What people say about menopause?

Many medical textbooks describe the passage: “deterioration,” “estrogen starvation,” or “living decay.”

“It is the end of youth and beauty, and the beginning of uselessness and waste of women.”

“It is a mistake Mother Nature made in designing women.”

“Without medical intervention during or after menopause, a woman’s remaining years will be a pathetic remnant of a life.”

“It is an aging process that women should fight against mightily.”

Listed quotes are probably the reasons why pharmaceutical companies advocate the treatments to menopause.

“It is a difficult transition from reproductive animal to reflective animal.”

“It is a transition to be passed through to naturally emerge with a greater sense of well-being than any other stage of their lives.”

“Menopause, when understood and supported, provides the next level of initiation into personal power for women.”

“The most creative force in the world is the menopausal woman with zest.”

Quotes from above are probably the reasons why in some traditional native cultures, the older women contained great power and scrutinized all tribal decisions.

You choose what you believe. Our clinic believes that “menopause is no more a disease than menarche and it needs medical intervention only if its symptoms are uncomfortable and distressing.“

What are the common symptoms?

General Symptoms:

  • Hot flashes (85%)
  • Night sweats, often leading to sleep disturbance
  • Psychologic symptoms such as nervousness, depression, insomnia, mood swings…
  • Dizziness.
  • Osteoporosis – fractures (20% by age 85)
  • Arteriosclerosis – coronary artery disease
  • Weight gain.
  • An irregular or rapid heart beat.
  • Difficulty holding the urine
  • Vaginal dryness, itching or other discomfort which results in painful sexual intercourse
  • Skin changes such as dryness and increased moles.
  • Constipation
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Some other less common symptoms…

There are also physical changes occur at menopause. They are not listed here because they are less likely will affect daily life or lead to medical complications.

What health complications may occur after menopause?

After menopause, the body is prone to a few conditions. The most concerned conditions are osteoporosis & cardiovascular disease which include

thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) that serve the heart and limbs, high blood pressure, angina and stroke.  It is very important to change our lifestyle to reduce the risks. Prevention is the best treatment.

Increase calcium diet, plant based diet, high fibre whole grain diet, omega 3 oil intake, exercise, vitamin D from sun or from supplement and exposure to sunlight.

Reduce or stop sugar, refined carbohydrates, salt, trans-fat, saturated fat, red meat, animal fat and protein intake, alcohol, tobacco, soft drink and coffee.

What makes women experiencing different severity of menopause?

The biological basis of the menopause is determined during a woman’s lifetime of how ovarian follicles are depleted which starting even before birth. A woman’s lifestyle and dietary habits from childhood onwards determine what kind of menopause she is going to have.

Self-Management tips for menopause.

There are numerous experiments and researches done through out the decades suggesting that acupuncture stimulation desensitizes or reduces activation in the cortical areas that are believed to be involved with pain signal processing, acupuncture stimulation regulates hormone, endocrine & blood vessels activities to reduce pathological inflammation and acupuncture stimulation regulates neurotransmitters in brain activities.

  • Control blood-sugar levels in an effort to reduce hot flashes.
  • Take supplements of the 4 ACES (vitamin A/beta carotene, vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium). These antioxidant nutrients help the body to resist the ravages of aging while strengthening the immune system.
  • Try body creams containing Mexican yam root, a strong, natural, nontoxic progesterone-like compound.
  • Take supplements of the bioflavonoids naturally found in citrus fruit. Take 600 mg, two to three times per day.
  • Exercise:
    Exercise is one of the best things women can do ahead of time in order to fare better during their menopausal years. Adopt a program of regular exercise-at least 30 minutes, five times a week. Exercise places stress on bone, increasing its density and strength. Women’s bones lose density after menopause-at the rate of about 4 to 6 percent in the first four to five years. So the stronger they are to start off with, the better. Experts suggest that weight-bearing activities such as walking and running are best. Exercise also helps keep your cholesterol levels down, offering protection against heart disease.
  • Pay Attention to Your Diet:
    Eat nutritious diet low in saturated fat. This will help reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Experts recommend that you keep your fat intake to 25 percent or less of the total calories you consume. Emphasize olive oil and avoid hydrogenated oils and most vegetable oils.
  • Add Soy Foods To Your Diet:
    Increase your intake of soy-containing foods, Including tofu and soy flour, as well as flax (linseed) oil. Eat a plant based diet, emphasizing plenty of fresh, preferably organic vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fruit.
  • Increase Your Calcium Intake:
    While the decrease in bone mass accelerates at menopause, it begins around age 35. After 35, women lose 1 percent of their bone mass per year. So be sure to consume enough calcium. We recommend 1,000 milligrams of Calcium a day for premenopausal women and 1,500 milligrams for postmenopausal women.
  • Skip the alcohol and coffee.
    These beverages can make the blood vessels dilate and worsen hot flashes. So can hot and spicy food.
  • Try vitamin E.
    If your hot flashes are not devastating, this nutrient could help you have fewer, less intense episodes. The recommended dosage is 400 international units (IU) twice a day. If that doesn’t do the trick, double the dose. (Check with your doctor first. Vitamin E can be blood thinning.)
  • Quit smoking.
    Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to have menopausal symptoms. Smokers also have a tendency toward lower bone mass, putting them at greater risk for osteoporosis. Smoking can cause you to experience menopause earlier.
  • Drink Plenty of Water:
    Drink plenty of water about eight glasses a day. Drinking plenty of fluids is important, especially after exercising. Being property hydrated helps keep body temperature in check.
  • Learn to Relax:
    In one six-week study of menopausal women, stress was associated with an increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of hot flashes in half of the participants. Try meditation or a soothing tub soak. Yoga poses, meditation and breath control are also beneficial. In one study, women who were experiencing frequent hot flashes were trained to slowly breathe in and out six to eight times for two minutes during each episode. They had fewer hot flashes than women trained to use either muscle relaxation or biofeedback.
  • Prevent Dryness:
    The decrease in estrogen that women experience with menopause can cause vaginal dryness. The elasticity and size of the vagina changes, and the walls become thinner and lose their ability to become moist. This can make sex painful or even undesirable. Use water based vaginal lubricants such as K-Y jelly, Replens and Astroglide. These are available over the counter. Do not use oil- based lubricants such as petroleum jelly. They don’t dissolve as easily in the vagina and can therefore trigger vaginal infections.
  • Stay sexually active.
    Studies indicate that women who stay sexually active experience fewer vaginal changes than those who don’t. Sexual activity promotes circulation in the vaginal area, which helps it stay moist. For women without partners, manual stimulation will help promote circulation and moistness in the vagina.
Food and Estrogen

Some foods are a good sources of natural estrogens. There are some foods that inhibit estrogen. Knowing how your food affect the estrogen metabolism is an important part of managing the menopause and PMS. More information about food and diet can be found in our nutrition site.

Foods Containing Natural Estrogens:

A number of different foods and herbs are sources of natural plant estrogens, and can be very helpful during menopause, The following is a list of some of the best food sources of estrogen. These foods are also high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential fatty acids, and they are low in saturated fat. In other words, they are nutritious and should be part of your diet on a regular basis.

Alfalfa, Animal flesh, Anise seed, Apples, Baker’s yeast, Barley, Beets, Carrots, Cherries, Chickpeas, Clover, Cowpeas (black- eyed peas), Cucumbers, Dairy Foods, Dates, Eggs, Eggplant, Fennel, Flaxseeds, Garlic, Hops, Licorice, Oats, Olive oil, Olives, Papaya, Parsley, Peas, Peppers, Plums, Pomegranates, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Red beans, Red clover, Rhubarb, Rice, Sage, Sesame seeds, Soybean sprouts, Soybeans, Split peas, Sunflower seeds, Tomatoes, Wheat, Yams

For Hot Flashes

Keep a diary of your hot flashes. Hot flashes follow certain patterns. There are certain things that can trigger them, including hot weather, caffeine, or stress. When you keep track of your hot flashes for a week or two, you may discover those things that trigger them. Avoid or eliminate those triggers.

 

ü         Layer your clothing, putting one lightweight item over another. If you become hot, remove your jacket or sweater.

 

ü         Drink a glass of cold water or juice at the onset of a flash.

 

ü         Keep a thermos of ice water or an ice pack by your bed at night.

 

ü         Wear clothing made of absorbent material, such as cotton. Don’t wear silk blouses or other clothes that show perspiration stains.

 

ü         Aerate stuffy rooms in your house. Place small fan on your night table or desk. When a flash hits, direct the cool air right to you.

 

ü         Take vitamin E supplements. This has been used for 50 years to treat hot flashes. Start with 400 IU of vitamin E a day, working up to 800 IU daily. Good sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, and wheat germ.

 

ü         Take GLA (gamma linolenic acid), naturally found in borage, black currants and evening primrose oil. Dong Quai is known as the ‘female ginseng.” This herb “smoothes out” the mood and brings on relaxation. Other herbs such as Hawthorn berry, yam root, black cohosh and blue cohosh are also useful. Please consult a health profession.

 

ü         Chinese herbal formula also have demonstrated great effectiveness on reducing hot flashes. It is tailor-formulated by a traditional Chinese medical doctor according to each individual’s condition.

 

ü         Studies show acupuncture is helpful in treating hot flashes.

 

ü         Keep cool. Wherever you spend a lot of time-at home or at your office-do what you can to keep cool. Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature. Keep an electric or hand-held fan close by. Sit next to the air conditioner or away from heat ducts at meetings or social gatherings. To reduce night sweats, keep your bedroom cool, open windows, and use an air conditioner in the summer.

 

ü         Avoid stressful situations. Stress can trigger hot flashes. For help in avoiding or handling stress, visit our stress management section.

 

ü         Cool off with water. Run cold water over your wrists or splash water on your face to cool off. If possible, take a cool shower.

 

ü         Perform deep-breathing exercises. If stress triggers hot flashes for you, deep-breathing exercises may help alleviate them.

 

ü         Watch your diet. Reduce the number of empty calories you consume each day. Fatty foods and alcohol are common sources of such calories. These and other foods may trigger hot flashes. While keeping your hot flash diary, be sure to note all the foods you eat each day and watch for those that seem to trigger hot flashes.

 

ü         Ask your doctor about HRT.

 

ü         Ask your doctor about other prescription medications. There are non-hormonal prescription medications available if you cannot take HRT.

 

Vaginal/Urinary Tract Infection

 

Within 4 or 5 years after the final menstrual period, there is an increased chance of vaginal and urinary tract infections. If symptoms such as painful or overly frequent urination occur, consult your doctor. Infections are easily treated with antibiotics, but often tend to recur. To help prevent these infections, urinate before and after intercourse, be sure your bladder is not full for long periods, drink plenty of fluids, and keep your genital area clean. Douching is not thought to be effective in preventing infection.

 

Vaginal Dryness or Irritation:

 

ü         Use a simple, nonirritating, non- drying soap. Temporarily set aside any soaps, lotions or bath preparations that are even the least bit irritating or drying.

 

ü         When you’re at home in the evenings, wear a nightgown, long T-shirt or other clothing that allows air to circulate by your genitals.

 

ü         Use vitamin E creams made from marigold flower, aloe vera and/or the Mexican yam for vaginal dryness.

 

ü         Avoid alcohol, caffeine and the antihistamines found in many cold remedies. All three can dry the mucus membranes.

 

ü         Stay sexually active. As with any other muscle in your body, lack of use of the vaginal muscle results in diminished tone and decreased flexibility. Without use, eventually the vaginal muscle will shrink. If you have a regular sex partner, your doctor will probably recommend regular intercourse to aid in continuing lubrication, muscle tone, and sexual health. Women who engage in sexual activity at least once a week maintain better vaginal health than those who do not.

 

ü         Sexual arousal produces some natural lubrication by increasing blood flow to the vagina. This helps in the secretion of lubricating fluid through the vaginal lining. Any sexual activity- including masturbation-helps improve blood flow to the vagina and keeps tissues supple.

 

ü         Use a lubricant. Some women find that using a water- based lubricant during intercourse helps to alleviate the problems associated with vaginal dryness. Oil-based products should not be used because they tend to coat the vaginal lining and inhibit your own natural secretions.

 

ü         Avoid using antihistamines unless truly necessary. They dry mucus membranes in the body.

 

Mood Swings

 

Some women will experience a roller coaster of moods during menopause. This should level out after a year. You can try the following soothing remedies to combat the emotional ups and downs.

 

ü         Passionflower Tea.

Passionflower, along with other herbs such as chamomile, hops and catnip, has been found to elevate serotonin, which triggers sleep and calmness.

 

ü         Exercise:

Exercise helps discharge excess anxiety-causing adrenaline that many women experience around menopause because of a shift in hormones. Regular exercise may improve your mood by raising endorphins (feel-good hormones that are known to drop during menopause).

 

ü         Rest.

Take an afternoon or midmorning meditation break. Sit quietly with closed eyes. Let your muscles go limp and breathe slowly.

 

ü         Chinese herbal formula also have demonstrated great effectiveness on mind-calming. It is tailor-formulated by a traditional Chinese medical doctor according to each individual’s condition.

 

ü         Studies show acupuncture is effective in treating mood swings.

 

ü         Support:

Talk to other women who have gone through or are going through menopause. You can help each other cope.

 

ü         Stress Management:

Avoid stressful situations as much as possible. Use relaxation techniques. Examples include yoga, meditation, listening to soft music and massages. See our stress management section for more ideas.

 

ü         Diet:

Eat nutritious foods. Check with your doctor about taking vitamin/mineral supplements.

 

Insomnia:

 

ü         Avoid caffeinated drinks and foods late in the day. If you are having trouble sleeping, avoid coffee, tea, caffeinated soft drinks, chocolate, and other caffeinated foods in the late afternoon or evening. Instead, have a glass of warm milk or take a warm bath. if you are having problems with frequent urination at night, decrease the amount of fluids you drink in the evening.

 

ü         Keep to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day.

 

ü         Try not to nap during the day, or you may not be tired enough to go to sleep at bed time.

 

ü         Meditation or relaxation techniques before bedtime will also help to prepare you for sleep by releasing tension and clearing the mind.

 

ü         Exercise regularly. Daily workouts tire out the body and prepare it for a good night’s sleep. Do not exercise too close to bedtime, however. Late-night workouts can over stimulate your body, contributing to insomnia.

 

ü         Try not to argue with your spouse or discuss distressing situations right before bed. In fact, it may help to give your mind time to “wind down” from a busy day. And if you find yourself watching the clock at night, put the clock where you can’t see it or get rid of it altogether.

 

ü         Experiment with different pillows and room temperatures to create the most comfortable environment possible. If noise bothers you, try wearing ear plugs. A slightly noisy fan that makes a steady hum can help to mask the sounds of a television playing in an other room, cars driving by and dogs barking. You can also purchase “sound machines” that make “white noise.” Get blackout shades, hang up heavier curtains or wear eye shades to eliminate any offending light.

 

ü         Avoid sleeping pills. Although they may work at first, you’ll eventually build up a tolerance to their effects.

 

ü         Some women report that nightly sex or simple caressing helps them to sleep.

 

ü         Watch your diet. The types, amounts, and timing of foods and drinks may prevent you from falling asleep or may awaken you during the night. A diet high in fat, caffeine, and alcohol can alter sleep patterns. For example, eating a large, heavy, fatty meal too close to bedtime can keep you awake for hours. The caffeine in coffee, chocolate, soda, and tea can also interfere with a good night’s sleep. You should also avoid drinking too much alcohol. While you may fall asleep quickly after consuming alcohol, it can cause you to awaken several times during the night.

 

ü         As you age, you become more susceptible to the effects of heartburn. An unsettled stomach can awaken you and make it difficult to fall back to sleep. Keep track of the foods that seem to give you heartburn and avoid them, especially close to bedtime. Take an antacid tablet or acid blocker before bedtime to help prevent the problem. Some antacids have the added benefit of calcium, a mineral that all women need.

 

ü         Relax before bedtime. A hot bath or relaxation exercises may bring about better sleep. Allow some time to read, watch television, or write before heading to bed. If you find you cannot sleep once you are in bed, do not try too hard to fall asleep. Instead, get up and try some more relaxing activities, such as light reading or simple chores.

 

ü         Chinese herbal formula also have demonstrated great effectiveness on treating insomnia. It is tailor-formulated by a traditional Chinese medical doctor according to each individual’s condition.

 

ü         Studies show acupuncture is effective on treating insomnia.

 

Osteoporosis:

 

ü         Engage in regular weight-bearing exercise. The more you force your bones to support your weight, the more likely they are to remain strong. Walking, jogging, aerobics and dancing are good exercises for the lower body. Light weight lifting will help to keep the bones of the upper body strong.

 

ü         Eat plenty of calcium-containing foods (such as dairy products) and take calcium supplements, if necessary. Menopausal women should be getting at least 1,500 mg of calcium per day (roughly the amount in a quart of milk).

 

ü         Eat foods high in boron, a mineral that helps the body “hang on” to its calcium. Boron is found in apples, pears, grapes and other fruit, as well as in legumes, nuts and honey.

 

ü         Make sure that you are getting enough of the trace mineral manganese. You’ll find manganese in pineapples, nuts, spinach, beans and whole wheat.

 

ü         Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium, so include plenty of vitamin D foods in your diet (such as vitamin D- enhanced milk). Your skin can also make vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Supplements are helpful, but too much vitamin D is dangerous.

 

ü         Chinese herbal formula also have demonstrated great effectiveness on controlling osteoporosis. It is tailor-formulated by a traditional Chinese medical doctor according to each individual’s condition.

What are the treatments for menopause?

As mentioned before, menopause needs medical intervention only if  symptoms are uncomfortable and distressing. When symptoms are severe, Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) with or without progestogen (HRT) is most likely be prescribed by your family physician. This treatment usually will be administered continuously for a long time. Due to the potential risks of long term use may cause breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer,some patients may not be suggested to use the treatment.

World Health Organization (WHO) has listed menopause syndrome one of the condition treatable by acupuncture. There are also many researches on the use of acupuncture and/or traditional Chinese herbal medicine treating menopause syndrome and have displayed its effectiveness without significant side effects.

Does it work for me?

There are a lot of people benefited from acupuncture and/or traditional Chinese herbal medicine treatment for menopause syndrome in North America, Europe & China. It is certainly a reasonable natural modality that has its potential to help especially for those who do not respond well to pharmaceutical drugs. However, like pharmaceutical drugs, “It works for many” doesn’t exactly mean it works for you. As for you, there is only one way to find out…

How much does it cost? Does Alberta Health Care cover it?

We charge $74 per acupuncture session.  It is covered by most of the company group benefit but not by Alberta Health Care Insurance. There is a $30 initial consultation fee at the first time of visit. All fees above are subject to change without notice. Please call 403-233-0498 for current rate.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Most of the acupuncture points don’t hurt because the needles used in acupuncture are hair-fine needles. Patients will have a mosquito bite feelings instead. This sensation is subtle for most people. There are some points tend to be more sensitive than the others. We would do it carefully to avoid any discomforts.