Part IV: Supportive Therapies for Perimenopause and Menopause
Step #3: the breakdown
Yet again, a disclaimer first. This is to serve as information only, please seek the care of a medical doctor for symptoms and concerns you may be experiencing. This is in no way to serve as treatment of any disease or illness. The following is for information only.
- If diet and lifestyle aren’t enough, or you would like more support during perimenopause/menopause, try rebalancing your body through acupuncture, herbs (under the guidance of a practitioner–can’t help myself), biofeedback, or other alternative treatment.
.Of course, I’m an advocate of seeking supportive treatments throughout the perimenopausal and menopausal years–in fact you don’t have to wait until your 40’s to begin. Our lives are crazy busy with work and full of active self-care such as exercise and eating right, passive supportive care may make the difference in taking the edge off “life” and to really make a difference during this transition.
Since my expertise is in acupuncture, herbs, and the Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT, I will limit my discussion to these approaches, however, I support other alternative therapies namely–though not limited to–biofeedback, massage, chiropractic –to support you through the transformation.
As a Chinese medical practitioner, the main tools at my disposal are acupuncture and herbs. But, to reiterate, the first step in my treatment is always lifestyle and dietary guidance. I do tailor dietary and lifestyle advice to each of my patients. I also use functional blood analysis, to help my patients identify nutritional deficits and specific guidance to get their numbers closer to the “ideal” as I briefly noted in Step #2 in my last post.
Chinese medical approach:
When a person comes to see me for acupuncture and Chinese herbs, it is my objective to re-establish the person’s internal balance–in other words to enable their body help itself.
- Chinese medicine resolves symptoms by correcting the common root cause of the
symptoms–it’s not a replacement therapy or a band-aid approach.
- Chinese medicine does not offer one explanation for everyone’s perimenopausal discomfort nor one solution for everyone’s perimenopausal symptoms. Chinese medicine evaluates the individual’s “soil” or landscape and not just the “seed” or the fact that she is of perimenopausal age with certain symptoms.
- The Chinese medical approach is beneficial for the whole body, not just menopausal symptoms. You may go in for hot flashes but you may discover your seasonal allergies are alleviated.
- Chinese medicine is slow medicine, it’s personalized, and it addresses the complex you. It may take some time and some tinkering for relief to be long-lasting. It can teach you about yourself and what your body–as opposed to your friends’ bodies–need at this time.
Here is where I could give a summary of Chinese medical theory but it doesn’t lend itself to a concise explanation. I do plan to devote a future blog post or perhaps a video to explain how Chinese medical practitioners arrive at diagnosis and treatment plan based on an individual’s symptoms. So, stay tuned. For now, I’ll briefly present my toolbox.
Chinese medical tools:
Many women feel that their body has been pushed out of kilter during menopause, nothing really looks all that different on the outside, but on the inside things are either slipping out of whack or are just plain wacko. It’s my objective to help patients return to balance through:
- Acupuncture: You can think of an individual as a closed system. I do not “add” or “subtract” anything when I treat someone with acupuncture. I use acupuncture as it’s been used for a couple of thousand years. I help the individual’s body to help itself by altering qi and blood flow so it can nourish the areas that need to be nourished and calm areas where it needs to be calmed. Initially, depending on the severity of your symptoms, you can expect to have one to two treatments for a week and then you can start spacing treatments out to one a week to once a month.
- Herbs: In the Chinese medical system, herbs are considered to be internal medicine. Herbs are used to help quell heat, add moisture, and nourish the body. Also, Chinese herbal formulas are used to help the body to utilize its own resources and abilities by redirecting and recalibrating a person’s system. Generally speaking, herbal therapy takes up to three menstrual cycles (your typical cycle when you were cycling regularly) to effect change.
A word about taking over the counter herbs:
At the risk of sounding self-serving, I don’t like to give a blanket recommendation for herbs. As I have stated numerous times….Chinese medicine is an individualized medicine. There is no one herb or herbs that is good for every woman’s perimenopausal experience. Additionally, herbs are serious business. Certain herbs commonly advised for perimenopausal symptoms–all symptoms for that matter– that you can buy at your local health food store can interact with other medications you are taking and can be dangerous–or they can be inappropriate for your particular system.
Ever look at a label of a Chinese medical formula? You’ll see a long list of ingredients. That is because herbs act synergistically–herbs accentuate the benefits of one another AND they ameliorate other effects of the herbs that are not wanted. In short, Chinese herbs are formulated to maximize benefit and effectiveness and lessen any potential side effects. Furthermore, you are an individual, your complete medical history, medications, allergies, and symptoms should be evaluated by a professional. I personally cannot take the most commonly prescribed Chinese herbal menopausal formula as my digestive system will be thrown off. Lucky for me (and everyone) there are several other options!
Emotional Freedom Technique:
Chinese medicine, while it has ancient roots, is not a static medicine. The Emotional Freedom Technique dovetails quite nicely with traditional Chinese medical approach, as it utilizes acupuncture points towards a traditional Chinese medical goal.
In Chinese medicine, we look at every illness or disease, as I have stated elsewhere on my website, as having physical, mental, and emotional components. In fact, if we don’t attend to each of these four aspects, true lasting healing won’t happen. Take for example insomnia. The physical symptoms of insomnia are fatigue and not being able to fall or stay asleep. Anyone who has experienced insomnia for any period of time will admit that insomnia affects their ability to think quickly, their ability to concentrate on tasks, and their reaction time…these are the mental effects of insomnia. On the flip side, mental stress can cause the physical inability to fall or stay asleep. Crabbiness and irritability that results from insomnia are potential emotional symptoms. The “spiritual” aspect of long-term insomnia may be the flagging drive or the inability to connect with people or pleasurable activities. So, a sleeping pill might knock you out, but it doesn’t address the stress that may be keeping you up, the quality of sleep induced by a sleeping pill may not be great either….but Chinese medicine hopes to ease both the anxiety as well as the physical reasons why you can’t sleep, so you can return to all that gives your life pleasure.
Emotional Freedom Technique is a method of tapping a sequence of acupuncture points with your own fingers while you are saying things about your discomfort or issue. It reduces or eliminates the mental-emotional “charge” of a symptom thereby reducing the mental and emotional aspects contributing to–or caused by–symptoms. It can be a very effective and speedy way to help a person get through a difficult time. It is a technique that is first done with the guidance of a practitioner and after a few sessions, you can do it at home as self-care.
Next up: Step #4
Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT