Acupuncture and Other Natural Solutions for Menopausal Disorder
This may be weird, but did you know that menopause is NOT a health problem? In an ideal world, the only symptom of menopause is that your period stops. That's it.
In our reality, with this time of life change we have ~
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- vaginal dryness
- joint pain
- weight gain
- heavy periods (excessive bleeding)
First off, why?
Only 3 signs of menopause are related to low estrogen: vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and night sweats.
Estrogen is made from progesterone, the other main female hormone.
Progesterone is made from cholesterol! Cholesterol is where it all starts. Yes, we need it. And yes, statin drugs (cholesterol-lowering medications) are a strain on your body, especially on the Liver.
In puberty, our hormones are all over the place. Then we get the normal ups and downs of adulthood. By menopause, our hormones should settle in to a low/normal baseline level.
Thousands of years ago, before microscopes, doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine treated menopause symptoms without knowing exactly which hormones are doing what.
What they treated was the Yin and the Yang.
Yin Deficiency signs are your stereotypical menopause symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats, dryness, and even fatigue, trouble sleeping, and inflammation.
Yang Deficiency signs can accompany the Yin Deficient signs. They don't necessarily exist alone. Yang Deficiency symptoms include feeling cold easily, water retention, fatigue for sure, and possibly also poor digestion, weight gain, and painful joints. It's easy for Yang Deficiency to lead to Dampness.
What underlies Yin and Yang Deficiencies?
Emotional Stress & Overwork
Worry, fear, and lack of rest weakens your adrenals ("Kidney" in TCM). From the Western medical standpoint, instead of the body producing estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, when you're under high stress, it produces more cortisol, the stress hormone.
Switching back to a TCM perspective, the Liver is the "child" of the Kidney/Adrenal. With too much stress, the "child" (Liver, where cortisone is produced) steals from the "mother" (Kidney/Adrenal).
It's not so much like, "you can't eat (such-and-such)." But rather, you need to tune into your body's needs as they change over time.
I was a vegetarian for 5 years. Eventually, I started paying attention to the signs that this lifestyle no longer suited me. Adding in quality animal protein helped get my energy and strength back.
Another dietary concern is eating "non-foods" - certain foods that elevate your toxicity level and xeno-estrogens.
Xenoestrogens are estrogen-mimicking compounds that aren't produced in your body. The most common sources of them are foods ("phyto-estrogens"), medications, and also contaminants such as heavy metals, food chemicals/preservatives, personal care products, and pesticides.
Foods that I recommend to balance your hormones:
- Protein (at least 4 ounces with each meal, especially if you want to lose weight or address fatigue)
- Cruciferous Vegetables (at least 1 cup each day, especially if you have signs of high estrogen)
- Seaweed (at least twice per week)
- A vegetable-based diet (but not necessarily vegetarian!)
- Water (Drink. More. Water.)
Foods to eat LESS of to balance your hormones:
- Less sugar
- Less alcohol (no more than 1 drink per day)
- Avoid animal protein that isn't organic, free-range, and hormone-free
- Less coffee (too much is usually a sign you have adrenal fatigue)
- No food chemicals, food coloring, and things you can't pronounce (read labels!)
There's so much confusion about this food. Soy is full of phytoestrogens and could help reduce signs of estrogen deficiency. This is NOT me saying go balls-to-the-wall with the soy milk ~
- Soy is often GMO, so only buy organic
- Unfermented soy (like the milk) is not absorbed well, so it's best avoided
- Fermented, organic soy (tofu/tempeh) is OK to eat a few times per week
- It's cooling/cold in nature so keep that in mind if you have Yang Def. or Dampness
Other Natural Solutions for Menopausal Disorder
Herbs are my go-to for treating hot flashes, night sweats, dry skin, insomnia, heavy periods, etc.
This is #1 on the list for a reason. It's awesome. It can make you sleepy, so it's great to take at night. It's a source of phyto-estrogens that mimic natural body estrogen without causing toxicity. That said, it's not great for folks with excess estrogen signs. Also, it's a common weed in many areas of the country. You may just have some growing in your backyard. I do!
Did you see how many times Liver came up (above)? Liver stress quite literally wears out your adrenals. Schisandra is one of the only herbs that can rejuvinate Liver cells. It's also great for eye problems like dryness. It's an adaptogenic herb that's calming, neuroprotective, and can help stop excessive sweating.
Rehmannia's natural form is like a blob of black, gooey molasses. It's a nourishing "blood tonic," so may not suit you if you have a lot of Dampness. But, it's great for anemia, fatigue, or hair loss associated with Blood Deficiency. It helps prevent or treat inflammation, especially if your joints feel warm to the touch. It's an adaptogenic herb as well, so can help with adrenal fatigue.
You didn't think Turmeric was just for pain, right? It's also a great way to help your Liver detox. The nature of Turmeric is that it's slightly warming. It's an herb of circulation, so in some cases, it can help stop excessive bleeding and improve cognition and energy.
Dong Gui or Angelica Root is the #1 herb for menstruating women. Any herb formula for menses will almost always contain at least some Dong Gui. It helps correct anemia and painful, heavy periods. It also moistens the bowels. Not suitable in large quantities if you have a lot of Dampness.
Most herb formulas that address menopause disorder will include a few different herbs that balance your own constitution. If you're not sure what exactly to take, ask a licensed herbalist! 🙋♀️
You can download my free e-book on how to use herbs for stress-relief, hormone balance, and better sleep here.
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