By Dr. Wanda Duong DTCM, R.Ac., BSc. and Dr. Vikki Maguire DTCM.
The years leading up to menopause can bring tremendous changes to the female body. Although a natural biological process, menopause is not experienced the same by all individuals. Symptoms associated with menopause often create secondary symptoms that affect sleep patterns, energy levels, and overall physical and emotional well-being.
Menopause is the result of a dynamic decline in the function of the ovaries to produce eggs and associated hormones that regulate menstruation. This normal transition in menstruation often occurs between the ages of 45-55 years, though it can begin earlier in some females. Symptoms associated with menopause are multivariate and can include difficulty concentrating, muscle and joint pain, changes in skin texture and appearance, urinary disruptions, mood changes, decrease libido, fatigue, and hot flashes and night sweating as the most prominent symptoms that most individuals experience.
Like the western medicine approach to addressing menopause, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) also aims to regulate the body’s internal thermostat to control and reduce symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweating, as well as support and stabilize a healthy change in hormone levels. However, TCM takes a more natural and holistic approach, that often has little to no negative side effects, and individuals often see improvements in many secondary areas such as quality of sleep, reduced aches and pains, improved skin and hair health, stabilized mood changes, and an increase in libido and energy.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) uses a combination of modalities to create a personalized treatment plan based on the individual’s needs and underlying issues that are found through TCM diagnosis. A combination of acupuncture, herbal formulas, and dietary/lifestyle recommendations is often utilized.
TCM acupuncture utilizes specific point combinations to encourage the body to trigger the release of specific chemicals and hormones. This is done by stimulating the nervous system to then communicate with the spinal cord and brain. This biochemical change stimulates the body’s natural healing and regulating abilities to correct imbalances in temperature, hormone levels, and physical and emotional well-being. TCM acupuncture is a very safe and non-invasive therapy and research has suggested that of the myriad of symptoms menopause can present with, hot flashes and night sweating appear to respond quite quickly with just acupuncture.
One of the common approaches western medicine takes is hormone therapy, and though effective, hormone therapy may come with negative side effects such as breast and ovarian disorders, or individuals may have contraindications or are unwilling to use hormone therapy. TCM offers a natural and safe alternative often combining acupuncture with TCM herbal formulas as an adjunct to increase the efficacy of an acupuncture treatment. Herbal formulas are comprised of a balancing blend of ingredients found in nature. They often have little to no side effects, aside from allergies to a particular plant or plant part, and like homeopathy, TCM takes advantage of the therapeutic properties these plant materials offer to create formulas that address both symptoms and their underlying root causes. There is no one particular herbal formula to address symptoms of menopause as each herbal formula is unique in its ability to address underlying root causes of symptoms. After a consultation, your TCM practitioner will be able to prescribe an appropriate herbal formula to specifically address your condition.
The combination of TCM acupuncture, herbal formulas, and the addition of TCM dietary suggestions assists the body during this transition into menopause. Rather than the abrupt and drastic decline in hormones that the body is forced into during menopause, TCM takes a natural and whole-body approach to assist the body with a balanced and gradual change in hormone levels. However, regulating the body’s internal thermostat does work exactly like the thermostat on our wall, therefore patience and consistency is necessary to experience change.
TCM therapies can be used in conjunction with other forms of treatments including Western medicine, naturopathy, chiropractic, homeopathy, massage therapy, and so forth. When combing TCM acupuncture with other interventions (medication, supplements, herbal formulas, other therapies), studies have concluded that this combination is more effective than those interventions alone.
Johnson A., Roberts L., Elkins G. Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopause. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine. (2019). doi:10.1177/2515690X19829380
Lund KS., Siersma V., Brodersen J., et al. Efficacy of a standardized acupuncture approach for women with bothersome menopausal symptoms: a pragmatic randomized study in primary care (the ACOM study). (2019). 9:e023637. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2018-023637
Lian-Wei X., Man J., Roland S., et al. Hindawi Publishing Corporation Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Review Article Efficacy and Side Effects of Chinese Herbal Medicine for Menopausal Symptoms: A Critical Review. (2012). Article ID 568106, 19 pages doi:10.1155/2012/568106
Kim KH., Kang KW., Kim DI., et al. Effects of acupuncture on hot flashes in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women-a multicenter randomized clinical trial. Menopause. (2010) Mar;17(2):269-80. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181bfac3b. PMID: 19907348.
*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.