I heard someone recently compare the perimenopause to adolescent mood swings on steroids – with a heat component. I nodded my head vigorously in agreement read this post here. Women I’ve met through my acupuncture clinic in Chicago, Midwest Acupuncture Group, have described some of the perimenopausal flashes of anger – or even rage – as being unhinged. Traditional Chinese Medicine describes this as Yang rising, and the treatment strategy is therefore to anchor the Yang, along with facilitating greater connection between communication of the heart and kidney.
Hormonal changes in perimenopause
Our hormone levels already change from day-to-day during a normal menstrual cycle, and even throughout the day. In short, it’s like photographing something from a moving car: the scene shifts very quickly.
What we know is that the hormonal levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone vary in any monthly cycle but over time, as the perimenopause phase starts, the levels seem to fluctuate more, and not always in unison. So, for example, progesterone levels may decrease first, leading to heavier bleeding during menses, and feeling more depression or moodiness (this sort of hormonal fluctuation can also happen in younger women). During the menopause, depression, sadness, brain fog and sudden anxiety often surface. Estrogen decreases lead to those characteristic hot flashes and night sweats, but also cause the more taboo symptoms of vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse, as well as drier skin and nails. Low testosterone levels can also impact libido, weight gain, mood, and fatigue.
Treating the symptoms of perimenopause
Conventional medicine will nudge us towards prescription medication to ‘cure’ our imbalances. However, there are drug-free methods of restoring balance to our hormones during perimenopause – acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine being one of them. However, there are also many simple lifestyle changes you can make yourself, today!
Some steps you can take to restore balance to your hormones:
- Exercise! Whatever you can manage – from walking to mountain climbing! Preferably get outdoors to benefit from all that gorgeous Vitamin D exposure.
- Eat a good diet – get rid of the sugar, including that found in refined carbs like white bread and pasta, and bring on the fiber (whole bran, seeds, veg and fruit) and cruciferous veggies (we’re talking cabbage, broccoli and sprouts). Increase your consumption of oily fish rich in Omega 3.
- Reduce chemical exposure – choose natural and organic when shopping for food and toiletries to avoid exposure to chemicals, foreign estrogens and antibiotics.
Treatment for perimenopause using Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rather than chasing perimenopausal symptoms, we take an approach to treat from the foundation up. We try to nourish the Yin, the body’s “air conditioning and coolant” function, while keeping the Yang rooted. It’s not a question of IF it will work to ease the burden of perimenopause, but how quickly it will kick in; and the answer is: fast and effectively. In a matter of a few visits to me in my Lincoln Square clinic, patients note improvement (hey, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t return). Once symptoms are tamed, biweekly sessions for maintenance can keep you feeling yourself.
Perimenopausal acupuncture alone does work. See the testimonial on this site written by the woman thrown into menopause due to breast cancer treatment medications. She was dripping sweat during our intake meeting and within a few acupuncture sessions she could feel the hot flashes stopping before they ever gained momentum.
For candidates interested in treating perimenopause using Chinese Herbal Formulas in combination with acupuncture, they add another layer in helping to restore sleep and reduce vaginal dryness; even faster than acupuncture alone.
Perimenopause can take a heavy toll on feeling your best. Acupuncture can restore you to a point where heading down this path can be effortless – and enjoyable.
Is it menopause? Other physical and mental changes at midlife.
Some common midlife changes are attributed to female menopause when that is not necessarily the case. The four most common are: mood changes and depression; insomnia or other sleep problems; cognitive or memory problems; and decline in sexual desire, function, or both. All of these midlife changes, along with other physical changes that crop up in the middle years – including weight gain, urinary incontinence, heart palpitations, dry skin and hair, and headaches – commonly affect both women and men, and may be linked to testosterone decline, rather than declining estrogen levels. Heard of the male menopause? Yep, that’s what we’re talking about. However, women can also suffer from declining testosterone in midlife, the effects of which can linger long after the end of menopause.
Thankfully, Traditional Chinese Medicine can help to restore balance to declining hormones during midlife, offering a safe and non-invasive method of treating the symptoms of midlife in both men and women.
Dana Hoffman is a Licensed Acupuncturist who specializes in treating perimenopause using acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine. Her acupuncture clinic in Chicago, Midwest Acupuncture Group, is located where North Center meets Lincoln Square, on N. Lincoln Avenue.