Many of my conversations with patients and clients in the 45-50 age range are centered around the types of symptoms that can arise at the end of menstruation. For some women, menopause is a challenge that is marked by discomfort. Others, though, simply glide through this transition gracefully, living a life rich in self-expression, wellbeing, and a new confidence as they enter the next chapter of life.
I want you to find yourself in that latter group! As a licensed, nationally board-certified acupuncturist for over 20 years, I love using this and other 5,000-year-old Chinese healing practices to help women successfully, elegantly, and yes, even happily, navigate the ebb and flow of the menopausal years.
The goal of Chinese medicine is to prevent illness and disharmony before they become debilitating. Protecting and facilitating the smooth flow of qi is crucial to reaching that goal. Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the life energy driving the universe—both that part outside of us and that within us. Qi is your essence, and it’s responsible for your balance and health. Your happiness, peace of mind, and wellbeing all reflect the flow of qi throughout your body and life. How well we have maintained a smooth flow of qi during the pre-menopause years determines how balanced, vital, and comfortable we will be in this transitional time—and after.
In the Western viewpoint, menopause is marked physiologically by estrogen decline. Western science usually defaults to artificial hormone replacement, which we know has many side effects. The Eastern philosophy, instead, takes the whole individual into account, seeing menopause as simply one part of a woman’s natural cycle of life. This integrative, holistic view holds that nothing happens in your body in isolation. In Chinese medicine, the interrelationship of nutrition, lifestyle, emotional balance, and the meridians (the pathways of energy or qi flowing in the body) can have a profound effect on how a woman experiences menopause. In this view, the hot flashes, irritability, and weight gain that sometimes arise during this time indicate a more long-term imbalance in the body as a whole, and in many cases can be corrected naturally.
Imagine having the energy and top physical and mental form that would carry you through menopause—and the many years of vibrant living you can continue to enjoy afterward—feeling trim, vital, and happy. You absolutely can!
Giving your body the nutrients and fuel it needs is an essential step during any time of great change. Eat a nutritious diet of warm, cooked foods. Use warming ingredients such as ginger, cinnamon, scallions, and fennel. Eat slowly and mindfully, and drink less alcohol, too. These steps will help you to extract necessary qi from your meal to fortify your body.
Mind the clock: Eating too close to bedtime or going to sleep after midnight will cause your qi to work overtime and leave you deficient—a state marked by foggy thinking and low energy—in the morning. Proper rest does exactly the opposite: It allows your body and mind to recharge and regenerate and keeps all systems flowing robustly.
Constantly dealing with stress in the workplace, skipping lunch, being caught up in conflicts with coworkers, working too many hours—these habits contradict your efforts to stay balanced, energetic, and healthy. In Chinese medicine, it is said that chronic stress and a poor work/life balance lead to a stagnation of “Liver qi” which might, in turn, aggravate menopausal symptoms. Indeed, anger, resentment, and irritability are some of the classic signs of a Liver disharmony.
In Chinese medicine, emotional stability is a key to good health and a harmonious system. Anger, fear, grief, overthinking, and feeling lost or vulnerable are signs that specific organs are compromised. Acupuncture and herbs such as astragalus, schizandra, chasteberry, and ginseng can help to refresh confidence and restore a smooth flow of qi throughout the body’s systems. Consult a Chinese medicine practitioner to discover natural, gentle solutions.
During this stage of your life, recognize that you have an important choice to make. You could buy into the youth-focused culture of the contemporary United States and accept its notion that menopause is equal to “over the hill.” Or, you could reject that kind of thinking and choose to embrace this opportunity to chart for yourself a new chapter, one that is even more fulfilling, joyful, and energetic than those behind you.
One way to do that is to adopt the sage vision of ancient traditions. You’ve had a glimpse into the system of Chinese medicine, one that’s devoted to nurturing the whole person, not just treating her according to her age and hormonal level. Embrace that individualized, holistic thinking to mobilize your own life experience! Set clear, beneficial personal boundaries, find your inner voice, and begin to formulate the path that will take you through the second half of your life with vitality, elegance, and ease.
Isn’t it nice to know that we have options in viewing one of the most important stages of life? I think so.
The ancients had a wonderful instinct for restoring the missing elements that bring balance and simplicity. I hope you’ll strive to tune into the keys to your wellness, too. Sound like a tough goal? I’m here to guide you to integrate these and other good health practices in your everyday living. Please give me a call at 212-686-0939.