Menopause applies to the point in a women’s life where she hasn’t had a period in the last 12 months. Peri-menopause precedes menopause and lasts anywhere between 2 to 10 years, culminating in total cessation of menstrual cycle.
The peri-menopausal years leading to the final menstrual cycle bring complicated changes to women’s physiology and psychology. Declining hormone levels during this transitional phase of women’s life not only disrupt the functioning of their reproductive system, also cause systemic discomfort which can be overwhelming and negatively impact on their quality of life.
What causes peri-menopausal symptoms?
During peri-menopausal years, the ovaries produce less and less estrogen and progesterone, until the levels of these hormones are so low that the menstrual cycle completely stops. Declining and fluctuating levels of estrogen effect the temperature regulating centre in the brain, as well as the nervous and sexual systems.
Typical symptoms of estrogen withdrawal include hot flushes, night sweating, insomnia, palpitation, headache and vaginal dryness. On the other hand, decreasing progesterone levels cause irregular periods, which could be heavier and last longer than usual.
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, peri-menopausal symptoms are manifestation of declining Kidney essence and imbalance of Yin and Yang.
The Kidney essence is the genetic roadmap inherited from our parents, and it governs development, reproduction and maturation. The ovaries and uterus are part of the reproduction system hence falls under the control of Kidney energy. As we age, this inherited essence becomes deficient to the extent of not being able to regulate the functioning of the ovaries, hence an imbalance occurs.
Menopause slows down the ageing process
Rather than perceiving menopause as a sign of ageing, women should appreciate menopause as a natural homeostatic mechanism which slows down the ageing process. As mentioned earlier, the Kidney stores essence and controls the developmental cycles in human life. At the same time, we rely on the functioning of the Spleen in extracting food essence from digestion, thereby producing qi (Yang – vital energy) and blood (Yin – blood and body fluids) to fuel physiological processes.
The Kidney and Spleen has a mutually dependent relationship. The Kidney supply essence to reinforce the Spleen’s functioning, while the surplus essence generated by the Spleen is used to replenish the Kidney.
Compared to men, women consumes more essence, qi and blood during their lifetime, due to additional physiological requirement of menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. Cessation of menstrual bleed during menopause actually helps women preserve and consolidate these essential substances, ensuring good health and vitality during old age.
Chinese Medicine therapies relieve peri-menopausal discomfort and delay signs of ageing
How would I know if I am peri-menopausal?
If you are above 35 years of age and beginning to experience worsening of pre-menstrual symptoms such as severe breast tenderness and mood swings, and at the same time your periods become irregular, then very likely you have commenced your peri-menopausal years.
Other indications are decrease in sex drive, fatigue, worsening digestion, feeling hot at night and difficulty sleeping. As you are approaching menopause, the drop in estrogen level escalates and you will probably be getting hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, severe irritabiliy, anxiety and depression.
Why am I having more severe peri-menopausal symptoms than my friend who is of the same age?
The duration and severity of peri-menopausal syndrome depend on individual body constitution and lifestyle. Some women cruise through peri-menopause in a few short years with minimal discomfort, whereas some struggle through years of difficult and wide ranging symptoms with varying degrees of intensity, before finally reaching menopause.
Lifestyle exerts a significant influence on whether or not a women is predisposed to a difficult menopause. Chronic stress and anxiety, longstanding overwork and lack of rest, irregular eating, an unbalanced diet, lack of exercise are all factors that depletes qi and blood, as well as draining the Kidney energy. Premature menopause can happen if the Kidney energy is being excessively consumed.
When should I start using Chinese Medicine to manage peri-menopause?
Soon as you start getting irregular periods or any of the early peri-menopausal signs such as decreased libido, feeling hot at night, difficulty sleeping etc. At this stage the imbalance is not deep-seated yet therefore it is easier to achieve symptomatic relief. Regular maintenance treatments for wellbeing are important for the purpose of keeping the qi, blood, yin and yang in a balanced and harmonious state. In most cases these preventative measures are enough in ensuring a relatively mild peri-menopausal syndrome.
What is the strength of Chinese Medicine in treating peri-menopausal symptoms?
Chinese Medicine takes a well-rounded approach in managing peri-menopausal syndrome. At our clinic, therapies are individualised based on each client’s body constitution and presenting symptoms, and can be formulated to suit preventative, treatment and maintenance purposes.
Chinese Medicine for peri-menopause primarily strengthen the Kidney and Spleen organs, to replenish the reserve of essential substances such as qi, blood and fluids, which get depleted as women age. We also emphasise on regulating the Liver organ, to release energy blockages caused by chronic stress and emotional constraint. The free flow of Liver qi ensures that the essential substances are being distributed to relevant organs via an unobstructed meridian network.
We then factor in symptomatic relief using treatment methods that effectively calm the mind, subdue fire, clear heat, drain dampness or warm the organs.
Women in a balanced state enjoy optimum physical and emotional wellbeing, and are able to overcome any physical and emotional discomfort caused by hormonal fluctuations.
Chinese Medicine treatment program for peri-menopause
The main components of Chinese Medicine diagnostic procedures are tongue observation, pulse palpation, observation of signs and inquiring of symptoms, emotions, past medical histories, lifestyle and dietary issues. During the initial visit to our clinic to have your peri-menopausal condition assessed, the practitioner performs a detailed consultation to gather all relevant facts, in order to formulate an individualised treatment program.
Individualised therapies for better treatment outcome
Chinese Medicine adopts a holistic approach in its diagnostic and treatments. The in-depth consultation is aimed at finding out the root cause of disharmony. For example, different women who suffer from hot flushes and night sweating will be treated using different strategies. Based on individual body constitution and life style issues, each woman will have her particular pattern of excess, stagnation and deficiencies. We tailor acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine into your treatment prescription.
Acupuncture relieves wide range of peri-menopausal discomfort
Peri-menopausal symptoms which interfere with quality of lifestyle and work, such as hot flushes, insomnia, severe depression, erratic mood swings etc need at least 10 to 12 weekly acupuncture treatments to be brought under control. A few fortnightly treatments after that are helpful for the purpose of consolidating treatment results. Period irregularity and pre-menstrual problems are best regulated in tandem with menstrual cycles. In this case each treatment course consists of 4 to 5 weekly acupuncture sessions from one period to the next one.
Maintenance treatments are equally important
Since the transition years from peri-menopause to menopause involves dynamic hormonal changes, maintenance acupuncture or herbal medicine treatments of once a month are beneficial for purposes of keeping the healthy flow of qi and blood, to ensure continued physical and psychological wellbeing.
Herbal Medicine supplements the essential substances
In our clinic, Chinese herbal medicine is an integral part of a peri-menopausal treatment program. Our herbal formulas are customised based on individual pattern of disharmonies. To achieve this, herbs are subtracted or added to classical or contemporary formulas which have been proven effective in treating the condition. Commonly used foundation formulas in the treatment of peri-menopausal syndrome are:
- Dang Gui Liu Huang Tang (Decoction of Chinese Angelica and Six Yellow Ingredients)
- Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San (Moutan and Gardenia Rambling Powder)
- Er Xian Tang (Two Immortals Decoction)
- Liu Wei Di Huang Wan (Six-ingredient Pill with Rehmannia)
Depending on the severity of symptoms and the chronicity of the condition, a patient may need to be on herbal treatment for a period of between 3 to 6 months. Herbal medicine supplements qi, blood and fluids to strengthen the body.
Continual taking of herbal medicine as a preventative therapy leading up to menopause can reduce signs of ageing. We formulate herbal therapies for taking just one week per month, and these therapies improves the skin, hair, sexual function and emotional wellbeing of our peri-menopausal and post-menopausal patients.
The ultimate goal of Chinese Medicine treatment is to maintain youthfulness in body and mind
Everyone can have Chinese Medicine therapies to regulate and manage their peri-menopausal syndrome. A core treatment strategy is used to rebalance the root disharmony which defines a particular pattern of disharmony, then targeted relief is incorporated to treat the branch symptoms.
In comparison, Western hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases the level of estrogen in the body, thereby reverses the effect of physiological estrogen withdrawal. HRT mainly treats hot flushes and night sweats, and may help in managing insomnia, mood swings and vaginal dryness. However, apart from causing some well-documented health risks, HRT is not suitable for women with certain medical histories.