A healthy mid-life means an easier menopause

The most important thing to know about the menopause is prevention, so if you are a woman in your midlife, getting the support and balance you need will help you in your menopausal years. This blog aims to explains the menopause in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) terms, and gives indicators on how you can support yourself as well as receiving treatments in-clinic.

As a therapist with a predominantly female clientele, and a 40-something woman myself, I have a particular interest in this subject. Many women suffer with the two main symptoms of menopause: hot flushes and dryness (an excess of heat and a lack of moisture). In addition to these symptoms, women can also feel emotionally unstable, have difficultly sleeping and concentrating, experience frequent headaches, feel lethargic and tired, irritable, anxious, depressed and nervous.

Although the menopause usually comes at around the age of 50, the decline in the ovarian follicles and in oestrogen occurs throughout our lives. The number of follicles at birth has already halved by puberty, and continues to decline up to the menopause. Thus the menopausal symptoms can start to appear at an earlier stage in life, so we are never too young to take notice.

In TCM, from our conception, our Kidneys store our vital life essence (Jing). Jing circulates over long periods, dominating our developmental stages (usually 7 year cycles in women and 8 year cycles in men). Our Kidneys dominate growth and reproduction. They also dominate water metabolism and bone, and produce marrow (brain). So you can see that our Kidney energy is very important in not only giving us our life force and will-power, it also governs our reproductive systems, and works closely with the lungs to moisten the body, as well as strengthens our skeletal system. These are all closely linked to common health problems in women (osteoporosis, dryness, infertility, irregular menstrual cycles and fatigue to name a few).

Thinking about menopause, anything that will weaken our Kidney energy is going to have an impact on our menopause. Our busy modern day lives seem to dictate a very stressful way of living. For example, parents going out to work as well as looking after children will often feel overwhelmed and unrested, causing tiredness, fatigue and irritability. Tobacco smoking will “burn fluids” and dry out moisture. Irregular diets high in beige carbs, processed foods and sugars will create “phlegm” (this is a TCM term for thick stagnation). Too much tea, coffee and alcohol is very “yang” in nature and therefore will add heat to the body and thus aggravate symptoms such as hot flushes. Not enough fluid/water intake will have an effect on moisture levels. Emotional stress will also deplete Kidney energy.

As women, we need to create space in our lives to allow balance. We need to replenish our Kidney energy with enough rest between busy times, we need to eat and drink in moderation and eat well; foods that are nutrient dense and foods that add moisture. Drink enough fluids. Only do what we can comfortably do and don’t over stretch ourselves. If we do all of this then we will naturally regulate our day-to-day emotional stresses, but anything lying deeper should be dealt with and not “carried” as this will also deplete the Kidneys, as well as create excess Heart energy adding fire/heat, exacerbating hot flushes, irritability and dryness.

If you are interested in receiving some acupuncture or reflexology sessions please contact me directly for an initial chat.

Jackie Marsden is a Reflexologist, Acupuncturist and Foot Reading Practitioner, based at Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, Preston, PR4. She is a full member of the Association of Reflexologists.

Acupuncture for Infertility

Acupuncture is a tried and tested system of traditional medicine, which has been used in China and other eastern cultures for thousands of years to restore, promote and maintain good health.

Research has found that acupuncture treatments can have a positive effect on those trying for a baby and can actually aid the conception process.

Fertility focused acupuncture treatments can help to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, balance hormonal levels, regulate the menstrual cycle and help improve the lining of the uterus and quality of eggs released. Additionally, conditions such as polycystic ovaries and endometriosis have also been shown to improve with acupuncture.

Benefits to male fertility have also been helped by acupuncture with positive effects on sperm count, sperm morphology and mobility.

Some of the positive effects of acupuncture in fertility treatments are thought to include:

  • regulates the menstrual cycle and promotes regular ovulation
  • regulates the hormones to produce larger numbers of follicles
  • improves the functions of ovaries to produce better quality eggs
  • enhances the vitality of sperm
  • relieves the side effects of drugs used in IVF
  • increases the thickness of the uterine lining so to encourage successful implantation
  • reduces the chance of miscarriage

It is known that stress has an adverse effect on the fertility hormones. Acupuncture can be used to support the process, thus enabling couples to cope with any stress and anxieties they may experience during this time. The acupuncture treatment can help promote a calm, positive and relaxed frame of mind which can bring a more successful outcome for conception.

Information for this blog has been taken from British Acupuncture Council

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and clinical acupuncturist, working from Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, nr. Preston.

The Dirty Truth about Tampons (and pads)

Did you know that sanitary products are categorised as “medical devices”. “So what?” you might say. This categorisation means that manufacturers are exempt from listing the ingredients used in producing tampons and sanitary pads.

Are they really safe?

The exemption from listing the ingredients is worrying for a number of reasons. The skin around our vagina, and the vaginal tissue itself is highly vascular, leaving it permeable to a wide range of compounds. In other words,  any chemical or toxin is absorbed at a higher rate and will quite possibly enter the blood stream. Chemicals or toxins entering the body via the skin by-pass the filters of the digestive system, and thus are potentially a greater danger to our health. (1)

Other personal care products such as wipes, shampoos, washes etc. are regulated as cosmetics and thus must list all ingredients used. But shouldn’t the ingredients of tampons and sanitary pads be disclosed too? I believe that they should so that women can make informed choices on what they put on their skin and what they place inside their bodies.

Undisclosed substances contained in tampons, sanitary towels and wipes, such as preservatives, pesticides, fragrances and dyes could have possible and serious health effects emerging in the form of an allergic rash, genital irritation, the onset of asthma and an increased risk of cancer.(2)

The cost to our planet

Tampons and sanitary pads create huge waste, which is an ever increasing problem for our planet.

On average a woman will use 11,000 tampons or pads in their lifetime (3). Each one takes years to degrade. This figure is quite staggering – but then – think about how many women are on the planet and how many women to come? We are needlessly creating mountains of waste. We need to do something different.

The personal cost – what is it really?

On average a woman uses around 22 sanitary items per cycle, and spends around £90 per year. (4) Multiply this by 40 years of menstruation, each woman can spend on average £3600 on tampons and pads. Compare this to a Mooncup which cost £19.99 and will last years and years. (3)

Mooncup – what’s that?

The Mooncup is a reusable menstrual cup, around two inches long and made from soft medical grade silicone. It is worn internally a lot lower than a tampon but, while tampons and pads absorb menstrual fluid, the Mooncup collects it. This means it doesn’t cause dryness or irritation, and also that it collects far more (three times as much as a tampon!). Because the Mooncup is reusable, you only need one so it saves you money and helps the environment, too. (3)

MC-A-BG

The Mooncup is designed to be folded and inserted into the vagina, then removed, rinsed and reinserted up to every 8 hours. A light seal is formed with your vaginal walls, allowing menstrual fluid to pass into the Mooncup without leakage or odour. This seal is released for removal, allowing you to empty the contents, rinse or wipe and reinsert. Comfortable, convenient and safe: the Mooncup can be used overnight and when travelling, swimming or exercising. (3)

What next?

Buy a Mooncup, start using it, and never have to buy, use or dispose of tampons and pads ever again!

References

(1) http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/05/22/feminine-hygiene-products.aspx

(2) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2528510/Are-tampons-toxic-How-feminine-care-products-contain-undisclosed-ingredients-linked-allergic-rashes-asthma-cancer.html

(3) http://www.mooncup.co.uk/wc.php?u=3243

(4) http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ethicallivingblog/2009/aug/17/eco-friendly-periods-mooncup

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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Perimenopause : an overview

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is when the body begins preparation for the stage in life where child bearing will not be the biological focus. This usually happens in a woman’s 40s and is a gradual build-up to menopause, when the menstrual cycle ceases completely. Perimenopause starts with a gradual decline in progesterone and can cause some of the following symptoms:

  • Weight gain
  • Cracked, dry or loose skin (caused by less collagen)
  • Low sex drive and/or more difficulty reaching orgasm
  • Anxiety
  • Tearfulness (especially week before period)
  • Restless sleep
  • Increased menstrual cramps
  • Night sweats [1]

These uncomfortable symptoms are because the body is trying to adjust to the relative oestrogen excess.

Not only do the sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) have to make the transition, so do other hormones. For example, cortisol levels (a stress hormone) will increase, and insulin resistance can be more common. Because of this, it is vitally important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and to find ways of managing and/or coping with stress.

Before menopause, the ovaries are the major oestrogen secretors. However, as they become less active during perimenopause and menopause, the balance shifts until finally around half of the body’s oestrogen and progesterone is made in the adrenal glands. If stress levels are high, the adrenal glands will always prioritise the secretion of the stress hormones over the creation of sex hormones. Thus, finding ways of lowering stress will ensure the adequate amount of sex hormones is produced in a woman’s body in her 40s and beyond, maintaining balance.[1]

In addition, the body might look elsewhere for oestrogen once the ovaries start to slow down. This could easily lead to weight gain because fat cells are a key source of oestrogen storage. Furthermore, if a woman is already obese before menopause then the fat cells may create too much oestrogen in comparison to progesterone, leading to increased oestrogen dominance. [1]

Oestrogen dominance is also likely during prolonged periods of stress. This is because the stress hormone cortisol competes with progesterone. Thus progesterone levels decrease, inducing an imbalance of oestrogen and progesterone. [2] Signs of decreased progesterone, and oestrogen dominance, are:

  • Decreased sex drive
  • Irregular or otherwise absent periods
  • Bloating
  • Breast swelling and tenderness
  • Mood swings (irritability and/or depression)
  • Weight gain (particularly abdomen and hips)
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headaches, especially pre-menstrual [3]

ImageHow to cope

Find ways of managing/coping with stress that work for you. Ideas: regular reflexology or massage treatments, daily meditation, regular exercise, better time management, spending more time outdoors, spending time with animals/nature, keeping a diary or journal.

Eat a healthy balanced diet. Try to avoid white, refined carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, cake and biscuits. Make a switch to fresh vegetables, white meat and fish, pulses and whole grains.

Switch to organic. Eating organically can be expensive; if you cannot afford to go completely organic, try to avoid the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen”. This means if nothing else, always buy the following as organic produce (or avoid altogether): apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, peppers, kale and courgettes. The EWG’s “Clean 15” is a list which can be classed as “safe non-organic”: asparagus, avocados, cabbage, melon, sweetcorn, aubergine, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, mushrooms, onions, papaya, pineapple, frozen peas, sweet potatoes. [4]

Reduce use of stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol. Stimulants send the body’s hormones on a roller-coaster ride of high peaks followed by low drops creating a multitude of problems including cravings and fatigue.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t eliminate everything from your diet and make yourself miserable. Allow yourself that morning coffee; enjoy a piece of cake once a week; switch to a darker variety of chocolate with less sugar; enjoy a weekend glass of wine.

References

[1] Is it me or my hormones? by Marcelle Pick 2013

[2] The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford 2004

[3] The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup 2009

[4] Environmental Working Group http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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