Menopause

Menopause Treatments with Acupuncture in Atlanta

Are you suffering from hot flashes, night sweats, and increased anxiety or irritability? We can help!

Menopause is a normal condition that women experience, consisting of the changes a woman experiences either just before or after she stops menstruating, marking the end of her reproductive period. It is important to understand that a woman is still fertile until at least one year after her very last menstrual cycle – birth control should be used until that date has passed.

At menarche a woman has approximately 400,000 eggs stored in her ovaries. In addition the ovaries also produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which regulate menstruation and ovulation.

As she approaches menopause the number of eggs decreases to around 10,000. These remaining eggs become more resistant to Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. In response to the increase in FSH the ovaries dramatically reduce their production of estrogen. Menopause occurs when the ovaries no longer release an egg every month and menstruation stops.

These symptoms may present during the years before the actual cessation of menses, a time period referred to as “Perimenopause”. During Perimenopause a woman may experience markedly increased or decreased menstrual blood flow, and irregularities in her cycle – what once averaged 28 days may extend to 48 or beyond, or may come more frequently, every two to three weeks.

Some women experience prematurely-induced menopause as a result of surgery or medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, pelvic radiation therapy, and hysterectomy. Menopause that occurs before the age of 40, regardless of the cause, is called premature menopause.

Biomedical treatment of menopause

There has been significant controversy in recent years over the use of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) post-menopausally. The Women’s Health Initiative’s study of estrogen-plus-progestin HRT was stopped in 2002 because of adverse findings: the women were found to be at increased risk for breast cancer on that protocol. While the numbers of hip and other fractures decreased, heart attacks, strokes, or blood clots in the lungs and legs increased.

A second estrogen-alone study was stopped after almost 7 years because the hormone therapy increased the risk of stroke and the risk for blood clots deep in a vein, usually in the leg. Estrogen-alone studies have also shown an increase in cases of ovarian cancer. (1)

Chinese medicine view of menopause

In Chinese medicine, menopause is seen as a natural stage in a woman’s reproductive life, caused by the decrease in the body’s inherited store of Jing/Essence. Premature menopause can be caused by normal aging, by overworking, or by emotional disharmony. The latter two stress the body, depleting the body’s natural store of Essence more rapidly than normal.

Jing/Essence nourishes the body’s Yin (cooling) energy, and when both are reduced, there is a relative excess in the body’s Yang (warming) energy, which often expresses itself in night sweats and hot flashes/flushes. This excess heat can also cause the emotional instability and irritability that often plagues women in both perimenopause and menopause. Acupuncture can help release this excess heat, by stimulating specific points on the body, especially a point near the elbow.

Chinese medicine treatment of menopause

The mainstay of menopausal treatment is with Chinese herbal formulas. Depending on the patient’s specific manifestation of symptoms, your practitioner will choose among several related formulas to both nourish and support your body as it goes through this change. Whether you suffer from hot flashes, hypertension, irritability, anxiety, osteopenia, or weak lower back and knees, there is a Chinese herbal formula to address your particular problem. These formulas have been developed over hundreds of years, and your Atlanta Acupuncture practitioner is well-versed to ‘tweak’ the formula for your particular presentation.

A program of moderate exercise and/or dietary modifications may be prescribed as well. Exercise can help even out the emotional variability of this time in a woman’s life. Weight-bearing exercise (which may be as simple as walking) will also help bones to remain strong, while Tai-Chi or Qigong help one retain strength and resiliency.

Chinese medicine considers the characteristics of foods as well. For instance, coffee is considered a hot and yang substance, while green tea is cooling and yin. When one suffers from hot flashes, switching from coffee to tea would be a small, yet significant step toward managing that symptom. Your practitioner will make specific suggestions for foods to avoid, and foods to consume, based on your specific needs.

Your body and menopause

The most important result of using Chinese medicine during the passage through menopause is realized after your symptoms have abated. Not only will you have learned to cooperate with your Atlanta Acupuncture practitioner in your health care, you will have passed through this often-difficult stage of life in much better condition than your peers. By using Chinese acupuncture, herbs, and food remedies your body’s natural movement toward internal balance will be aided, and you will have more energy and resiliency than you would otherwise.

(1) http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/women/q_a.htm – Information for the Public, Questions and Answers About Estrogen-Plus-Progestin Hormone Therapy