Menopause: An Oriental Medicine Perspective

Published in San Pedro Magazine, February 2004 Issue

On average, women stop menstruating at about age 51 in the United States. Although menopause is a natural aspect of the female life cycle, more than 75% of women experience menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweating, sleeplessness, mood swings, fatigue, memory loss, hair loss, and high cholesterol. Some of them experience very few symptoms and the symptoms disappear by themselves without any treatment. However, in 25% of women, the symptoms develop into health-threatening issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, and osteoporosis. Of these, many experience menopause symptoms 2-8 years before menopause. This is called perimenopause. During perimenopause women also experience irregular menstrual cycles.

The symptoms of menopause and perimenopause are caused by dramatically dropping estrogen levels produced by the body, which results in an unbalanced hormone feedback cycle. Many Hormone Replacement Therapies (HRTs) are available to relieve the symptoms. Due to recent concerns of the safety of HRT, natural HRT alternatives have been widely adopted. These alternatives include the use of natural HRT patches, soy extract, or botanic supplements such as Black Cohosh, Evening Primrose, Dong Quai, and Ginseng. Most of these therapies require taking the hormone supplement daily for a long time.

However, HRT and natural alternatives simply mask the underlying problem. In contrast, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs, uses differential diagnosis to find out what elements are unbalanced and provides treatment designed to restore balance. TCM has been around for a very long time. In fact, Oriental Medicine manuscripts from thousands of years ago talk about the pattern of growth and decline of the kidney energy and how it determines the female reproductive capability. At the age of 7, a woman sees her energy of the kidneys flourish. At the age of 14 she starts menstruating and has the capability to give birth. At age 49 menstruation stops due to the diminished energy of the kidney and she can no longer have a child by natural means.

TCM treats individuals based on their specific pattern of symptoms. Commonly, the diagnosis will indicate which energy pathways or which organs are unbalanced. As treatment progresses, balance is restored and menopause symptoms are greatly reduced or even eliminated. It normally takes a few months to restore balance, but this depends on the individual.

At Harbor Acupuncture, we have treated a variety of cases such as hot flashes, high cholesterol, sleeping disorders, and night sweats, which are related to menopause or perimenopause symptoms. Every treatment methodology is varied over time, based on the patient's progress. The patients are also recommended to balance their diet by avoiding cholesterol, increasing calcium intake, reducing calories, and exercising more.

Although menopause symptoms result from natural changes in the aging female, there is nothing natural about the accompanying discomfort and health problems. Traditional Chinese Medicine differential diagnosis and Western Medicine evaluation can help identify the cause of the unbalance, and a corresponding TCM treatment can provide for a more comfortable menopause.

Ying Hoffman of Harbor Acupuncture is a licensed acupuncturist. For more information on the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat symptoms related to perimenopause or menopause, she can be reached at 310-832-5722.