Chinese Medicine Approach to Menopause
Should you use hormone replacement therapy (HRT)? That is the question for many women approaching menopause. Preliminary results of a major long-term study suggest that HRT in postmenopausal women may actually increase chances for stroke or heart attack. This is from a study called the Women’s Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, MD.
Circulating estrogen has long been touted as protecting the heart from heart disease. But, estrogen dramatically increases the risk of endometrial (the lining of the uterus) cancer. It was discovered that adding progesterone can counteract the danger of uterine cancer. Estrogen also increases the risk of breast cancer. Now it appears that progesterone can increase the risk of breast cancer also (Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 26,2000). Doctors point out that heart disease kills more women per year than breast cancer.
What about Alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Some women can’t or don’t want to take hormones. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbs, excels at reducing the menopausal symptoms.
First of all, menopause is not a disease. It is not an estrogen deficiency syndrome that needs to be “cured” with hormone replacement therapy. It is a normal, natural process that every woman goes through as she ages. Some women may sail through menopause without difficulty. Others may experience such symptoms as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, palpitations, depression, anxiety, memory loss, vaginal dryness and thinning, changes in libido (sex drive), irregular menstrual bleeding and the beginning stages of osteoporosis (bone thinning).
Chinese Medicine and Menopause
Whether a woman decides to take hormone replacement therapy or not, she can still benefit from Traditional Chinese Medicine. The World Health Organization (WHO), the medical branch of the UN, includes menopause among the many conditions that respond favorably to TCM.
As a woman ages, the Chinese medical perspective believes that menopausal symptoms (if any), are due to a decline in the Qi (pronounced “chee”) or energy and the essence of the kidney. The kidney essence performs many functions, including overseeing reproduction. It is the basis of our hereditary constitution; it determines energy, drive, and strength, influences our resistance and is the foundation for the immune system. It also promotes the development of bone marrow.
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