Pain down under may be experienced as itching or burning, pain with intimacy or you may even feel uncomfortable just walking around. This may be one of the issues you encounter as you enter menopause as the heat of hot flushes and night sweats can be a contributing factor, however, you don’t have to be going through menopause to be suffering with vaginal dryness. Breastfeeding, certain medications or ovary removal can affect your hormones, some auto immune diseases attack the cells that produce moisture, and some douches or washes can dry you out.
If you are suffering and want to avoid topical hormones and their various side effects, then try these options
- A water based vaginal moisturiser. A vaginal moisturiser is in contact with sensitive tissues for much longer than an intimate lubricant, so it is important that it is designed to release water where needed and to be formulated from ingredients that are gentle.
- A natural lubricant. Did you know that kiwi gum can be extracted from the kiwi vines and made into a moisturiser that mimics your natural lubrication?
- Aloe vera gel can be cooling and hydrating – use either an organic gel or get it straight from the plant
- Vitamin E applied locally may also help according to a study published in the European Review of Medical and Pharmacological Sciences.
- Organic Coconut oil and olive oil can be used topically but it is also important to include them in your diet as not only are low levels of omega-3s connected with inflammation but oestrogen is a fat soluble hormone so you need to have enough good fats in your diet to ease your journey through menopause.
Topical remedies are great but they may not be enough as they are not addressing any underlying issues. If you want to get to the root of the problem then Chinese medicine can help.
Chinese medicine is all about the interplay between yin and yang. Yin is your cooling, calming, moistening or lubricating energy, it’s your quiet ‘you time’ energy. Yang is your warming, active, drying energy, your passion and doingness. The balance between yin and yang waxes and wanes throughout the day, over the course of a month and over the course of your life. For some women their yin becomes depleted as they age especially if they have lead a high adrenal life style and/or have children. The decline of yin energy parallels the natural decline of oestrogen production. This leads to a decline in the natural lubrication of the mucous membranes of the vaginal walls which then also become thinner and less elastic. All of this can lead to vaginal dryness as well as general skin dryness, one of the reasons we get more wrinkles as we age.
Vaginal dryness, in fact any skin dryness, can get worse in autumn. The reason behind this requires a very quick overview of Chinese medicine. Each season corresponds with a particular organ and environmental factor. Autumn is said to correspond with the energy of the Lungs and has the characteristic of dryness. As menopause is considered to be the autumn phase of life you have a double whammy of autumnal energy.
In addition, each organ rules over particular functions of the body and the Lungs are said to not only govern respiration but also to control the skin, the opening and closing of pores (which can be likened to the body breathing), and to regulating the ‘water passages’ or the ‘misting’ of the body – just like the markets mist their fruit and vegetables to keep them looking fresh and healthy. If the air is dry, which often occurs as the weather cools down, then you end up losing more moisture naturally through breathing and through your skin (around 800 ml per day on average, not counting the fluids you lose through sweating) than you tend to replace. This then irritates not only respiratory conditions but also your skin. So if the lungs are not doing their job of misting properly then you can either get dry skin or excessive sweating or both, the joys of menopause.
To address the imbalances that have accumulated throughout your life a course of acupuncture treatments and possibly herbs and dietary changes (like avoiding spicy, heating and drying foods) can nourish your yin and blood, clear the heat and lubricate your body. All of which will influence your hormonal system, improve the functioning of your body and address whatever symptoms of menopause you are struggling with. So make an appointment today with your local practitioner and relieve your pain down under once and for all.
Your feedback and questions are always welcome so please leave a comment below.
For further information on the benefits of 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.