Menopause: A Second Spring

by Honora Lee Wolfe, author of Better Breast Health Naturally with Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine sees menopause as a normal and important transition which can be assisted to proceed smoothly, quickly, and without discomfort. According to Chinese medical theory, it is a transition which allows a woman to live another several decades in relative good health. Chinese medical practitioners treat each woman individually, taking into account the whole pattern of each patient’s physical and mental-emotional symptoms. Treatment may include either one or a combination of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, dietary suggestions, and/or specific exercises or lifestyle recommendations.

Gynecology in general is an area in which Chinese medicine shines. Its treatment is humane, without side effects, and relatively inexpensive for a wide variety of disorders. Chinese medicine may be used instead of or in conjunction with Western medicine for the successful treatment of menopausal discomforts. There are, however, many advantages to the use of Chinese medicine during menopause and for a variety of other women’s health complaints.

1. Chinese medicine is one of the most holistic medical systems available today.

This can be seen in a number of ways. First, Chinese medicine does not separate symptoms of a physical nature from those of a mental-emotional nature. In Chinese medicine each and every sign and symptom is understood and interpreted in relationship to all the others. Treatment addresses all areas at once. While an MD might choose to send a patient with a variety of symptoms to two or three specialists, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine sees all the symptoms as a single pattern. The prescribed treatment is designed to work effectively with the entire pattern and all its symptoms. Chinese medicine cannot separate a person into segmented parts treating one symptom or part at the expense of another. It is designed to treat the person, not just the disease.

2. Chinese medicine has individualized diagnostic and treatment techniques.

Chinese medicine is more specific for each patient’s needs than is Western medicine because of its holistic view of the body-mind-spirit. For example, five women may come into a clinic with hot flashes, but each of these women’s hot flashes is accompanied by a variety of different signs and symptoms, no two of which are exactly alike. Instead of each woman getting the same hormone replacement therapy, each of these five women will receive an individually tailored treatment plan with different herbs, different acupuncture therapy, and different lifestyle suggestions.

3. Chinese medicine has no side effects.

Treatment is specifically tailored to each person. Therefore, there should be no side effects if the diagnosis is correct. Any mild side effects that may arise in the initial stages of herbal treatment can be corrected by adjustments to the herbal formula. Acupuncture rarely has any unwanted side effects at all. In contrast to pharmaceuticals, most drugs listed in a Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) have at least some expected and normal side effects and many have potentially serious, irreversible ones.

4. Chinese medicine’s emphasis is on prevention.

In Western medicine, diagnosis can only be made and treatment given if there are measurable changes in diagnostic lab tests. If a person complains of symptoms which cannot be measured by these means, Western medicine calls this a functional disorder, and it is usually undiagnosable and untreatable. However, to the practitioner of Chinese medicine, all symptoms have great clinical meaning. They indicate that energetic changes have occurred in the body/mind which, if untreated over a period of time, will lead to actual tissue changes, and therefore, more serious disease. This is significant because it means that a practitioner of Chinese medicine can treat disease at a more fundamental level, which then prevents the onset of more serious diseases. This can be especially important in the treatment of gynecological disorders, so many of which involve functional, emotional, and from a Western medical point of view, often subclinical signs and symptoms.

5. Chinese medicine has a long history of successful treatment for gynecological disorders.

Chinese medicine extends back over 200 generations of doctors and patients and has over 30,000 volumes of medical literature. At times the quick treatments of Western medicine are useful and necessary in serious, acute, or life-threatening situations. For chronic, or functional disorders, however, Chinese medicine offers a viable alternative.

6. Chinese medicine offers self-empowerment.

Chinese medical theories are based upon observation of nature, as opposed to the abstract, mathematical complexities of histology and biochemistry in Western medicine. It is easier for a patient to grasp an understanding of their disease process as described by Chinese medical theory. Since explanations and metaphors describing the disease process come from the natural world, most people can easily relate. Understanding of how one’s disease process has come about allows the possibility for direct intervention and lifestyle changes on the part of the patient herself. For example, if a woman’s discomforts are exacerbated by dietary factors or stress, she may be counseled by a Chinese medical practitioner to limit certain foods in the diet or to use certain exercises, meditation, or other means to control her stress. Such patient education and participation gives a woman the possibility to improve and perhaps eventually control her own health. This is one of the most important aspects of Chinese medicine.