The three Golden Opportunities
As an acupuncturist who now specialises in women’s health, I am particularly interested in the ‘phases’ that women experience as they journey through their lives. In traditional Chinese medicine these phases are menstruation, postpartum, and the menopause and are key times when a woman has the opportunity to improve her health. These are called the ‘Three Golden Opportunities’ when, armed with the correct knowledge, women can increase their vitality and avoid disease.
How menopause can be seen as a Golden Opportunity
As women, we do not always strive towards achieving our own balance and vitality, especially at the time of the menopause when we may be busy at work, trying to make sure we buy in good quality food, cooking, cleaning and collecting the grandchildren from nursery! For many women this could also coincide with an elderly parent needing extra care. Even if we know what we should be doing, it is not always easy to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We may seek to achieve balance, but this does take some conscious effort!
In this time of great transition when the hormones are going haywire and the women’s social role is changing, we are potentially in a vulnerable state. These signs of disharmony, instead of being seen as problems to be borne or repressed and ignored, can be viewed as helpful messages, pointing us in the right direction, helping us to view this phase of our lives as an opportunity for renewal.
The guidelines for menopausal care in Chinese medicine states that women should begin preparing at the age of 35, when self care becomes increasingly important. At this time, it is advised that women should practise restorative exercises such as yoga, or an activity that helps joint mobility and improves circulation. They should begin weight-bearing and cardiovascular exercise, but should aim to finish energised instead of feeling depleted. Daily relaxation or meditation should ideally be put into their daily practise. A regular sleeping pattern should be established, aiming for bed by 10pm. Physical and mental work should be balanced with rest!
In Chinese medicine we talk about yin and yang deficiencies, and at this time the diet can be used to nourish the blood and the yin by eating good quality protein and dark leafy vegetables. Perimenopausal and menopausal women should increase the percentage of vegetables in their diet to help clear the heat (hot sweats) and liver excess (the tight irritable moods we often experience). This also helps to reduce and maintain body weight.
How acupuncture can help
As acupuncturists we can help women with their symptoms as they transcend into this phase of their lives with acupuncture, exercise, lifestyle and dietary advice. One of the most important aspects however is providing them with the knowledge of what they can do to increase their vitality and longevity, rather than treat their symptoms when they are ill; and to view this time as a ‘Golden Opportunity’.
If like most of us, the menopause arrives without giving it much thought or preparation, acupuncture may be able to help. There is increasing evidence from Western scientific research demonstrating its effectiveness for a wide range of conditions. It is believed to influence the body’s communication substances – the hormones and neurotransmitters, which, if out of sync?, can cause the symptoms we may experience during perimenopause and menopause. Acupuncture helps to stimulate the body’s self regulating mechanisms and research has shown that it can help with menopausal hot sweats, anxiety and depression. It can also help with pain as it has an anti-inflammatory effect. At this time we may experience a loss of confidence, which can result in General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The first sign of this for me was a dislike of driving in the dark coupled with a lack of confidence. A few years ago I thought nothing of it but now I would say I was a much better driver as the GAD has slowed me down considerably! Perhaps this is one of the reasons we call this phase of our lives ‘The Wisdom Years’!
Acupuncture may help at this time to view the menopause as an opportunity to finally address our imbalances and set us on course for a healthy and rewarding phase in our lives when we can fulfil whatever roles we have embraced with balance and vitality.
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Alex Gilmartin is founder of Acupuncture for Women – treating women through the phases of their lives: www.acupunctureforwomen.co.uk
Ref: The ‘Three Golden Opportunities’: Key Times Women Can Improve or Damage their Health by Dr. Lia Andrews. A great book for those of you who would like to read more and which gave me inspiration for this blog.
To find an acupuncturist near you:
The British Acupuncture Council: www.acupuncture.org.uk
The British Medical Acupuncture Society: www.medical-acupuncture.co.uk