Women’s health is greatly impacted by even subtle imbalances in hormones. Hormones are substances that are released by the brain and other organs and flow through the blood stream acting as chemical messengers. When hormone levels are healthy, we are unaware of their pervasive and important role in our lives, but when these vital chemical messengers become imbalanced, our well-being and health can be greatly impacted.
The following symptoms are associated with a woman’s hormonal fluctuations in a monthly menstrual cycle or aging process and can often be addressed by Chinese Medicine:
• Bloating in conjunction with the menstrual cycle
• Breast tenderness
• Hot Flashes
• Irregular cycle
• Menorrhagia (excessive bleeding)
• Metrorrhagia (spotting)
• Mood Swings
• Postpartum depression or fatigue
• Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
• Weight Gain
During each stage of a woman’s life, beginning with puberty, the cyclical fluctuation of progesterone and estrogen sets into motion a series of physiological responses. Erratic shifts in the estrogen/progesterone balance during one’s teenage years may show up as acne, mood swings, irregular menses, painful periods (dysmenorrhea), body aches, rashes, etc. From a traditional Chinese medical view, these symptoms occur because kidney qi is not abundant and liver blood is not flowing smoothly. Smoothing out these erratic hormonal shifts by nourishing kidney qi and improving the flow of liver blood can prevent many of these conditions from occurring. Furthermore, creating a healthy foundation during the teenage years can prevent hormonal related problems later in life.
Women are normally at the peak of their health during the reproductive years. The body prepares every month for the possibility of becoming pregnant. If a woman does not conceive, her uterine lining sloughs off, then menstruation occurs. However, if our bodies are stressed, undernourished, or lacking in sleep, the delicate balance of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian feedback loop can lead to symptoms of hormonal imbalance such as moodiness, PMS, migraines, breast tenderness, decreasing attention span, bloating and weight gain. These imbalances in energy and hormones can also lead to the heart-wrenching problems of infertility and postpartum depression. Chinese medicine balances the entire body function to improve both men and women’s ability to conceive. It is a particularly powerful option for women over forty, who need to be strengthened as well as balanced.
Infertility is an enormous concern in the field of gynecology. Drs. Shiao-Ting Jing, Florence Lim,and Biao Lu work together to enhance fertility outcomes for their patients and have had an excellent success rate addressing infertility, either in conjunction with Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) or with Chinese medicine alone. We always recommend that couples undergo a complete Western medical reproductive evaluation to determine the cause of their infertility. We understand that Western medical methods of treating infertility are highly technical, quite expensive, and often limited to women whose ovaries are responsive to treatment and whose hormone levels fall within a certain range. Nevertheless, these methods are often a beacon of hope to many couples who are told they cannot conceive naturally. Recent reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that the overall success rate of ART is still low when used alone. When combined with acupuncture and herbal medicine therapy, however, the chance of success greatly improves.
Pregnancy / Post-Partum
Chinese medicine can also help women who have experienced difficulties maintaining a pregnancy or carrying a healthy baby to term. Repeated pregnancy loss (habitual abortion) is considered a type of infertility. Chinese medicine is very effective in protecting against miscarriage.
In addition, Chinese medicine has a long tradition of helping women recover gracefully from pregnancy. It is a very effective way to reset the body and prevent or alleviate postpartum discomforts such as fatigue, night sweats, hair loss, joint pain, and depression.
Peri-menopause, Menopause and Beyond
Additional shifts in a woman’s physiology occur during the perimenopausal years. Menopause is a gradual physiological process - a natural life transition. A woman is born with roughly 600,000 follicles. By the time she reaches puberty, she has only 300,000. The number of follicles decreases to about 10,000 by the time she experiences menopause. The experience of menopause is predicated on the health of the woman up to that point in her life. It is quite possible to achieve a later menopause with few symptoms.
Unfortunately, if a woman previously experienced problems related to hormonal imbalance during the course of her reproductive years, she may continue to experience disruptive symptoms as the body shifts into this new stage of life. These symptoms may include acne, sleep disorders (such as frequent waking), migraines, hair loss, hot flashes, mood swings, bloating, weight gain, digestive problems, decline in libido, and high cholesterol.
Because peri-menopause and menopause are a natural transition, it is not necessary for every woman to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Instead, the body can be gently induced to produce a more balanced mixture of hormones through the use of Chinese herbal formulas and acupuncture without the health risks associated with HRT. These natural therapies establish a healthy foundation for permanent results and future well-being. Additionally, if a woman and her M.D. decide that HRT is the best choice, then Chinese medicine is a powerful tool to optimize the body’s ability to integrate the HRT and minimize any side effects. If you are interested in additional information about menopause, please go to our