by Jennifer Upton
I will never forget my first acupuncture treatment for perimenopause.
I lay face down on a comfortable massage table while soothing music played from the speakers in the corner.
Each time my licensed practitioner placed a needle in the appropriate place, I’d hear her voice ask “Okay?”
The answer was always, “Yes.”
Not only did I not feel any pain from the hair-like needles, within 30 minutes I was so relaxed that I almost fell asleep.
A few more treatments with the needles and Tunia massage and my symptoms had improved greatly.
I was less stressed, my lower back felt much better and although my periods were still heavy, they were manageable.
Some said I was wasting my money, but for me, the treatment worked.
In an increasingly global world, those of us in the west experiencing perimenopause and menopause are now, more than ever able to access information and treatments outside our culture of origin.
MEDICINE OR ALTERNATIVE THERAPY?
For some, the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine is still considered “alternative therapy” but western science is increasingly backing up its foundations.
In China, the attitudes and the treatments available are very different from those in the west.
For centuries in Chinese culture, humankind’s relationship with nature has been a greater point of focus than in the west.
For example, the importance of the moon has been significant.
We see it today in everything from the celebration of the Lunar New Year to the adherence to the lunisolar calendar.
Where western science is concerned, the jury is still out on whether a direct correlation can be made between the moon and female biological cycles.
But there are signs that the wisdom from thousands of years ago, may be, at least partially, correct.
Studies have pointed towards a connection to the moon and female biological cycles.
- The menstrual cycle of the average person closely mirrors the cycle of the moon (roughly 29.5 days)
- long-term data from women and found that for some their periods synced with lunar light and gravity cycles at certain times in their lives (1.)
- The same data shows that as the test women aged and were exposed to artificial light, their menstrual cycles became shorter and lost their lunar synchronization (1.)
MENOPAUSE IN CHINA
While it must be stated that China is a large, diverse country with many subcultures within its borders, research has shown the attitude that menopause is to be accepted as a natural function of life is clearly more positive in some regions.
In the west, 54.1% of women held negative attitudes towards this transition in the west and 27.5% fit the criteria for borderline depression (2.)
While research out of mainland China was difficult to find, in Hong Kong (city with both Eastern and Western cultural influences), women surveyed for a Quality of Life Score “generally had a positive attitude toward menopause.
Compared with premenopausal women, postmenopausal women were noted to have significantly higher attitude score toward menopause.
No significant differences in QoL score were noted among women of the three menopause statuses.
Stepwise regression analysis showed that women with more positive attitude toward menopause tended to have higher QoL score.” (3)
Does a positive attitude towards menopause and aging help with symptoms?
Again, the jury is out. But, the women in the Hong Kong survey seemed to suffer from fewer symptoms than their western counterparts (3.)
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Menopausal Symptoms
The first port of call for midlife women in the west is Hormone Replacement Therapy.
While this therapy is offered and used widely in China, they also have a much older tradition to draw from.
One that western women such as myself are enjoying more and more.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been practiced in China for thousands of years.
Its central idea is that a life energy known as Qi flows through the body and any Qi imbalance might result in sickness and disease.
Most often, it is believed that this imbalance is brought on by a change in the opposing and complementing energies (known as yin and yang) that comprise the Qi.
The most common Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments available in the west are:
- The use of medicinal herbs
- Tuina (or meridian) massage,
- Dietary therapy
Common foods that might help generate yin for menopause include:
- wheat germ
- mung beans
- black beans
- kidney beans
- black sesame seeds
- royal jelly
- Tofu (Myths surrounding Tofu and its effects on hormones have recently been debunked.)
OTHER FACTORS IN CHINESE MEDICINE
Additionally, it’s crucial to keep a healthy weight, exercise frequently, and manage stress.
Chinese medicine can effectively and quickly treat symptoms such as hot flashes through many herbal formulas, including dang gui (Chinese angelica) and yi mu cao (motherwort.)
Remember to consult your physician before you consume any herbal product as they may interact with medications or trigger allergies.
Acupuncture in particular, has been shown to work in treating the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
In 2019, a study in Denmark presented evidence that “Acupuncture for menopausal symptoms is a realistic option for women who cannot or do not wish to use [hormone therapy]" to ease hot flashes, sleep issues or mood swings, said a team led by Kamma SundgaardLund, from the department of public health at the University of Copenhagen.” (4)
It is widely accepted on insurance in the U.S., and is available as part of the National Health Service in Canada, the UK and many other countries in Europe.
Many doctors trained in western medicine swear by its efficacy, with one going so far as to state, “As an ob/gyn, I have referred many patients for acupuncture for various different pain syndromes.” (4)
FINDING A GOOD ACUPUNCTURIST OR TCM PRACTITIONER
In the majority of U.S. states, there are professional associations for TCM and acupuncture that typically have websites that list area practitioners and provide details on educational opportunities and neighborhood events.
If you choose to have acupuncture in the UK, it is recommended that you check the acupuncture practitioner is either a regulated healthcare professional such as a doctor, nurse or physiotherapist or a member of a national acupuncture organization.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match – but do it wisely!
Having a great diversity of choice within the treatments available for women entering this challenging and important phase of life is paramount to the empowerment of women across the globe.
For many women on HRT, acupuncture and TCM might be a good combination.
Just remember to consult your GP before you embark on any alternative therapies in conjunction with western treatments.
mySysters is an app for women in perimenopause and menopause. Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day named mySysters the Best App for Women in Perimenopause and a Must Have App for Women.
- The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn
- https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/menstrual-cycles-intermittently-sync-with- moon-cycles-study-68429
- https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sixuan-Li- 5/publication/287150802_Relationship_between_menopause_status_attitude_toward_menop ause_and_quality_of_life_in_Chinese_midlife_women_in_Hong_Kong/links/5e9fa984a6 fdcc20bb360301/Relationship-between-menopause-status-attitude-toward-menopause- and-quality-of-life-in-Chinese-midlife-women-in-Hong-Kong.pdf
- https://www.webmd.com/menopause/news/20190220/acupuncture-could-help-ease- menopausal-symptoms