Article By Amanda Hair, Acupuncturist and lecturer at CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine).
Entering the menopause as women move away from child-bearing age can bring its fair share of challenges. Physical and emotional changes which can affect our already busy and stressful lives can lead some of us to consider taking hormone replacement therapy, rather than managing the transition naturally.
It also seems that the trend for women experiencing peri-menopausal symptoms is happening earlier, in our mid to late thirties, yet the age for having gone through the menopause remains the same, late fifties to sixties. So, it’s possible that many women could be experiencing the hot-flashes, mood changes and sleep disturbances up to ten years earlier, and do so for longer than previous generations.
Why is this happening?
One explanation is that as a nation we are entering puberty earlier. Our weight and height has increased, so hormone production begins sooner and ends sooner as a result. We are also exposed to far more hormone disrupting toxins than were our predecessors. Chemicals in our cleaning and personal care products, our environment, make-up, packaging, and non-organic foods, are all known to unbalance our oestrogen levels.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, many of the symptoms displayed are those classed as Yin Deficiency. Typical Yin deficiency is where we have a deficiency of body fluids and we can become hot and dry: dry skin, vaginal dryness, constant thirst, and extremely hot palms of our hands and soles of our feet. This dryness can lead to the typical hot flashes and night sweats. Sadly, it’s not as simple as increasing our water intake, although this is helpful.
Acupuncture and Menopause
In acupuncture, very fine specialist needles are placed in acupuncture points along channels which relate to the major organs within the body. The Kidney organ is responsible for our growth and reproduction in Chinese Medicine, so activating this channel will activate the movement of Water through the body. Acupuncture needles may also be placed locally, on the scalp, or retained in the ear using seeds. The needles are retained for up to 25 minutes, during which time many people notice an extreme sense of relaxation.
A study reported in the Daily Mail, tells how having acupuncture reduced menopausal night sweats and hot flashes by up to 40%. However, as with all symptoms, it is likely that relief could be further increased by taking a holistic approach to restoring balance, such as including dietary changes.
Not all women who experience menopause symptoms are Yin deficient, of course. An in-depth case history would be taken, with advice tailored to each individual’s unique condition. An Acupuncturist who is also trained as a Naturopath, would also provide advice on other natural therapies, including appropriate nutritional and herbal therapy, and lifestyle suggestions, in order to get the best possible results for their client.
Diet and Menopause
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid needed for growth, development and for creating serotonin (the happy hormone) in the body. It is important to increase intake through the peri-menopause stage. Foods high in tryptophan include nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, organic meats such as chicken and turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs.
Increasing iron levels is also recommended, with plenty of dark leafy greens, watercress and beetroot. As well as increasing some foods, it’s important to decrease foods which are energetically heating, such as chocolate, alcohol and spices.
In summary, acupuncture combined with other appropriate natural therapies, can help maximize results for women who want to manage their menopause naturally.
Acupuncturist Amanda Hair lectures at CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine). CNM is the UK’s leading training provider in a range of natural therapies, with colleges across the UK and Ireland. To find out more about CNM courses, visit www.naturopathy-uk.com