More than 1 million U.S. women enter menopause each year. A woman is defined as “menopausal” when she hasn’t had a period for one year. The average age of becoming menopausal is between 48-55 years old. One hundred years ago, not many women lived past her early 50s, and so being in a menopausal state was a rarity. With our increasing life expectancy, many of today’s women can be in their menopausal lifestage for more than thirty years.
Perimenopause is the transitional period preceding menopause, when a woman’s menstrual cycles start becoming more irregular. During the perimenopause transition, many women experience symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, night sweats, lowered libido, depression, foggy brain, and general body pain.
Physical change may include vaginal atrophy, incontinence, and skin atrophy. The incidence of certain disease states such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, dementia (Alzheimer-like), and cancer increases.
Every now and then, we meet a woman who fares the perimenopause-to-menopause transition with extreme ease and grace. She may experience a gradual lengthening in the time between her cycles, until one day, she has no more periods. She is able to carry on with life in the same way as before—with steady energy, strength, and mental clarity. The only difference is that she no longer needs to be bothered with a monthly period.
The majority of women, though, experience something more difficult. In our clinic, we have seen the difficulties range from moderately uncomfortable hot flashes to severe, drenching sweats paired with insomnia, anxiety, exhaustion, severe joint pain, body rashes, and even the onset of autoimmune disorders.
How do we reconcile these two above realities? How can the same term—menopause—even be applied to such different pictures? It is important to understand that menopause is a process. Though we now lead lives of instant gratification, our bodies respond to the days and years of nourishment (or lack thereof!) that precede the here and now. How you nurture your body before the perimenopausal transition—your diet, exercise, state of mind, stress levels—will always be reflected in how you handle perimenopause and menopause.
The practitioners at MHS have an advanced and comprehensive understanding of the energetics, physiology, and neuroimmunology underpinning the menopausal process. Though it may not be explicitly stated, when we work with women in their 30s and 40s (and even when we see a little 2-year-old girl here in the clinic), we are working to build the foundations for a balanced hormonal system that will one day be invaluable during their menopausal years.
And when a new patient comes to us, around her perimenopausal time, with her life seemingly falling apart from all the symptoms that are “suddenly” upon her, we use our training to quickly hone in on the root(s) of the imbalance, begin the process of nourishment and repair, so that she can move forward in a positive way.
For menopausal health issues, we employ 3 main treatment strategies:
Acupuncture to promote healthy circulation patterns, reduce inflammation, balance the immune system, decrease the stress response, and alleviate pain;
Dietary counseling with a focus on nutrient-dense foods that promote a strong immune system, balance blood sugar levels, optimize body composition and weight, and promote overall health;
Herbal and nutritional supplementation to balance hormones, regulate menstrual cycles, stabilize blood sugar, promote quality rest, and enhance mental-emotional well-being.
1. Kraft K, Coulon S. Postmenopausal High Blood Pressure: Standardized Acupuncture can reduce postmenopausal complaints, but does not alter blood pressure. Forsch Komplementärmed. 1999: Apr;6(2):74-9.
2. Wyon Y, et al. Menopausal Hot Flashes: Significant decrease in numbers of hot flashes in electro-acupuncture and in superficial needling acupuncture group. Lakartidningen. 1994: Jun 8;91(23):2318-22; and Wyon Y, et al. 1995 Menopause 2:3-12.