What We Treat
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!
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month!
Endometriosis is a disease that affects around 11% of women worldwide. But the kicker is it can often take years for women to receive the diagnosis.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is when the cells that normally line the uterus are found outside the uterus. When during a woman’s menstrual cycle those cells are shed from the uterus and menstruation begins, these other misplanted cells are also signaled to bleed, and that causes inflammation wherever they are. These cells can be anywhere in the pelvic cavity and can also adhere to the intestines and even travel up to the chest cavity in more severe cases. So endometriosis can cause all kinds of pain.
How Do You Know if you have endometriosis or just bad periods?
Here are the main signs of endometriosis:
- Pelvic Pain
- Severe stabbing pain especially before or during menstruation.
- Pain during intercourse
- Post-coital nausea
- Getting very sick with the menstrual cycle such as fever and chills, vomiting, etc.
- Pain with urination or bowel movements
- Pain in legs and buttocks
The only way to definitively diagnose the disease is via laproscopy, which is sneaking a camera in the abdominal and pelvic cavities to look for the implanted endometrial cells. Many women find out they have endometriosis when they have difficulty conceiving. This is because the continued bleeding of the misplanted cells can cause scar tissue and adhesions to build up, and often on the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes. This blocks the pathway for both egg and sperm.
Conventional treatment Options
There are two main ways medical doctors will treat endometriosis. One is with surgery to either cut out the adhesions or to remove tissues or organs affected. The other is the use of hormonal birth control containing synthetic progesterone called progestin. This counters the effect of estrogen which is the hormone that causes the endometrium to grow.
There are some negative possible outcomes with either drugs or surgery. Hormonal birth control often creates side effects and risks such as blood clots, weight gain, or mood changes. Likewise, serious problems with surgery include the adhesions growing back or scar tissue building up. Often doctors recommend a hysterectomy, and understandably a woman may oppose this level of invasiveness. Even with removal of the uterus and other tissues, endometriosis can still grow back in other tissues and areas.
Chinese Medicine Therapy for Endometriosis
Some women prefer to seek other options to hormonal drugs and surgery. Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used for many centuries to relieve menstrual pain, abdominal pain, and to improve hormonal imbalances.
What to Expect if going the natural route
Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine work to uncover the root causes of why a woman is having pain, heavy bleeding, etc, all the symptoms she experiences as part of her endometriosis diagnosis. We as practitioners will examine the pulses, abdomen, and tongue, as well as ask many questions about the quality of the pain, blood, bowel movements, etc, to get a whole picture of what is not working right.
The Diagnosis and Treatment in Chinese Medicine
According to Chinese Medicine, most women with endometriosis have a form of what is called Blood Stasis, or Blood Stagnation. In our medicine, refers to a poor quality of blood that is too thick or not fluid enough, and blood that is not free flowing througout the body and especially that gets obstructed in the uterus. While these terms do not mean that there is something wrong with your blood according to conventional medicine, it refers to the way Chinese Medicine views the Blood as a grouping of functions in the body. Once the Chinese Medical Diagnosis is determined, we can then ascertain which treatment approach to take. For instance, if we determine the blood is stagnant, we may use herbs that invigorate the blood and points that promote circulation.
A treatment plan can be anywhere from 3 months to 9 months depending on the severity of the case. Many women experience significant reduction of pain and bleeding and improved cycles with acupuncture and herbs, and often have noticeable improvements within the first few treatments.
finding hope for endometriosis
Here at Energy Flow Health, we support a woman’s decision, as we honor that a woman knows her body best. It is helpful to explore the options, and if something isn’t feeling right then you always have the right to try something else. There is hope, and if you would like to discuss working with Amy, please call 630-335-1069 for a complimentary consultation.
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!
This one is for the ladies! Actually, if you’re not a lady, you probably have one or two in your life so you can listen in on this one too.
Dysmenorrhea means painful periods. This pain is commonly due to cramping of the uterus causing lower abdominal pain but can also refer to back pain, leg pain, or headaches that come before or during the menstrual period.
Who is Affected and How Common Is it?
Girls normally begin menstruating anywhere from age 9-18 with an average around 12-14. Some girls have no issues – it comes every month, no pain, no symptoms – but for many it is not so smooth or seemless. In fact, it can be downright dreadful! I know, I was one of those teens who experienced pain every month for years. Research statistics are not concrete, but looking at the reviews of all the literature show that at least half of all menstruating females experience dysmenorrhea (painful periods). It varies in severity but can be debilitating for some.
Alternatives to NSAIDS and other analgesics
Many women rely on pain relieving over the counter or prescription medications to cope with the monthly pain. There are issues with this as there is of course side effects with these pills. Luckily, Chinese Medicine is an effective way to heal the root cause of the pain and improve girls’ and women’s cycles overall.
What causes menstrual cramps
In Chinese Medicine, pain associated with menstruation is due to stagnating blood in the uterus/lower abdomen. In our system pain = blockage. Something is preventing the free flow and circulation of Qi and Blood. But why? Well, everyone is different but the most common causes I see are Liver Dysregulation causing Qi to not be flowing smoothly and freely, which then in turn means that blood can’t flow either.
The other is Cold. If there is a lack of warmth, from our internal Yang Energy or internal Fire, then cold causes blood vessels to contract, causing pain. Cold blood is like an icy river – it needs a certain amount of heat in order to flow (remember we’re about 98.6F inside – that’s pretty warm!).
Here at Energy Flow Health, I assess a person to see if they have 1. adequate blood flow, 2. adequate Yang/Fire in the right place, and 3. blockages in their energy meridians causing Qi Stagnation. From there we come up with acupuncture points and often times a customized herbal formula to remove blockages and repair internal deficiencies or excesses, respectively.
This condition is a passion of mine, and I want you to know that there are solutions. I am eager to help women find relief and get that week of their life back! If you are ready to receive treatment you can schedule here or shoot me an email if you have any questions!
Over the past several decades, Chinese Medicine has been steadily growing in the US as a much sought after system of health care. It’s been met with much resistence by conventional medicine, I believe mostly because it is a very different approach when Western methods of measuring efficacy don’t yield clear results. The reason is that Chinese Medicine is truly based on a very different set of principles, but that does not make it ineffective. The proof is in all the patients who’ve been helped over the past many centuries through today.
So you want evidence That it works?
Professionals in the field of Chinese Medicine and other professionals that champion this medicine are working to gather scientific research, as well as empirical evidence of it’s efficacy. One such document came out last year in 2017 summarizing a review of scientific literature on acupuncture from 2010-2016. Some of what was reviewed was gathered by both the Australian and the US Departments of Veterans Affairs. Here is the link so you can read it yourself. Below I will list some of the highlights and take aways.
"It is no longer possible to say that the effectiveness of acupuncture can be attributed to the placebo effect or that it is useful only for musculoskeletal pain." -Stephen Janz MPH, Project Director, The AACMA Acupuncture Evidence Project
Good News – Acupuncture Works!
Ok, we already knew that, but plenty of scientific research supports it too. The literature review revealed 8 conditions for which acupuncture is definitely beneficial. The evidence is clear that acupuncture has a positive effect for:
Low Back Pain
Chronic and Tension Headaches
Chemotherapy Induced nausea and vomiting
Post-Operative nausea and vomiting
Take a close look at the first 5 conditions listed above. These are HUGE. DId you know low back pain is the #1 cause of disability? Do you know people with migraines, allergies, knee pain, or headaches? Is that not almost everyone?! But where are these sufferers going for relief? What are they doing? Well I know that many of them are just living with their pain and discomfort. Some get some relief temporarily from NSAIDs or other drugs. But almost none are successfully managed by conventional medicine. And here is clear support that acupuncture is the best solution out there. Period. My goal is to get this therapy to more people who need it.
More Good News! Acupuncture helps even More Conditions than that!
I won’t list them all here, but for another 38 conditions there was found evidence of acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating. You can read all 38 in Table 2 on page 2 of the report, but here’s a few that caught my attention since I often treat them successfully:
Menopausal hot flashes (aka hot flushes)
The short list I extracted from Table 2 showing conditions for which there’s “moderate evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture” is also so inclusionary that I’m confident in saying that our country’s health care situation would be REVOLUTIONIZED by covering acupuncture with insurance benefits. It really gets the scientist in me excited to see the scientific evience mounting, even though the Chinese Medicine practitioner in me doesn’t care about scientific research because of the overwhelming clinical evidence. But nevertheless, it’s nice to get the validation from the other side of the aisle so to speak.
Conclusion: Acupuncture is a viable alternative to drugs and surgery
If you or someone you know is ready to get drug-free and surgery-free relief, please give me a call or click here to schedule an appointment. I can answer any other questions and get you on your way to feeling healthier!