By Dr. Maoshing Ni
the end of a woman's menstrual cycle. It is estimated that 1.3 million women in
the U.S. will reach menopause each year between now and 2010. The majority of
women end their menstruation between the ages of 48 to 52, but uncomfortable
symptoms of peri-menopause or pre-menopause can begin as early as forty and last
until fifty-five years of age. A woman may notice that her menstrual cycle
starts to be different from what it used to be-slight irregularity, increased
breast swelling, abdominal bloating, mood swings, sweets cravings and low
energy. As she gets closer to the actual menopause -- the cessation of her
menstruation -- the symptoms may become more extreme -- such as hot flashes,
night sweats, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, headaches, insomnia and
The termination of menstruation means the ending of a woman's biological
obligation to procreate. At around age 50, this time also usually coincides with
the completion of a woman's child rearing duty. With her familial obligations
mostly fulfilled, she is now freer to pursue her life and personal dreams.
Further, by this time, she has acquired tremendous life experience and wisdom
that will allow her to fully blossom into who she is in the second half of her
life. What an important and powerful time this change brings on! No wonder the
Chinese call menopause "A Second Spring"!
When the menopause phase is finally over, a woman needs to be concerned about
the decrease in the various essential hormones of her body, mainly estrogen and
progesterone. These hormones are responsible for maintaining healthy bones and
elastic blood vessels and skin. Though mainstream medicine focuses on
osteoporosis and heart disease, many women also experience decreased quality of
life issues such as weight gain, dry and wrinkled skin and mucus membranes,
thinning and loss of hair, lower
Vitality, decrease in sex drive and mood
Current Western medicine offers Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), which may
be useful for some women whose uterus and ovaries have been removed. However,
many women have become wary of the potential side effects of hormone replacement
therapy, including the increased risk of certain cancers. Their fears were
abundantly justified when a recent study concluded that a popularly prescribed
synthetic estrogen and progesterone pill can cause increased risks of breast and
reproductive cancers, as well as a danger of blood clots, while offering no
protection against heart disease. The study was halted immediately because it
was apparent that the risks were too great to continue. It is important if you
or any one you know is contemplating using HRT to consult a gynecologist for
advice on its risks and benefits.
For many women, the need for relief from symptoms during and after menopause
remains paramount, and an increasing number of them are turning to and finding
answers in Chinese Medicine. From very early on in its five thousand year
history, Chinese Medicine had a specialty focused on women's health.
Centuries-old remedies effectively deal with the symptoms of menopause and the
aging process. They include acupuncture, dietary therapy, herbal therapy,
meditation and energy exercises.
A diet rich in minerals will prevent osteoporosis. Dark, leafy green
vegetables, beans and legumes are helpful. Soy in particular has been found to
contain phyto-estrogen which is helpful in reducing hot flashes and night sweats
and protecting against heart disease. Tofu, made from soy, has additional
calcium, which is excellent for bone health.
Spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, beet greens,
lettuce, parsley, soy, black beans, lima beans, navy beans, mung beans, lentils,
split peas and adzuki beans.
A diet rich in essential fatty acids and omega 3 and 6 oils is important in
preventing heart disease. In particular, taking a tablespoon of flax oil daily
will help maintain elasticity of the blood vessels, increase tissue lubrication
and protect against reproductive cancers.
Salmon, sea bass, halibut, tuna; nuts and seeds such as walnuts, sesame, pine
nuts, sunflower seed and flax seed.
Adequate protein is also important in providing ingredients for hormonal
production in one's body. Chinese medicine believes that lamb is especially
excellent for nourishing the hormone glands (endocrine system).
Fish, organic chicken, turkey, ostrich, lamb and beans.
It's important not to neglect grains and fiber. Many women are afraid that if
they consume grains and starchy foods, they will gain weight. It's a matter of
quantity and timing. Chinese medicine believes that small portions of cooked
whole grains and starch such as potato should be eaten best at dinner for its
beneficial fibers and minerals that are helpful to lower cholesterol and prevent
bowel cancer. Further, these carbohydrates burn quick and clean, leaving no
excess accumulations behind, and helping one's sleep.
Oats, millet, buckwheat, brown rice, barley, rye, amaranth, quinoa, whole
Chinese medicine has within its arsenal close to 10,000 substances from
Materia Medica. The advantages of Chinese herbal therapy are the lack of
side effects and that it,s time-tested and naturally effective in supporting
body's normal functions. It is a sophisticated body of knowledge that requires
years of learning and mastery.
Over the 38 generations that members of my family have been doctors, we have
created a formula specifically for menopause and peri-menopause:
The herbs contained within
Passages have been shown in studies from China and the West to be useful for
the natural relief of symptoms of menopause.
Wild Yam and Dang Gui - traditionally used to naturally stimulate the
production of progesterone and estrogen in a woman's body (Not a replacement but
rather getting one's body to do what it is supposed to do). Epimedii herb,
Immortal grass, Rehmannia root and soy-together provide nourishment of hormone
glands and support adrenal function while increasing one's libido and sexual
Conch and Zizyphus seed provide a natural source of calcium, reduce night
sweats, relieve headaches and balance the mood to help one's sleep. Anemarrhena
and Gardenia fruit balance the body's thermostat, relieve hot flashes, ease
anxiety and lessen cravings.
Alisma and white Peony root eliminate excess fluids while lubricating mucus
membranes and skin as well as strengthening elasticity of the blood vessels
Many women in Asia have used Taiji and other qi (energy) Exercise to help
them manage stress and restore
Vitality and normal functions before, during and
after menopause with good success. Studies have shown that Taiji can promote
balance, cardiovascular health and emotional well being.
In the seasons of one's life, if the ending of the menstrual cycle means the
winter of a woman's ability to bear children, then what comes after menopause is
the second spring - the season of rebirth when she is empowered to live the way
There are infinite possibilities for creativity and personal growth. This can
be both an exciting and challenging time in a woman's life.
Dr. Maoshing Ni, a Licensed Acupuncturist and a Diplomat of
Chinese Herbology, is currently in general practice with specialties in
immunology, pulmonology and gastroenterology. (310) 917-2200.