As women move into mid-life, their ovaries begin to lessen the production of female hormones like estrogen. Eventually, this reduction will cause their menstruation to cease. While for many, this is a welcome benefit, there may also be challenges that come with this time of life. Since the body no longer receives the levels of hormones it is used to, an imbalance occurs, resulting in symptoms like joint pain, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and poor memory among others. Treatment for these symptoms with western medicine has generally included hormone replacement therapy (HRT)—the idea being to supplement the body’s hormones, thus resolving the above symptoms. While, HRT can be very effective, there are risks with its usage.
In 2002, the federally funded Women’s Health Initiative study found that women receiving HRT to treat menopausal symptoms were at a greater risk of developing breast cancer. Additionally, it has now been found that the cancer found in HRT recipients tends to be of a more aggressive nature—this according to an analysis printed in the October 20, 2010 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
While HRT is safe for many patients, those already at a greater risk for breast cancer must seek alternatives. The essential problem of menopause is a decline in hormone production. Besides simply adding more hormones to the body, one alternative is to help the body to produce more hormones on its own. This is what Chinese medicine seeks to do by recognizing the body’s ability to regenerate. Through acupuncture and herbs, diet and exercise, glandular function is encouraged and supported, making this passage of life a smooth one. Here are some basic points of advice to help ease this transition:
First, remove the items and habits that can make things worse: smoking, alcohol, dairy products, refined sugar, processed or deep fried fatty foods.
Next, Make sure you are getting these important nutrients: essential fatty acids, including fish oils, evening primrose oil, borage oil, flaxseed oil and DHEA; Vitamin B complex, vitamin C and vitamin E; and to maintain strong bones—vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, boron and zinc.
Get regular exercise—both cardio and resistance training.
If you are getting hot flashes, make a juice of celery, watermelon, cucumbers and apples.
For more information, see Dr. Mao Shing Ni’s book Second Spring .