Women’s HealthManaging Menopause
In Chinese Medicine, the symptoms of menopause – hot flashes, palpitations, emotionality, depression, vaginal dryness, change in libido, urinary problems and changes in skin texture are associated with Deficient Kidney Yin; Deficient Liver Xue ; Deficient Kidney Yang; and Deficient Yin and Yang of Kidney. But it is important to stress that menopause is not a disease or a disorder – it is part of the natural progress of life. Any physical or emotional discomfort associated with it can be eased or eliminated.
Managing Menopausal Symptoms
- Pre-menopausal and menopausal women should be vigilant about having regular mammograms, annual Pap smears (even after the period has stopped) and cardiovascular check-ups. For women in high-risk groups such as whites, fair-haired women, those who are very thin, smokers, those with a family history, a bone density scan may be recommended.
- The smartest approach to menopause is to try the least harsh, most natural treatments first: that means change your diet, increase supplements, particularly vitamin, reduce stress levels, increase aerobic exercise routine, avoid caffeine and stop smoking – this is the single worst trigger of symptoms – use acupuncture, herbs, massage and meditation first.
- There are a growing number of physicians who are using Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) as the last resort for menopausal symptoms. Evidence is mixed about the increased risk of breast cancer among women who use ERT, although evidence that the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease is decreased appears overwhelming. However, the lifestyle changes suggested in this comprehensive program and throughout the book may also diminish the risk of brittle bones and heart disease sufficiently to make it unnecessary to take ERT.
In order to relieve your symptoms, follow the guidelines in the general gynecologic program plus the suggestions that follow here.
Some foods contain phyto-estrogen, which can help ease the symptoms of menopause caused by lack of estrogen. In some societies half their dietary intakes contains foods which have phyto-estrogens, while in the U.S. less than 10 percent of our food comes from such sources. Those estrogen-containing foods that have been found to raise blood levels of estrogen are: soya flour, tofu, linseed oil and red clover sprouts.
- Foods high in calcium and magnesium are recommended as well, although dairy products are generally discouraged.
- Dietary fat should be kept low, especially during peri-menopause when estrogen levels are unopposed by progesterone.
Weight-bearing exercise is an important part of any peri-menopausal or menopausal program. It is associated with increased calcium uptake and increased bone density. It’s important to work both the lower and upper body. Doing weight-bearing exercises on only one part of the skeleton will not spread the benefit throughout the body. Again, however, you should only pump iron three times a week to avoid damaging the strength of Spleen and lead to a Xue Deficiency.
Aerobic exercise is recommended for those who find they gain weight through menopause or who are at risk for heart disease. (Remember, heart disease is the major killer of women over 50.)
Soaks & Compresses
For hot flashes, try the following peppermint cooling soak.
Peppermint Cooler To Dispel Heat
- 1/2 gallon of peppermint tea made with 1/2 fresh peppermint
- 1 tub full of cool water
- If you can buy, or grow fresh peppermint that is the best. Boil 1/2 cup in a gallon of water for 10 minutes.
- Draw a cool bath and add the boiled peppermint tea, strained, to the tub.
- Slip in and soak until you begin to feel cool. Don’t wait until you are cold.
If peppermint is not available, use spearmint instead.