Did you know that while up to 75% of women in the west will suffer menopause symptoms, only around 10% of women in China will suffer…read on to discover why acupuncture and Chinese Medicine may be able to help you.
Most women are aware of the more common menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats, hormonal mood swings, weight gain and irregular periods. However many women are not aware of just how debilitating these symptoms can be.
Imagine having up to 40 hot flushes a day or waking up every night drenched in sweat, even in the middle of winter. Or feeling rage for the smallest of things but unable to control it or understand why. Unfortunately, it’s not until we go through it for ourselves that we get to understand just how hard it can be.
While menopause is a physiological change that none of us can avoid, some women are forced to go into it earlier than expected. This may be due to a hysterectomy, cancer treatment or naturally going into early menopause.
Unfortunately, we cannot stop eventually going through it. What we can do though is to introduce lifestyle changes and adopt holistic therapies that have shown to have a positive impact on these symptoms.
Menopause symptoms are all due to a decline in Oestrogen, the hormone that is primarily released by your ovaries. Once your body decides you are no longer of childbearing age your ovaries stop producing estrogen, and you are left with a small amount produced by your adrenal glands. You could liken it to a car radiator trying to run without any coolant, the estrogen being the coolant.
Things tend to slow down and heat up hence the weight gain and hot flushes. Unfortunately, these symptoms can start years before your last period and last anywhere between 4 & 12 years after your last period. If you suffer from them then that’s a long time!
Certain factors can change how much you will be affected by these symptoms. These may include whether you were forced into menopause suddenly, medications for other health concerns and also your lifestyle not just now but the 50 years prior! For example, Chinese natives tend to eat more phytoestrogen-rich foods, such as soy, and this is thought to aid the smooth passage through menopause.
This concurs with current research suggesting that soy isoflavones can reduce perimenopause symptoms due to their structural similarities to estrogen. Some women also find certain foods can make their symptoms worse, such as hot spicy foods or alcohol.
So let’s talk about how the Chinese view the menopause and that will help to understand how acupuncture can help. The decline of estrogen is seen as a decline in your ‘yin essence’. As we discussed earlier this essence has cooling, fluid type properties, it nourishes the ovaries and womb to provide a suitable environment for fertilization. When it starts to decline and the environment becomes warmer and dryer, normal function is compromised.
If your cooling system is not functioning correctly, your body is too warm and needs to release this excessive heat. It does this via the skin in the form of sweating, which is the quickest and easiest way for it to do so. In Chinese Medicine symptoms such as anxiety, palpitations and insomnia are all related to heat in the body.
Acupuncture is rooted in the Chinese belief that disease is caused by disruptions to the flow of energy, or qi, in the body. Inserting acupuncture needles at specific points can stimulate this qi, which travels through channels called meridians, and thus aids the body back to its natural state of balance and health.
There are many hypotheses about how this translates to the complex physiology of our bodies.
One major theory is that acupuncture works through neurohormonal pathways and by stimulating the nerves around an acupuncture point you send signals to the brain, and the brain releases neural hormones such as beta-Endorphins. These ‘feel good’ chemicals aid in reducing inflammation and stress and the effect on the neurohormonal pathways can also positively affect the function of the pituitary gland where hormones are produced.
Another hypothesis is that acupuncture works by reducing pro-inflammatory markers, or proteins, in the body, which in turn decreases inflammation and reduces pain.
It’s clear to see how acupuncture may affect the overall homeostatic balance of the body and therefore aid the body in reducing the severity of menopausal symptoms. A recent menopause study involved 70 women experiencing moderate to severe symptoms. It concluded that acupuncture produced a ‘fast and clinically relevant reduction’ in menopausal symptoms during the six-week intervention and more importantly without any side effects.
Many women are offered HRT as the answer for their menopausal symptoms. However, for some women, this is not an option, either out of choice or due to previous illness.
Acupuncture is something that when administered by a fully qualified practitioner can offer a safe alternative that is free from unwanted side effects and can often improve the overall wellbeing of the individual.
Let’s face it who doesn’t want to lie down on a practitioner’s couch and have a 20-minute nap once a week! To get in touch with Rachel or make an appointment click here.