With summer coming and hot weather predicted many women I know are not looking forward to a season of hot flushes and night sweats. More and more studies, however, are showing that acupuncture reduces hot flushes and night sweats during menopause
In today’s society, one that worships youth, turning 50 is often seen as a milestone to mourn rather than celebrate. In Chinese medicine women’s health moves in 7 year cycles so it is natural to begin the process of menopause at around 49 years of age. Menopause literally means the “end of monthly cycles” (menstruation), from the Greek word pausis (“pause”) and mēn (“month”). While many women might feel that the end of their monthly cycles is the start of their decline into old age it can be the beginning of a marvelous new cycle, if you allow it.
In terms of archetypes, women move in 28 year cycles from Maiden to Mother (nurturing children or careers) to Crone. While it is sad to see that the current definition of Crone is ‘ugly old woman’ the word originally comes from crown. The crown energy center being the center for deeper connection with ourselves and deeper connection with a force of life that is greater than ourselves. Crones were once the leaders, midwives and healers in their communities.
The Crones were the wise women of old and one wise woman, Dr Christiane Northrup, explains that “”the change” is not simply a collection of physical symptoms to be “fixed,” but a mind-body revolution that brings the greatest opportunity for growth since adolescence. It’s a chance to get healthy, be assertive and approach life with a new-found wisdom.”
It is in those years between 49 and 56 that you will begin the transition between Mother and Crone and start exploring your connection to self and see what it is you need to do, or be, in order to better nourish yourself. This is a time to rediscover what you gave away as you entered the Mother cycle – your talents and passions, your pleasures or interests. The main theme of the Crone cycle is release and letting go, without which there can be no renewal and fresh starts. From this perspective menopause can be a liberating time as you begin to focus on yourself rather than constantly nurturing others.
We live in a culture where menopause is sometimes treated as a “disease,” rather than experienced as a normal process of life that can be transformative and elevating as it is in other cultures. Women around the world tend to experience menopause quite differently. In the west, women commonly associate menopause with symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness and osteoporosis. However, in India women generally note only menstrual changes at this time, while Japanese women generally report shoulder stiffness as their main concern and in a Hong Kong study, researchers found that joint and muscle problems were the most common symptoms.
Hormone levels are largely influenced by how we eat, sleep, and exercise, as well as by stress levels and, it now seems, by our cultural beliefs.
- Are you getting enough sleep at the right time? Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as scientific studies, show that the most restorative sleep you can get is between 11pm and 3am so 10.30pm is an ideal bed time. If that is too early for you try going to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual each week until you are able to be asleep by at least 11pm most of the time.
- How’s your diet? Are you eating enough fresh vegetables and a variety of proteins (red and white meat, fish, eggs and legumes), nuts and seeds, a small amount of complex carbs (whole grains like oats, quinoa, rice) and a piece of fruit or two daily? Did you know that your reproductive hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) are all steroid hormones that come from cholesterol? So it is important to including good quality fats in your diet. Try to avoid stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and spicy foods, especially if you are struggling with hot flushes and night sweats.
- Are you getting enough exercise? It is important to be active every day and accumulate 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity each week. A combination of aerobic activity (walking or swimming or dancing) as well as strength training (Pilates or Yoga) at least 2 days per week is important according to Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior Guidelines. Sex is great exercise too and as sexual activity increases blood flow to your vagina this will help keep vaginal tissues healthy.
- What are you doing to manage your stress? Meditation, deep breathing exercises, spending time in nature, and acupuncture can all help. If you can’t actually change what’s happening in your life right now, can you change your attitude to what’s happening?
Eating appropriately, exercise, fresh air and sunshine can also help reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Did you know that the chronic use of drugs (prescription or recreational), alcohol and tobacco all increases your risk of osteoporosis? On average, people age 45 and older say they take four prescription medications daily. Perhaps it’s time to take a holistic look at your health and make some changes. Your local practitioner of Chinese medicine can help you with this.
From a Chinese medical perspective Yin is our cooling, calming, moistening energy and Yang is our warming, active, drying energy. In addition each organ has a particular responsibility within our body and our ‘Kidney’ energy, as our foundational energy, is responsible for our growth, maturation and aging. As we age our Kidney energy declines, especially if we have lead a high adrenal life style and/or have children. As the yin energy declines we feel warmer (hot flushes), dryer (vaginal dryness), and less calm (mood swings, restlessness and sleep problems). As the yang energy declines we become less active and put on weight or retain fluid.
Whatever your symptoms Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help ease your journey through menopause and since around 1/3 of your life may be spent in this cycle perhaps it’s time to look at how you can best have a marvelous menopause.
Many of my clients have found that after just 6 weekly treatments the severity and frequency of their hot flushes and night sweats are greatly reduced. What’s been your experience with acupuncture and menopause? I’d love to hear your story so please share in the comments below.
Your feedback and questions are welcome so please leave a comment below.
For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Tania Grasseschi (Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs and Wholefood counselling). Tania is a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (AHPRA registered) in Kingsford and is a Contract Academic at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Sydney campus.