One of the great strengths of Chinese herbal medicine is in being able to balance women’s hormones. Both menopause and perimenopause are treated very effectively using Chinese herbal medicine.
What is the difference between menopause and perimenopause?
Because of the complexity of women’s bodies, with our ability to conceive and bear children, there are many hormones involved in a fine balance, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone. Perimenopause, or the menopausal transitional phase, is the beginning of the time in a woman’s life when she can no longer bear children. Perimenopause can begin 8 to 10 years before the onset of menopause. During this time, the level of progesterone hormone declines, while the level of estrogen remains the same, or may even increase. Progesterone, produced by the ovaries, placenta, and adrenal glands, is the hormone which causes the lining of the uterus to thicken, preparing to receive and nourish a fertilized egg, if conception takes place. If conception does not occur, the uterine lining is shed, leading to menstruation. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point at which the ovaries stop releasing eggs.
Estrogen is produced mainly in the ovaries, but also by fat cells in the body and the adrenal glands. Estrogen is referred to as the “female sex hormone,” as opposed to testosterone, the “male sex hormone,” although both sexes produce an amount of each of these hormones. Estrogen is involved in the onset of puberty, and the appearance of secondary sex characteristics, such as breast development and growth of pubic and armpit hair.
When the level of progesterone declines during perimenopause, this results in the condition of “estrogen dominance.” Estrogen levels can even increase, or can become highly erratic. If there is little or no progesterone to balance the effects of estrogen, this leads to many symptoms, including bloating, headaches, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, foggy thinking, breast tenderness, insomnia, and many others. (Interestingly, estrogen dominance is also exacerbated by many chemicals found in our modern environment. Many products, including pesticides, plastics, meat, body care products, furniture and carpeting, etc., contain some form of estrogen that can get into our bodies, so it is best to be informed and aware of natural alternatives that are less harmful to our health.) The first sign of perimenopause is often a change in the menstrual periods, which is different for each woman. Periods may become longer or shorter, heavier or lighter, more or less frequent.Women may also experience a loss of sexual arousal, since the level of testosterone may also be declining.
Estrogen levels will also gradually decrease. Once you have not had a menstrual period for 12 months, this is considered to be the actual time of menopause, which is technically the ceasing of menstrual periods. After this time, it is considered post-menopause. In the U.S., the average age of menopause is 51 years. It is important to remember that menopause is not a disease; it is a natural decline in the levels of reproductive hormones that regulate menstruation. Chinese herbal medicine can safely, effective, and naturally, assist the body to regulate hormone balance in order to make the transition more comfortable, with fewer or no unpleasant symptoms. For more information on Merry Clinic’s Perimenopause and Menopause herbal formulas, please follow the web links below: