According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) there are as many as 7 different types of menopause.
The cessation of menstruation (called heavenly dew in the Chinese Medicine classics) means it will no longer be possible to conceive. The energy then moves up into the heart from the uterus where it is no longer needed. Here in the heart, it nourishes a deeper wisdom, a coming into one’s own, ‘a second spring’.
The ‘menopause’ is a western term, relating to it as if it is a ‘syndrome’ - one of the most famous symptoms of which is hot flushes - and a one size fits all approach is offered.
TCM on the other hand, views this time as a gateway and a time of immense power in a woman’s life. There are 3 of such gateways in a woman’s life, times when the change in how the qi manifests itself is so profound it can be transformational. It can be transformational if it is harnessed correctly, which in the west it seldom is. If these times of unprecedented change are not harnessed positively it can lead to many layers of resistance in our body, mind and spirit. This resistance is what causes stress and suffering.
What are the three gateways?
These are times in a woman’s life when she simply isn’t the same as she was previously. Lifestyle adjustments need to be considered, as well as adjustments that support mental and emotional well being.
One of the biggest lifestyle adjustments for women of perimenopause and menopause ages (45-55) is exercise routines. Women now may well fare better with more weight bearing types of exercise than intense cardio like running. Weight bearing exercise will strengthen bones, whereas intense cardio will deplete reserves faster.
So what are the different types of Menopause?
TCM treats each individual as exactly that - an individual. It is not a one size fits all approach. Individuals present different patterns according to their unique constitutions, as well as lifestyle factors which are hugely important in TCM. The different ways a menopausal lady can present are:
Kidney Yin deficiency
Kidney Yang deficiency
Liver blood and yin deficiency
Heart qi and or yin deficiency
And that's to name just a few! For example, if your hot flushes involve spontaneous sweating throughout the day they are typically more heart related. If you have night sweats they are typically more Kidney Yin related. If you have outbursts of anger, this suggests more Liver involvement.
Waking during the night and struggling to get back to sleep is more related to the liver, and difficulty falling to sleep in the first place is more heart related.
You can present with a real mixed bag of these symptoms and a skilled TCM practitioner will be able to diagnose and treat according to your unique patterns.
Western viewpoints tend to agree only on the nature of hormonal changes as a cause for these symptoms and therefore treat only at a hormonal level. Even though hormones are absolutely involved they are not the only factor. The hormone Oestrogen is known to decline during perimenopause. In TCM we understand that the fundamental essence, YIN, is also oestrogen. So the focus of TCM is, in a nutshell, to nourish Yin.
There are many ways you can also nourish your Yin. Yin is a still, restful energy whereas Yang is dynamic and active. We need to live in a balance and harmony between both. We have night and day, which are Yin and Yang. When our sleep patterns become disturbed we are already out of balance in terms of Yin and Yang. Resting more during waking hours helps to redress this balance. Ways you can achieve this are being more still, slowing down, appreciating the moment, going out into nature more and living in tune with the seasons - which is covered in more detail in our blog - Living in harmony with the seasons is the best way to look after yourself.
Carolyn Sykes - Acupuncturist
Read more about Carolyn in 'Our Team' section