What is the menopause?
Menopause marks the end of monthly periods - the ovaries stop producing an egg every four weeks, and the possibility of getting pregnant passes.
In the UK, the average age of menopause is 52, although Chinese Medical theory indicates it is more likely to happen at 49 (the end of the 7th cycle, of 7 years).
Generally the periods become less frequent, with longer intervals between each bleed, until they stop altogether.
The start of menopause is the perimenopausal stage, when your periods may get lighter or heavier, and the regularity of your periods can change.
Other menopausal symptoms include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness, pain, itching or discomfort during sex
- Mood changes: depression, anxiety
- Urinary tract infections
If you experience the menopause suddenly, your symptoms may be worse, than if it happens gradually.
Symptoms usually last 2-5 years.
Even if your periods have stopped it is still possible to get pregnant for up to a year afterwards (if you are over 50) or two years afterwards (if you are under 50).
What causes the menopause?
It is part of the natural ageing process, and is due to the decrease in oestrogen levels, which causes ovulation to stop.
Conventional treatment for menopause?
Only one in 10 women seek medical advice for the symptoms of menopause.
If you do go to your GP treatment options include:
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Tibolone (similar to HRT)
- Vaginal lubricants
How do I treat menopause symptoms?
Sometimes foods can trigger hot flushes, so I might test food sensitivities, but this is not the main thrust of the treatment.
If there are other symptoms I might test for pathogens.
If emotionally you feel out of sorts, I might test for a Bach Flower Remedy.
Acupuncture is my main modality for menopausal symptoms, and I find it effective, but it does need regular treatments. It helps with the hot flushes (caused by Yin deficiency), mood swings, insomnia, headaches and tiredness.
- For specific symptoms
- For emotional issues, either of menopause itself, or other issues which feel much worse because of the emotional instability of the menopause
Effectiveness of treatment
You should notice a difference from the first treatment. To get sustained results, a regular weekly treatment should be followed for the first month or two. Thereafter, treatment can be dropped down to one every two weeks, one every three weeks, monthly, and then whenever symptoms arise.
There is no striking evidence from existing research which indicates menopause is effectively treated with acupuncture. This is contrary to my experience in clinic.
Each case is slightly different, so to discuss your symptoms further call 020 7370 4693 or email.
A case study from my clinic
Melissa, 49 years came to see me due to really poor energy levels (3-4/10), really bad sweats, insomnia, aches on waking on rising, a very strong appetite. Her periods had been rather stop start - nothing from October till Christmas, now a period every 5-6 weeks; they were shorter and heavier. She felt really teary. Her skin was "like sand paper" with little bumps.
Following the first treatment Melissa got "the most awful headache!" which lasted about 24 hours. Luckily she decided if treatment could have such a strong effect, it could probably have a positive effect too. Following the headache, her energy levels improved to 7/10, the stiffness in the morning was much better. Appetite was less strong, but the sweats hadn't really changed.
By 5 weekly treatments later, energy levels were much improved (8/10), there was only one sweat over the last week, aches were better, skin was normal, appetite and mood were variable.
I have been treating Melissa for 3 years, she now comes when she feels out of sorts, or symptoms start to bother her - this could be every 6-12 weeks. In general the sweats and aches are much better, the skin can get dry and sandpaper like, generally signs that she needs treatment are that her energy levels drop, her appetite gets stronger, and she starts to feel more grumpy, or quick to anger.
Each time I treat with just acupuncture, and she feels much better for the intervening period.
Lifestyle advice for the menopause
- Avoid caffeine
- Reduce your consumption of alcohol
- Avoid spicy food
- Drink lots of water - 2 litres or more a day
- Take regular exercise
- Wear light clothing - and layers that you can remove
- If insomniac - see lifestyle tips for insomnia
- Keep stress to a minimum
Stress reducing tips
In my experience stress is a big contributor to headaches, so:
- Get good rest, at least 8 hours a night, the more before midnight the better
- Take a walk in nature: the countryside or a park
- Try yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi
- Engage your creativity: painting, playing an instrument, taking pictures, creative writing (start with a journal)
- Avoid over obsessing about emails, texts and the internet
- Anything to provide balance to counteract a busy life
Ask yourself, what do I do to relax? I hope you have an answer! If so, make time for it. If not - play and find out.