The average age of menopausal onset is 50 years old in the United States, while the early changes associated with perimenopause can begin in a woman's 30's to 40's (average age is 46 years old with 5 year duration). Because this is a time characterized by fluctuations in hormone levels and can span several years duration before the cessation of menses, the entire process is known as the menopausal transition. A woman is considered to be post-menopausal when she has been without menstruation for at least 12 months.
Chinese medicine can be an indispensible ally for women as they navigate through the changes related to the menopausal transition. As the body prepares for the cessation of menses, hormones can fluctuate widely, sometimes leaving the woman feeling like her body is no longer her own. This can lead to mood swings, insomnia, and high stress. Likewise, changing levels of reproductive hormones can create uncomfortable symptoms such as joint pain, low libido, vaginal dryness, poor memory, hot flashes and night sweats, to name a few. As the process continues and estrogen declines, the risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease increases as well, altering a woman's long-term health screening requirements from those of her reproductive years.
Recent research has shown that Chinese medicine can have lasting effects on reducing the vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause (i.e. hot flashes, irritability, etc.), and can help increase bone mass and density associated with osteoporosis. It can also help to increase blood circulation, which further promotes bone and cardiovascular health. In fact, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are routinely used to help with all of the following:
• Hair loss
• Heavy bleeding/Irregular bleeding
• Hot flashes/night sweats
• Irritability • Joint pain
• Low libido/arousal problems
• Poor memory/concentration
• Urinary tract infections
• Vaginal dryness/painful intercourse
• Weight gain
Hormone replacement therapy is commonly used to reduce these symptoms. However, while HRT is a useful option for many women, there are inherent risks associated with its use. For those women who wish to lessen those risks, or those for whom HRT is not an option (such as in cases of uterine or breast cancer), Chinese medicine is a valuable alternative.