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Menopause: Gateway to Better Health

by Vivienne Outram(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 212 - February 2014

 

The Chinese do not have a name for the Menopause. Interestingly, the ending of periods is not considered an illness in China, but instead a natural and healthy transition from one part of life to another. Just as Summer must end, and transform into Autumn, we must also move from our child bearing years into a different phase of life where our energies can be free to be more creative and contemplative. This is not viewed a s a negative process in China, where the elderly are revered and respected for their wisdom and the contribution they have made to the lives of those who have followed them. 

Chinese Five Elements

It would seem that in the West we suffer more problems at this time of life. This may be partly due to our obsession with youth and the Summer of our lives, but also because of the way we live. The pace of life is frenetic, and women in their forties have more to deal with than is healthy. They often work full time, take care of the house, look after children and elderly relatives just as their natural energy begins to decline. The Chinese would say that by the time we reach forty years old, half of our constitutional energy has already been consumed. At this time of life, a woman's remaining reserves of energy need to be conserved to ensure old age is healthy and long. Many health problems develop at this time because output of energy exceeds input.

We are all born with a finite amount of congenital pre-birth energy, our constitutional energy store. The amount we are born with depends on the health of our parents at conception and the health of our mother during pregnancy. Once this energy store is used up, we die. The Chinese view this energy as if it were a candle. Some people have tall candles and other people have short candles. How we behave in life determines how quickly we burn through our candle of energy. If your constitution is strong and you live a sensible life, trying to conserve your energy, you are likely to live a long life. If you have a strong constitution, but squander your reserves of energy by,' burning the candle at both ends', your life is likely to be much shorter.

There is also a second type of energy we can call on to help keep us alive. The Chinese call this post birth energy. This is the energy we get from food and air. If we live a healthy life we can conserve a little extra energy from our food at the end of the day; this helps us conserve our precious pre-birth, constitutional energy. This is why the strength of the stomach is so important to health. Poor digestion means you don't get all the goodness out of your food and you will not be able to keep some energy in reserve. Healing your digestive system is the most important thing you can do for your health.

The fourth decade is a pivotal time in the life of every woman. Many health problems can appear around this time. New health problems may appear, such as heavy or irregular periods, and old health problems can often get worse. If you have suffered from migraines or back pain in the past, these problems can become more frequent and severe. These problems are warning signs that your body is out of balance. Because these kind of health problems are usually non-life threatening, Western medicine does not consider them to be a high priority, and many of the treatments available are of limited effectiveness. Chinese medicine looks at health problems differently. All such problems, which do not involve tissue damage, are not so difficult to treat with Chinese medicine. Left untreated, they can develop into more serious problems. So prevention is viewed as extremely important in Chinese medicine. The only way to do this is to work with the energy of your body. Waiting for problems to show up on blood tests and scans is not ideal, as by that stage disease is much more difficult to treat and often requires invasive treatment.

If we take the problem of heavy periods as an example; if this problem is not caused by a serious problem such as a tumour, heavy periods can be treated naturally. In the West, often the main treatment would be a hysterectomy. Chinese medicine believes that often heavy bleeding is caused by a deficiency in the body which allows blood vessels to leak blood and not hold blood properly in the blood vessels. The organ in Chinese medicine which controls blood is The Spleen. Worry, overwork and stress can all damage the functioning of The Spleen. When this happens it cannot hold the blood in the Uterus appropriately and heavy bleeding results. Tonifying The Spleen with herbs and nourishing foods can help treat this problem. Red and orange vegetables have a healing energy for The Spleen, so eating Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Swede and Butternut Squash can all be helpful. Chinese medicine considers the Uterus and Ovaries to be useful organs for the whole of our lives, not just our reproductive lives. These organs can produce healing hormones which are very important for our health. Therefore, it is best to try and avoid removing these organs unless there is a life threatening condition associated with them.

Reducing stress is considered to be the most important thing we can do to maintain our health. Stress is a modern disease; life has become faster and more mentally draining. We have to learn new things all the time, whereas our grandparents may have gone to school to learn and then may have gone on to learn a trade, but after that no more learning was required. Society requires that we remain young for ever, inquisitive, learning and accomplishing tasks at high speed. However, this is not the law of nature. We cannot stay young for ever, it is inevitable that our energy starts to decline in middle age. By ignoring Natural Law we can make ourselves ill. Although it is healthy to stay interested in life, we do need to slow down as we get older. Just as in the Autumn the trees drop their leaves to conserve energy as winter approaches, we also need to conserve our energy as old age approaches.

The Menopause is considered a Gateway in Chinese culture; it is the last gateway that a woman will pass through in her life. When a woman passes through a life Gateway, her health can become better or it can become worse. For that reason the few years before the Menopause and the Menopause itself is such an important time to try and improve your health. It is the last great opportunity to improve your health for the better. Sadly, this information is little known in the West. It is important to use techniques to try and build up reserves of energy at this time, so that there is enough Oestrogen to supply the body for the rest of its life. It is important to try and slow down the pace of life if possible, and to use mindfulness techniques to help you relax. It is also a very good idea to start learning energy exercises such as Qi gong which will increase your store of energy.

Early and preventative treatment of illness is important at this time to ensure that it does not develop into serious illness. Energy treatments such as Chinese herbal medicine and Acupuncture can help to bring harmony back to the body before it can become dangerously unbalanced. We can also look at the foods that we eat to make sure that food helps increase our stores of energy rather than drain them. Eating foods such as toasted Walnuts and Pine nuts helps to create more of the right kind of healing energy in the body. Large amounts of heavy foods such as red meat and processed foods, drains the body's precious energy stores. It may also surprise you to find that cold foods such as salads and raw vegetables can drain your body of precious energy. All your food needs to be heated up inside the stomach in order for it to be digested; if you put warm food in your stomach your body saves itself the energy sapping process of warming it up itself. Following these ancient healing rules can keep you healthy and help you to live a long life.

Take this opportunity to reclaim your health and power and to control your destiny - Chinese medicine can help you do just that!

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About Vivienne Outram

Vivienne Outram BscEcon MBAcC MATCM is a Chinese medical practitioner working in Sheffield, England. She has been studying Chinese medicine for twenty years and specializes in the treatment of Chronic health conditions. She has successfully treated many women for fertility problems and repeat miscarriages. Her style of treatment is heavily influenced by Taoism and ancient Chinese spiritual knowledge about the World, Nature and the Human body. She may be contacted via acupuncturesheffield@gmail.com     www.sheffield-acupuncture-clinic.co.uk

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