How to Make a Natural Transition into Menopause

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Menopause is the official end to female reproduction; there are different stages within menopause, defined as perimenopause and menopause.

PERIMENOPAUSE
Perimenopause is the transition period leading up to menopause, which can last up to 1 to 5 years. During this time a women’s progesterone and estrogen are dropping (estrogen levels fluctuate even more us you get closer to menopause). Symptoms can include missed cycles, irregular cycles, PMS, excessive bleeding, headaches, insomnia, hot flushes, night sweats, memory loss emotional fragility, palpations, vaginal dryness, or dry skin. At menopause the symptoms can intensify.

MENOPAUSE
Menopause is defined as the complete cessation of menstrual bleeding usually diagnosed with not having had a bleed for an interval of about one year. The mean age being about 50 years old. From a western medical perspective there is significant decrease in the ovarian production, and an in crease in the FSH and LH levels, which is an attempt by the hypothalamus to stimulate the ovaries to produce more estrogen causing hot flushes and night sweats and palpitations. Generally after menopause the body reestablishes a new balance of hormones with regard to estrogen and progesterone most symptoms will diminish but many women continue to have symptoms and can begin to develop osteoporosis.

MENOPAUSE AND CHINESE MEDICINE
Traditional Chinese Medicine describes menopause as part of the natural ageing process due to the decline of kidney Jing and its yin and yang essence. In western terms this is decline in ovary function and a decrease in estrogen and progesterone. These deficiencies give rise to the many variations of symptoms experienced during the transition. This decline begins from the moment we are born and gradually decreases over a women’s life until she reaches menopause.

How bad is it?
The severity of the symptoms experienced at menopause depends on your hereditary constitution alongside your lifestyle, dietary habits, stress levels from childhood onwards. Commonly in the lead up to menopause there is chronic depletion of energy due to poor lifestyles factors all of which damages Kidney Jing yin and yang resulting in more severe symptoms in both the perimenopause and menopause stages and insufficient energy to carry you through to live to a healthy old age.

Other factors that can deplete kidney Jing and yin

• Cultural and self-belief that ageing is a negative thing that brings illness and infirmity
• Excess amounts of synthetic hormones from animal foods in our diets
• Chemical pollutants in our foods, water, air and soils
• The increase use of vitro fertilization or other medical interventions in order to fall pregnant
• Obesity
• Smoking

Care before and during menopause centers on strengthening the kidney Jing, yin and yang.

What can help?

• Restorative exercises
e.g. tai chi, yoga, qi gong – these focus on maintaining joint mobility and improve circulation.
• If overweight
Engage in regular sustained exercise to give your metabolism a boost.
Aim for at least 30-45 minutes of moderate activity most days.
• Reduce stress levels
…by introducing simple, enjoyable and achievable activities.

• Recognize the things in your life that recharge you
And ensure you do them regularly. Take time out for yourself and nurture yourself.
e.g. chatting with friends, walking with a friend, going to the movies, reading.
• Nurture intimate relationships with others
Friends, lovers or relatives. Learn to cultivate generosity.
• Learn and practice relaxation
With activities like deep relaxing breathing, walks in green spaces.
• Practice mindfulness
This etches you to focus on the present moment and not get caught up in your thinking.
e.g. meditation. This technique can be learned and incorporated into your daily life to help manages anxiety and improve well-being.
• Avoid intense negative emotions
• Get adequate restful sleep

DIET

Choose organic and wild caught food whenever possible. Jing and yin nourishing foods include bone marrow soups, black beans, black sesame seed oil, seaweed, micro algae’s, and wolfberry.
Eat a plant-based diet in ‘good fats’ and antioxidants. (The Mediterranean diet is ideal) e.g. vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, whole grain cereals, virgin olive oil, wild caught fish and low to moderate intake of dairy products. Drink plenty of water.

WHAT TO AVOID

Leading up to and during the first years after menopause most women experience heat symptoms and should therefore omit or reduce heating foods such as alcohol, coffee, lamb and spicy food.

• Give up smoking as this activity dries out the yin fluids and heats up the body.
• Avoid over work and overstimulation particularly at night.
• Reduce exposure to soft plastics, pesticides, hormones and fertilizes.
• Avoid processed and packaged food.

HERBS AND ACUPUNCTURE

Chinese herbs have been used for centuries for menopausal symptoms and to protect the bones. The basic goal of the treatment is to notify the Kidney Jing, yin and yang. Formulas that are commonly used are prescribed according to how the symptoms present and will be modified in order to treat additional imbalances that arise.

Alongside this many women require frequent acupuncture treatment. Each woman is unique and has special needs. I will listen carefully to each person so as to treat his or her individual needs as this transition can be upsetting, confusing and exhausting.

Vicki Collins
Experienced acupuncturist and Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioner.
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