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.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome can occur when the eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. This can leave incredibly dry eyes, or the other extreme, the eyes can water continually to try and remedy the imbalance.  This condition can affect up to 60% of menopausal/perimenopausal women. There is some evidence that shows imbalances in progesterone, testosterone and oestrogen can affect the eye. There are progesterone, testosterone and oestrogen receptors on the cornea and the meibomion glands (sebaceous glands located on the rim of the eyelid).[1] This means that there is a connection between tears and the sex hormones. There is an understanding that dry eyes can result from a deficiency in any one of the sex hormones.

ID-100202869In treating a client with dry eye syndrome, I developed a treatment plan focusing on re-balance and detoxification. Attention to the endocrine system is key, along with the liver, gallbladder, and also the urinary system, particularly the kidney.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the organ of the liver rules the eye; the eye it its outlet. So dry eyes might be an indicator that the body is not efficient in detoxifying or there might be an imbalance which is preventing this from happening optimally.

The  eye and the kidney, in reflexology terms, are within the same zone, zone 2. In addition, thinking about meridians (the TCM energy channels) the kidney’s paired meridian is the bladder, and this starts in the medial aspect of the eye. For this reason I decided to pay attention to the urinary system during the treatments.

Sure enough, some nodules presented around the bladder and ureter on the left foot. The following day my client contacted me to tell me that she discovered she was suffering with cystitis. It was fascinating to to find symptoms of an imbalance presenting in the feet before it had presented itself to the person. My client self-treated the cystitis with an over-the-counter remedy which cleared it up in two days. But one could argue, without the reflexology treatment, the bout might have lasted longer, or been more severe.

Another interesting consequence of the treatment was that the client’s eyes stopped watering during the treatment. An instant effect like this I find truly remarkable, even though they continued to water after the treatment.

Let’s return to the liver: TCM would suggest that the liver be worked as the eye is the outlet for this organ, but also it’s pairing: the gall bladder. Emotionally the liver is associated with anger, so as a therapist it is beneficial to remain open minded about what is going on “inside” your client, mentally and emotionally, and not just recently, but long-standing emotions that can manifest in different ways. Similarly, the kidney is associated with the emotion of fear, and this conjures up images of water (crying, tears, weeping, bed-wetting, urinating).

Similarly to my advice given for perimenopause, eating a balanced diet of whole foods, whole grains, organic vegetables and fruit, reduced sugar and processed foods, and a reduction in the use of stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol, can help in re-balancing. In addition, an uptake in omega-3 can also help reduce inflammation caused by dry eye syndrome, as well as balance tear stimulation and the secretion of sebum which assists eye lubrication.

[1] http://www.womentowomen.com

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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