Menopause is the natural process of cessation of the menstrual cycle, which generally sets in around 48-55 years of age.
Menopausal syndrome appears before or after the cessation of the cycle. This may present with symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, feeling anxious or nervous, excessive anger and short temper, depression, fatigue, dizziness or vertigo, tinnitus, palpita- tion or insomnia, diarrhoea, and poor appetite. The symptoms that appear with menopause may be mild or very intense, and tend to differ in presentation from woman to woman.
What is the Cause
Menopause may be natural or artificially induced with hysterectomy. If it occurs before the age of forty it is considered premature. The cessation of menses is due to decreased ovarian function and the natural decline in follicle numbers. Estrogen and progesterone decrease gradually until the menses cease.
Hormone replacement therapy is adopted by western medicine to deal with the presenting symptoms, with estrogen primarily being the focus. It is important to remember that menopause is not a disease.
Chinese Medicine views menopause as a natural process of change in the life cycle, and relates the severity of symptoms to lifestyle and the state of health in the lead- up to menopause.
The concept of ‘Vital Energy’ pertains to the vitality of the whole body. This energy is stored in the organ which we refer to as the Kidney. In Chinese Medicine, the Kidney Jing, or essence, is the basis of life and naturally declines with the years.
The speed or nature of decline is directly affected by the way we live our life, by our diet and by the amount of rest, work and stress. Interruption to vital energy through the course of life may be caused by operations, drug abuse, alcohol and genetic dispositions.
Vital Energy in Chinese Medicine is made up of opposite forces, the Yin and The Yang. Yin pertains to coolness, feminine nature, night, softness and gentleness, while Yang is warmer, male energy and pertains to daytime, etc.
An imbalanced or rapid decline of the Yin essence leads to a lack of control over its Yang counterpart, giving rise to Yang phenomena, such as rising heat, hence the hot flushes, palpitations, anxiety, sleeplessness and vertigo. Yang energy and heat rises as a result of the Yin’s inability to balance the Yang.
An opposite presentation with a deficiency of Yang will cause symptoms of coldness, edema, fatigue and depression.
The role of Chinese Medicine is to balance the whole being. Very often, the Kidney energy is the main factor that needs to be addressed. In Chinese Medicine the Kidney is the basis of the life-force and all other organs depend upon its function. Any pre-existing weakness, such as digestive issues, may also be influenced and lead to weight gain, diarrhoea, fluid accumulation and oedema.
Treatment for Menopausal Syndrome happens to be very effective with Chinese Medicine and this is due to the individualised nature of treatment, as no two people are alike. Chinese Medicine does not replace hormones but focuses on achieving homeostasis by supplementing Yin and body fluids to ease the presenting symptoms.
Acupuncture provides a powerful approach to regulate the meridians involved in the movement of energy within the body that carry vital substances. It has a fantastic effect on calming the nervous system and reducing menopausal symptoms.
Herbs are important because they work deeply to restore the Yin essence and ensure that the rising Yang does not overburden the body. In case of Yang deficiency, different herbs are utilised to restore the balance.
By achieving more balance between Yin and Yang essences, a smoother and less turbulent state ensues, providing for a healthier process of change to occur in this time of transition.