Menopause is an undeniable part of being a woman, and one that many people dread. However, there are plenty of things you can do to make your transition through menopause more comfortable. Many of these are simple lifestyle changes, and another is getting acupuncture.
So, how does acupuncture help menopause? Let’s take a look at a Chinese medicine perspective of this experience and how to make the process a whole lot smoother.
Eastern and Western Views of Menopause
In western medical terms, menopause happens when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs. During this time, she will undergo dramatic hormonal changes which can lead to a variety of symptoms. However, menopause is not a medical condition, it is a normal and natural part of life.
Some sources claim that women from Asian cultures such as China and Japan suffer from fewer menopausal symptoms than western women. But why is this?
One possible reason is a difference in attitudes. In the western world, the aging process is generally viewed very negatively. Women may view menopause as a loss of fertility, sexuality, and youth. These beliefs can contribute to stress, depression, and anxiety, all of which may make menopausal symptoms worse.
In Asia, on the other hand, aging represents wisdom, experience, and chance to rest after a lifetime of hard work. To say that Asian women look forward to menopause is an overstatement, but they may not dread it as much as their western counterparts.
Another possible reason why Asian women suffer from fewer menopausal symptoms is diet. The typical Asian diet is rich in soya, which contains chemicals called isoflavones. In the body, these chemicals act similarly to estrogen and could help to maintain hormonal balance.
Finally, many Asian women have a keen interest in health and wellbeing. In China, in particular, a practice known as yangsheng is very popular. Yangsheng means ‘nourishing life.’ It includes various aspects such as healthy diet, appropriate exercise and rest, drinking tea, and mind-body practices such as tai chi.
By practicing yangsheng from an early age, Chinese women may be setting themselves up for a smooth and comfortable menopause.
Menopause in Chinese Medicine
The physiology behind menopause is also very different in Chinese medicine. Rather than hormones, menopause happens due to a decline in something known as jing.
Jing means essence, and it plays a vital role in growth, development, and aging. It is stored by the Kidneys and naturally decreases with age. When jing begins to decline, this causes an imbalance between the yin and yang energies of the Kidneys, and this is what causes menopausal symptoms.
One of the best examples of this is the common menopausal symptom of hot flashes. Both yin and yang are necessary for the body to function as it should. Yang provides warmth to carry out processes such as digestion, while yin prevents it from overheating.
During menopause, Kidney yin tends to decrease. This leaves Kidney yang unchecked and unbalanced. When this happens, yang can suddenly rush upwards, causing feelings of heat, sweating, and irritability.
Another example of how this imbalance can cause menopausal symptoms is vaginal dryness. As well as being cooling, yin is also moistening. Therefore, when it becomes deficient, dryness can occur. This could also affect the skin, hair, and nails.
As you can see, the balance of yin and yang is essential for a healthy menopause, and this is where acupuncture comes in.
Acupuncture for Menopause
From a Chinese medicine perspective, acupuncture for menopause works by addressing any imbalances between yin and yang and restoring harmony to the body.
When combined with herbal medicine and the right diet, it could also help to preserve jing and slow down the aging process. However, this type of treatment is most effective when started before the onset of menopause as a kind of preventative medicine. The ideal time for a woman to start considering this type of treatment is in her 30s.
From a western perspective, acupuncture for menopause works by having a positive effect on the hormonal balance of the body. It could also help to regulate the central nervous system to reduce symptoms such as hot flashes, anxiety, and poor sleep.
The exact treatment depends on the patient’s individual needs as symptoms can vary greatly between women. At the first appointment, your acupuncturist will ask in detail about symptoms, medical history, lifestyle, and so on. They will then formulate a unique treatment plan based on this information.
Hints and Tips for a Healthy Menopause
Acupuncture for menopause works best when accompanied by a healthy lifestyle and some simple yangsheng practices. Here are some top tips for a healthy menopause:
Eat the Right Foods for Your Body Type
After menopause, women are more likely to gain weight and may be at risk of conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, a good diet is one of the best ways to stay healthy after menopause. Many people consider a Mediterranean diet ideal as it is rich in antioxidants and healthy fats.
However, from a Chinese medicine point of view, you should also tailor your diet to your body type. People with a more yang body type should eat more yin foods such as fruit and vegetables, eggs, and tofu. Those with a more yin constitution should eat more yang foods like meat and pungent herbs and spices.
Your acupuncturist will be able to offer further advice on your body type and the most suitable foods for you.
Balance Exercise and Rest
Getting enough exercise is also essential after menopause. It helps to keep body weight under control and maintain good muscle strength. However, it is also important not to overdo it.
According to Chinese medicine theory, a healthy balance of yin and yang relies on appropriate exercise and rest. You should also avoid over exercising as doing this releases stress hormones and could make your symptoms worse.
Connect Body and Mind
Having a good mind-body connection is crucial for good health at any age, but especially during menopause. Practices such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and tai chi are all great ways to achieve this.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep every night is one of the best ways to replenish your yin energy, but this can be difficult during menopause.
If you are being kept awake by night sweats and hot flashes, try soaking your feet in warm water for 10–20 minutes before bed. This will help to draw the excess yang downwards and prevent it rising to your head.
You should also ensure that your bedroom is cool enough. Investing in bedding and pyjamas made from natural fabrics such as cotton, hemp, or bamboo may also help.
You may not be able to prevent the menopause from happening, but there is a lot you can do to help yourself. Get in touch to find out more about these techniques and how acupuncture for menopause could benefit you. We will be happy to answer all your questions.