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Complementary Corner

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Menopause

Renee Lehman

(9/2014) We have been moving from the season of summer into fall a little sooner than usual. August has been cooler, with much less heat and humidity. With fall comes the harvest. Nature’s growing season is over, and it is time to reap what was sown in the spring. There is an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Also, nature is beginning to let go. Trees are losing their leaves, the air is crisp, and light and the sun’s warmth is growing scarce. Can you see how nature’s energy is moving downward and inward?

Some of the gifts of fall include letting go and pruning; acknowledging of nature’s awe; and acknowledging the intrinsic value of everything of creation.

One thing that women "let go" of as they enter the "fall season" of their life is their menstrual cycle. Reproduction is no longer an option. Menopause is a natural part of every woman’s life, just like fall follows summer.

Traditional Chinese Medicine’s understanding of menopause

I have to state that the word "menopause" is not in the Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM’s) vocabulary. "In TCM, the array of symptoms that we in the West label menopausal symptoms are simply called ‘menstrual cycle ending symptoms’ " (Nan Lu, OMD). Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life! There are so many opportunities for a beautiful transformation at this time of a woman’s life (just as the season of Fall gives us beauty as the leaves are changing colors).

As I have discussed in previous articles, TCM is the oldest continuously practiced medical system in the world, and focuses on prevention and wellness. TCM deals with balancing the flow of the natural vital energy, or Qi (pronounced "chee"), which flows through all living things. This Qi flows through the body on specific pathways called Meridians, and is essential for health.

When the Qi is balanced, moving smoothly, and in sufficient quality and quantity, health and wellness are promoted. When the Qi is unbalanced or blocked in any way, disease or disease will occur. This disease may show up as symptoms on a physical, mental/emotional, or spiritual level. It is important to realize that these symptoms are only the end result of an imbalance.

If a woman is healthy (Qi flows smoothly), her menstrual cycle will be regular, and free from problems. If there is disease, then she may have one or more of the following menstrual symptoms: period irregularity, painful periods, clotting, cramping, breast tenderness, low back pain, bloating, bowel changes, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irritability, headaches, abnormal bleeding and flow, etc.

Women who have these menstrual symptoms are more likely to have menopausal symptoms when they reach the age when their menstrual cycle is slowing down and or stopping. These menopausal symptoms include: hot flashes, night and/or daytime sweating, forgetfulness, trouble focusing, mood changes, weight gain, insomnia, vaginal dryness, urinary problems, and osteoporosis, etc. These symptoms occur because the woman’s Qi is out of balance, and their Qi is declining (naturally occurs because of aging).

The great news is that women can do something about this! Women can learn to rebalance and increase their Qi! How?

TCM Practices for Menopausal Symptoms

Practice Qigong to build your Qi (see previous articles). Work with an acupuncturist to balance and rebuild your Qi. Eating healing foods, participating in healthy lifestyle practices, and managing stress levels also help round out a body-mind-spirit approach that gives women the best possible chance to smoothly transition into menopause.

"TCM sees menopause as a deep energy shift that extends beyond physical changes. It’s a natural and normal part of a woman’s life, yet it has the power to affect her mind, emotions and spirit. Menopause is a unique chance for a woman to prepare her body, mind and spirit for a healthy, long life. It is a time when she can heal, strengthen herself, and balance and harmonize her energies. Menopause creates the opportunity for a transformation, a new beginning, as a woman becomes free to discover, pursue or complete her life’s mission and touch her spirit – and the spirits of those around her – in a profound and meaningful way."

(Nan Lu, OMD, excerpt from the book Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Women’s Guide to a Hormone-Free Menopause)

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.  She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman