Acupuncture for Menopause
In honor of World Menopause Month, let’s explore how acupuncture and other natural therapies can treat women’s health during and after menopause.
The majority of women experience a natural menopause (sometimes called the “change of life”) when their periods stop, usually around the age of 51 years. During the years when women have periods, the ovaries produce eggs and the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. As women approach menopause, there are fewer remaining eggs, and those are less likely to fully develop. Fewer viable eggs are released and less female hormones are produced, until the ovaries finally stop working and periods stop. The stages leading up to menopause, as well as during menopause and afterwards, often come with uncomfortable to severe symptoms. These symptoms are caused by fluctuating and lower levels of estrogen and progesterone.
There are many possible symptoms of menopause. They can vary greatly from one woman to another. The most common one is hot flashes and/or night sweats, due to unstable body temperature caused by hormone imbalances. Some of the worst side effects of menopause are depression, irritability, mood swings, mental fatigue, memory loss and insomnia. Any mix of these can stifle one’s personal and professional life. Many women who go through menopause suffer with back or joint problems. It is widely recognized that menopause can lead to osteoporosis. Weight gain can occur, especially around the belly. Sexual issues such as vaginal dryness, loss of libido, etc. can be physically and emotionally challenging.
In a recent survey, 95% of women said they would try alternative therapies before Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) because they are more natural and because they are worried about the health risks of HRT. At the Acupuncture & Holistic Health Center, we provide complementary and alternative therapies for menopause, including acupuncture, diet and lifestyle, herbal medicine and homeopathy.
For women who want a natural and safe alternative to HRT, we offer specialized hormone lab testing. Based on the lab results, we balance female hormones naturally with bio-identical plant-based hormones. For safe, natural hormone use, we recommend periodic lab follow-up testing, in order to confirm hormone levels are restored to normal post-menopausal ranges.
Acupuncture is shown to be effective for many symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, fatigue, and back or joint pain. A number of acupuncture clinical trials have been done at major cancer centers on breast cancer patients, in cases where chemotherapy leads to medication-induced menopause. Even when estrogen and progesterone level changes are abrupt and severe due to chemo drugs, acupuncture can be a safe and effective way to manage the symptoms.
Our Center specializes in Five Element acupuncture, which addresses the individual root cause of each person’s energy imbalance. By treating the original root cause, symptoms reduce naturally. Five Element acupuncture not only heals your body – it balances your emotions and improves your mental outlook. Five Element acupuncture can improve many of the mental and emotional side effects of menopause.
Diet and lifestyle also play an important role in managing symptoms of menopause. Here are some tips:
- Eat regularly – when you skip meals it can make it difficult to reach nutritional requirements or maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day for cancer and heart disease protective antioxidants. Include low glycemic carbohydrates at each meal. That means whole, unprocessed foods, including oats, pulses (e.g., peas, lentils, beans), and whole grains. Eating low glycemic foods will help with weight control and mood swings.
- Eat some phytoestrogen-rich foods every day such as whole soy products, and pulses like chickpeas or butter beans. When a person eats plant-based foods that contain phytoestrogens, they may have a similar effect to estrogen produced by the body. 2-3 servings a day is a good goal and may help reduce hot flashes and lower cholesterol. NOTE: Eating too much phytoestrogens can cause side effects, and certain breast cancer patients must avoid them as a whole.
- Include 2-3 daily servings of low-fat dairy foods or calcium-enriched soy alternatives to keep calcium intake high and maintain bone density.
- Eat oily fish such as salmon at least once a week.
- Limit salt and saturated fat for a healthy heart.
- Limit stimulants like caffeine and alcohol.
- Don’t smoke.
- Perform regular, moderate physical activity – walking, cycling, and dancing are all great. Aim for 30-45 minutes a day. This is vital to keep weight under control.
- Don’t focus on one specific food or rely solely on supplements. A whole diet approach will bring you the most benefit.
Herbal medicine can be quite effective to help cope with menopausal symptoms. Black Cohosh is the top selling menopause supplement in the U.S., and very useful for fighting hot flashes. Observe dosing though; too much can be toxic for your liver. St. John’s Wort is a well-known remedy for depression, and may curb mood swings, but is not as effective for other symptoms of menopause. Vitamin D and calcium, while not easing hot flashes, are crucial to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.
The benefits of homeopathy are not well studied, but it is a safe and natural alternative therapy for menopause. We sometimes recommend Acteane, a homeopathic remedy that is hormone-free and soy-free. It can be quite helpful for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Other effective combination homeopathic remedies are available. Check with your health care provider for your options.
If you suffer from menopause and its varied symptoms, we can customize a natural solution to fit your specific needs. To learn more, call us at the Acupuncture & Holistic Health Center in Jacksonville, Florida, at (904) 296-9545.