Acupuncture for Menopausal Symptoms
Natural Ways to Cope with Perimenopause and Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause is the cessation of menses, or when a woman no longer has a period (when a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period). The years leading up to menopause are often referred to as perimenopause. During their childbearing years, women produce hormones including estrogen and progesterone. As a woman approaches the end of her fertility, her hormone levels decline. It is the result of loss of ovarian follicular function. That is, when a woman gets older, the body no longer induces ovulation of eggs from the ovaries. Production of the reproductive hormones declines and a number of symptoms can appear.
Perimenopause can last for years. In fact, hormone levels often start to decline in your 30s. But it can take years for menopause to occur. In the United States, the average age for menopause is 51, however early or premature menopause can result from surgery, chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer, and certain medications. About one third of Canadian women have experienced menopause. With today’s greater life expectancies, women on average can expect to live about one-third of their lives in postmenopause.
It’s important to understand premenopausal and menopausal symptoms can vary in severity. All women are different. Some women sail through menopause and don’t have many symptoms. For others, it turns their life upside down.
The number, type and severity of symptoms a woman experiences can depend on a number of factors including overall health, the availability of support from family and friends, and financial stability, for example. They are not, however, dependent on race, class, the birth control pill, pregnancy, or the age of a woman’s first period. Symptoms can last anywhere from 6 months to over two years. Approximately 10-15% of women will not experience any symptoms of menopause. However, another 10-15% will experience symptoms so severe they are intolerable.
Symptoms of Menopause
- Hot flashes
- Poor concentration
- Vaginal dryness
- Bladder infections
- Frequent urination
- Decreased sexual interest
- Mood swings
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Difficulty sleeping
- Reduction in bone density
- Skin clamminess
Side Effects of Conventional Treatment
For years conventional treatment for menopausal symptoms was hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The HRT involves replacing estrogen and in some cases progesterone. Although hormone replacement therapy can curb menopausal side effects, it does have risks. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a long-term use of hormone therapy may slightly increase a woman’s risk of a stroke, heart attack and deep vein thrombosis. There is also an increased risk of breast cancer.
In addition to the risks, some women also have side effects from the hormones including breast tenderness, bloating and headaches. In some cases, it may seem that you’re trading menopausal symptoms for side effects from HRT.
A Natural Approach to Menopause
Menopause is not a disease. Instead, it is a natural biological process that does not require treatment. But for some women, the side effects from hormonal changes interfere with their quality of life. Sleep problems, night sweats and fatigue can greatly affect your day to day life. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural ways to decrease menopausal symptoms without taking hormone replacement therapy.
Making lifestyle changes can go a long way in improving symptoms of menopause. Plus, the changes you make can improve your overall health. Consider some of the following natural solutions for menopausal symptoms:
Exercise: Researches have long known that exercise can be a great way to decrease stress. But it can also be beneficial for menopausal symptoms for a variety of reasons. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can prevent weight gain, improve mood and strengthen your bones. Consider doing some type of cardio exercise for at least a half hour on most days of the week. Also, include strength training two days a week to prevent the loss of lean muscle.
Sleep: Getting enough sleep is important for overall health. It’s especially crucial in the years leading up to menopause when hormones may be fluctuating. Sleep deprivation can make menopausal symptoms worse. Make sleep a priority. Set up your bedroom so it’s conducive for sleeping. Invest in blackout curtains to keep sunlight out. Consider ways to minimize noise and allow yourself a little time to unwind before going to bed.
Dietary changes: Making certain dietary changes can decrease some menopausal symptoms. For example, limiting caffeine may decrease anxiety. Cutting out spicy foods might reduce hot flashes. Also, be sure to get plenty of calcium to protect bone health. Include foods rich in omega-3 fats and vitamin B. Both nutrients may play a role in fighting mood swings. Pay attention to the portion size to prevent your weight from creeping up. Since individual nutritional needs vary, a nutritional consultation with a dietician or nutritionist can be useful to help you plan your meals.
Stress reduction techniques: Mood changes, such as anxiety and depression, can occur during menopause. Stress only intensifies those symptoms. The years leading up to menopause may also coincide with children leaving the nest and a woman’s parents becoming elderly and possibly dying. That is a lot for anyone to handle. Add changing hormone levels to the mix and it’s no wonder it can be a stressful time. Find healthy ways to relax, such as deep breathing exercises, yoga and meditation.
Herbs for Menopause
Although the FDA has not approved any specific herbs for treating menopausal symptoms, they may help some women. For example, according to the North American Menopausal Society, black cohosh may decrease the severity of hot flashes in some women.
Ginseng may decrease mood swings and anxiety. Additional herbs, such as evening primrose oil and red clover, may also reduce hot flashes. As always, talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.
Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, and it is used to treat a variety of health issues. Some studies indicate it may help decrease certain symptoms associated with menopause. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a study conducted by Duke University Medical School indicated that acupuncture significantly reduced hot flashes and insomnia in menopausal women.
If you are wondering how acupuncture and alternative medicine practices can help you cope with the symptoms of menopause, contact the acupuncture professionals at the Pacific Wellness Institute. They will help enlighten you as to what options are available.