What is perimenopause and menopause?

Perimenopause is  the transition from a women’s reproductive period to menopause, whilst menopause is when ovulation and menstruation cease (Makara-Studzinska et al., 2014). Menopause is defined as not having a menstrual cycle for 12 months (Australasian Menopause Society, 2017). Menopause occurs naturally at around 51 years of age but may also occur as a result of some medical treatments including chemotherapy or radiotherapy (Chien et al., 2017). For instance, more than 60% of breast cancer survivors develop menopausal symptoms (Otte et al., cited in Chien et al., 2017).

In Chinese Medicine, menopause is seen as a normal part of aging (Maccioica, 2011).  The life of a women is divided into cycles of 7 years, the seventh cycle occurs at 49 years and is the time in which fertility naturally declines (Yu, 2018).

What are the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause?

Menopause is a time of many changes due to reduced oestrogen levels and ovarian hormonal activity (Makara-Studzinska et al., 2014). Menopausal symptoms are experienced by 84.2% of women between the ages of 40 and 60 (Yu, 2018).

Symptoms include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Night Sweats
  • Palpitations
  • Cold intolerance
  • Fatigue
  • Weight changes
  • Changes in libido
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry skin
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Fluid retention
  • Loss of bone density

What are the Western Treatments of menopause?

The most commonly prescribed treatment for the symptoms of menopause is oestrogen therapy alone or combined with progesterone (Avis et al., 2016). However, hormone therapy (HT) is associated with serious risks including breast cancer and thromboembolism (Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initiative, 2002) see this paper here – https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/195120.

How does Chinese Medicine view menopause?

In Chinese Medicine, the reproductive system in women is seen to be controlled by three organs, the Kidney, Uterus, and Heart (Lyttleton, 2004).  The term Uterus in Chinese medicine includes the uterus, ovaries, cervix and fallopian tubes.   The Heart includes the mind or mental state and the activity of the pituitary gland and hypothalamus which controls hormones and temperature regulation (Lyttleton, 2004.  The Kidneys include three elements, the Kidney Essence, Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang.  A womans’ eggs are considered to be Kidney Essence whilst Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang include the hormones which regulate the menstrual cycle (Lyttleton, 2004).  Kidney Yin relates to the hormones which trigger the growth and maturation of a follicle each month, whilst Kidney Yang is related to the release of progesterone at ovulation.  When a women enters peri-menopause the kidney gradually becomes deficient and this can lead to a disharmony between Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang.

If Kidney Yin is deficient in relation to Kidney Yang, symptoms might include a dry mouth, dry eyes, hot flushes and night sweats as there is insufficient moisture to hydrate the body.  Insufficient Kidney Yin can also fail to nourish Liver Yin, leading to hyperactivity of Liver Yang and symptoms such as headache, dizziness, tinnitus, irritability and hypertension.  The heat caused by Kidney Yin deficiency can affect Heart leading to insomnia, palpitations and anxiety (Yugoslav,2018).

If Kidney Yang is deficient, symptoms would include, fatigue, foggy thinking, cold intolerance, fluid retention, weight gain and depression.  Kidney Yang deficiency may also affect digestion and impair the ability of the Spleen to transform and transport foods, this can cause loose stools, poor absorption and fatigue.

Menopause may affect communication between the Kidney’s and other organs, for instance when the Heart and Kidney’s do not communicate, sleep difficulties results.

Treatment for menopausal symptoms involves restoring the balance between Yin and Yang, balancing other affected organs, and strengthening Kidney Qi (Yu, 2018).

How can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine reduce menopausal symptoms?

There is growing scientific evidence of the effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the reduction in the severity of a variety of symptoms of menopause (Bevis, 2018; Avis et al., 2016: Ming et al. 2019)

At Acunatural Health, Jane Ma has effectively treated many women suffering menopausal symptoms with Acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal formula.  Please feel free to contact Jane at [email protected] if you have any questions about how Chinese Medicine could assist you during this transition.  Massage utilising Acupressure can also be very effective in reducing stress, improving sleep and moving fluid retention.  Our qualified massage therapist Shannon Radke would be happy to answer any queries regarding massage for the relief of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms.

 

References

Avis, N.E., Coeytaux, R.R., Isom, S., Prevette, K., Morgan, T. (2016), Acupuncture in Menopause (AIM) study: a pragmatic, randomized controlled trial. Menopause. 23:6- 226-237. http://doi10.1097/GME.0000000000000597.
Barnabei, V.M., Herrington, D., Bittner, V., et al. (2002). Cardiovascular disease outcomes during 6.8 years of hormone therapy: Heart and Estogen/progestin Replacement Study follow up (HERS II). JAMA. 288:49-57.
Befus, D., Coeytauz, R., Goldstein, K., McDuffie, J., Shepherd-Banigan, M., Good, A., Kosinski, A., Van Noord, M., Adam, S., Masilamani, V., Nagi, A, & Williams, J.W. (2018). Management of Menopause Symptoms with Acupuncture: An Umbrella Systematic Review and MetaAnalysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 24:4. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2016.0408.
Chien, T., Hsu, C., Liu, C., Fang, C. (2017). Effect of acupuncture on hot flush and menopause symptoms in breast cancer- a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS One. 12(8):e0180918. http://doi.org/10.137/journal.pome.0180918.
Chiu, H., Pan, C., Shyu, Y., Han, B., Tsai, P. (2015). Effects of acupuncture on menopause-related symptoms and quality of life in women in natural menopause. Menopause. 22:2, 234-244. http://doi:10.1097/GME 00000000000000260.
Lyttleton, J. (2004).  Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine.  Churchill Livingston.
Maciocia, G. (2011). Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Chinese Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences. Makara-Studzinska, M.T., Krys-Noszczyk, K.M., & Jakiel, G., (2014). Epidemiology of the symptoms of menopause- an intercontinental review. Menopause Review. 13(3): 203-211. http://doi10.5114/pm.2014.43827.
Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initiative. 2002 Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results from the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2002; 288:321-333.