future manifest in illness.
Here’s a list of common conditions I see kids for:
*frequent colds or flus or early stage of feeling like they’re coming down with something as well asactive colds or flus
*allergies, food sensitivities
*digestive complaints such as tummy aches, constipation, diarrhea, etc.
*failure to thrive
Usually a lot of kids’ common issues involve the digestive system – it’s weak and still developing in kids – especially the little ones! Having kids in preschool, daycare, and public school makes it really hard to keep them on a healthy diet. We live in a snack food culture and unfortunately many of the foods kids crave are energetically and nutritionally incompatible with their immature digestive systems.
While food therapy is important, acupuncture and herbs can really heal the imbalances and strengthen the weaknesses to make your kids more robust.
I welcome your questions and comments. In my next blog, I will go over a couple of the common obstacles parents face when trying to choose whether this approach is right for their kids.
This is a really important topic not just to those expecting a new baby, but for most people since so many of us have friends or family who plan to have a child.
It’s apparent that we’ve created a culture here in the US of fear around pregnancy – and I and other acupuncturists and herbalists are here to say that pregnancy can be a really wonderful experience and that it’s truly the beginning of someone’s life. The time in utero is a really critical time and should be protected.
Over the past few years I’ve done some extra training in my field in Obstetrics and Gynecology to learn tools to treat problems that arise during pregnancy as well as problems that existed before pregnancy and continue.
Acupuncture and herbs are safe throughout the entire pregnancy!
Of course choose someone who has experience and training in working with pregnant women. I can prepare someone for a healthy pregnancy and I can help ensure each stage of the pregnancy is supported.
Conditions I treat during pregnancy:
Acupuncture works very well for pain in pregnancy.
Pain is blockage. Acupuncture is specifically designed to release blockages in the energy meridians of the body thus removing the block to flow that results in pain. Trust me, you don’t want drains on your energy during pregnancy – you need all the energy you can get to grow the baby and prepare for caring for the baby. Not to mention all your other responsibilities.
Nausea and Vomiting
While some queasiness or nausea is normal and even can be a good sign in the first trimester, feeling really sick beyond the first trimester, or continuing vomiting in the first trimester, is treatable with acupuncture and/or herbs.
Keep the Bowels Moving!
This is especially important during pregnancy and postpartum. If you are not eliminating every day, this is a sign that your system needs rebalancing to adjust for baby’s presence.
Indigestion, AKA acid reflux or heartburn
When I was pregnant the first time, I thought it was normal to have heartburn and didn’t think of it as something that needed correcting other than to take baking soda water all the time! Again, this is not par for the course! It can and should be eased.
Urinary urgency, frequency, or stress incontinence
Yes, there is a baby sitting on top of your bladder, however, the body is designed to compensate for this normally. This can improve with treatment, making your life in those last months, especially, much more comfortable!
Homework Assignments for Expectant Parents
In addition to using acupuncture and herbs when a pregnant woman sees me in my clinic, I also send her home with acupressure instructions including points for the partner to press or rub during labor.
Pregnancy and childbirth are very special times in a woman’s life, and I’m grateful I can help make it more comfortable!