World Menopause Day is held every year on 18 October. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of the menopause and the support options available for improving health and wellbeing. The International Menopause Society encourages professionals to participate in this global awareness raising campaign by sharing stories with their communities.
Menopause usually occurs between the ages 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen levels drop (although it can start earlier). According to data from the NHS, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51. Some women will experience few, or no symptoms and others will experience a wide range of debilitating symptoms. Symptoms include insomnia, night sweats, joint pain, irritability, and hot flashes. All of which dramatically affect the quality of life.
In the East, menopause is viewed as, a new start of greater freedom, renewal, and growth. Many women take herbs, adopt dietary changes, and have acupuncture treatment as part of their daily lives. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), menopause is called the ‘Second Spring’ in a woman’s life. It represents the renewal of energy and opportunities as there is a shift from fertility and reproduction to conserving and nourishing the self.
There is no universal experience of menopause with a global difference in nature and severity of symptoms worldwide. In a 2020 study, Electronic Journal of General Medicine concluded there was a significant relationship between the severity of menopausal symptoms and lifestyle.
TCM is rooted in the theory of yin and yang, the idea that all things are composed of two opposite forces. When those forces are in balance, says TCM, the body is healthy. Menopause is a time when yin naturally becomes depleted. The Kidneys store the jing, or vital essence, which naturally declines as we age. TCM views working long hours, poor diet and high stress levels as further depleting yin leading to an upset of the body’s natural equilibrium. I recommend to all my patients with menopausal symptoms to try to carve out at least 30 minutes or more rest time during the day. It is very important to nourish yin through rest, sleep, and relaxation. Patients must place a high importance on the value of rest and self-care.
Chinese dietary therapy
- Treating illness and maintaining health through dietary therapy is central to the practice of Chinese medicine. The closer we stay to the rhythms and cycles of nature, the healthier and more balanced we will be.
- An optimum diet takes the seasonal flow into account. Autumn is the season of letting go. Replace cold and raw summer foods with warm cooked foods, and nourishing soups.
- During autumn/ winter increase rest. Move inward and pay more attention to our internal lives. Living in harmony with the seasons we see that nature is slowing down, it is healthy for us to do the same.
Traditional acupuncture takes a holistic approach to health and regards disease as a sign that the body is out of balance. The exact pattern and degree of imbalance is unique to each individual. The skill of the acupuncturist lies in identifying the root of the problem and selecting the most effective treatment. Treatment includes an in-depth consultation including diet, lifestyle, and emotional health. Most patients report a feeling of deep relaxation, and improved wellbeing and after acupuncture.
Research in 2019, published in the British Medical Journal concluded that acupuncture offers a ‘realistic’ treatment option for women who can’t or don’t want to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Among women dealing with moderate to severe symptoms acupuncture was associated with reductions in hot flushes, excess sweating, mood swings, sleep disturbances and hair problems. The findings prompt the researchers to state that a brief course of acupuncture may help ease menopausal symptoms.
Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system, influencing the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. The resulting bio-chemical changes stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities promoting physical and emotional wellbeing. The insertion of acupuncture needles under MRI, shows the brain lights up and the changes in the way the brain reacts.
Choosing your acupuncturist
The British Acupuncture Council are The UK’s leading regulatory body for acupuncturists. All members are listed on the register of the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care. It is advised to choose an acupuncture practitioner on an accredited register. Search here to find an acupuncturist in your area.
Colette Assor Lic Ac MBAcC, practices acupuncture in North London, and has been an acupuncturist for almost 25 years and is a fellow of the British Acupuncture Council.
By Colette Assor Lic Ac MBAcC