Acupuncture and Perimenopause
Updated April 1, 2004





Can Acupuncture Treat Perimenopause?

by Kath Bartlett, LAc

Kath Bartlett, LAc practices at the Asheville Center for Chinese Medicine, located in downtown Asheville. Kath is a nationally certified Diplomate of Acupuncture and Herbology. She received a Master's of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine from the prestigious, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. She has completed advanced studies in the classic Chinese medical texts of Herbology and Oriental medical theory with Dr. Min Fan, formally of Beijing University. Kath can be contacted for acupuncture treatments or herbal and dietary consultations at Asheville Center for Chinese Medicine at 828/258-2777

Interestingly, it is women in Western countries who are troubled with perimenopausal complaints. Women in Asian and under-developed countries are not plagued with symptoms, occurring before and around the cessation of menstr-uation. Why is this so?

According to Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) thought, perimenopausal complaints are due to the modern stressors that women in Western societies live with throughout their lives. Additionally, it is thought that the phyto-estrogens in the soy based diet Asian women consume protect these women from experiencing menopausal symptoms.

Perimenopausal symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, dizziness, ear-ringing, heart palpitations, migraine headaches, mood changes, including anxiety and irritability, fatigue, poor memory, and low back ache. These symptoms may occur before, during or after menopause, and duration of symptoms varies from woman to woman. In TCM thought, menopause normally occurs after age 49, however, many Western women experience what Western MD's term 'premature menopause'. In these cases, perimenopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats may be experienced by women in their mid 30's to early 40's. In Western society, these symptoms are considered a normal and unavoidable part of menopause; however, this belief is untrue. The absence of these symptoms in women in Asian and under developed nations shows that menopause can and should occur asymptomatically. Like PMS and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation, or menstrual cramping), Perimenopausal Syndrome is well addressed with Chinese Medicine.

TCM thought feels that menopausal symptoms are a result of how a woman has lived her life up to the time of menopause. In Western societies, as women have entered the workforce they are encountering new work stresses previously only incurred by men. Western medical studies have shown that women in Western societies have a higher rate of diseases previously thought to be typically 'male', such as stroke, heart attack and hypertension. These women are now balancing careers, child-rearing responsibilities and managing household finances, creating more stress and leading to a face-paced, harried lifestyle.

How does this stress contribute to Perimenopausal Syndrome, and what can women do to prevent occurrence and alleviate these symptoms? The TCM explanation for menopausal complaints gets rather complicated. Simply put, when one is stressed, s/he feels tense and tightens up. Qi (pronounced chee, which means vital, life energy) stagnates, and does not circulate properly in the body. When stress causes the emotions to become constrained, mood changes occur, such as depression, anger and irritability. Migraine headaches, hot flashes, night sweats, dizziness and ear ringing are seen as Qi rising to the head. Pain is due to Qi not moving freely in the affected area, such as the low back. When Qi is deficient, it cannot nourish the brain, causing poor memory. Deficiency of Qi also causes fatigue: there is simply not enough Qi, or energy, for daily activity.

Perimenopausal Syndrome is well treated with Chinese Medicine. TCM practitioners utilize acupuncture and herbs to nourish and rectify the proper circulation of Qi, thereby reducing and eliminating presenting symptoms. Dietary changes, such as increasing consumption of soy products can also help relieve perimenopausal complaints. Additionally, implementing lifestyle changes to reduce stress with activities such as yoga, meditation and walking will contribute to the reduction of symptoms. As Perimenopausal Syndrome is seen as an accumulation of how a woman has lived her life up to the cessation of menstruation, dietary and lifestyle changes are especially important for disease prevention in younger women.

If you have a question you would like answered about acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine, please e-mail Kath Bartlett, L. Ac. at kath at UCLAlumni dot net, or call Asheville Center of Chinese Medicine (828) 258-2777.

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