Throughout a woman’s life, there are key times when dramatic hormonal changes occur, in particular at menarche, after pregnancy and childbirth, and at menopause. These times often mark major life transitions and are accompanied by significant changes in both the body and the mental/emotional framework. At the same time, they also offer a “window” through which profound change can be made and health influenced for years into the future.
Pre-Teen and Teenage Years
When young women begin their menses at menarche, it is not uncommon to have unfamiliar difficulties arise as hormones change. Migraines, anxiety, PMS, irregular cycles, and dysmenorrhea, to name a few. This is a time when using Chinese medicine can be very effective, and promoting balance in the body-mind system can set in place healthy patterns for the future.
In peri-menopause, while experiencing headaches or hot flashes, it can be hard to find “the goddess within”. There is a metaphor in Chinese medicine philosophy that is sometimes used to describe the shift that occurs as women approach menopause. It has to do with the meridian or channel called the Chong mai, which strongly influences the qi and blood and flows between the heart and the uterus / reproductive system.
During a woman’s childbearing years, the action of this channel primarily moves downward to promote the movement of blood during menstruation, the nourishment of the baby during pregnancy, and movement of the baby through the birth canal during labor and delivery. At menopause with the cessation of the menses, the channel reverses its flow and the qi and blood gather to nourish the heart, the seat of wisdom, in order to foster cultivation of the inner self. This is often a time when we feel called to re-evaluate our priorities, where our true passion lies, and what really matters as we enter the second half of life.
Navigating Symptoms, Maintaining Vitality
Menopause is not a disease or disorder, but a time when the body is transitioning out of the childbearing years. But because peri-menopause is often anticipated as a difficult time, women may begin taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) without carefully considering the risks inherent in long term hormonal medications. Chinese medicine offers an approach that helps smooth the hormonal transition and assists the body-mind to regain balance and maintain vitality.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine often effectively address the many of the problems commonly encountered in peri-menopause including:
- Menstrual issues such as irregular, heavy or prolonged periods
- Emotional changes including anxiety, depression and irritability
- Common syndrome of hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia
- Hormonal changes causing dryness and vaginal infections
Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
Bone density loss is one of the most concerning issues facing women in the years after reaching menopause, and though osteoporosis prevention is the best approach, many women show early osteopenia. Research shows that both acupuncture and herbal medicine can help increase bone mass in both amount and density. It also significantly increases blood circulation, which is a key factor in the health and longevity of bones.
For more information on addressing bone health see the following articles: