Maintain your body on Menopause with Traditional Chinese Medicine
by Junko Lodge, registered acupuncturist at Yinstill Reproductive Wellness
After more than 30 years of maintaining a regular menstrual cycle, the role of the reproductive organs changes. The communication between the reproductive organs and the command center in the brain, the hypothalamus, goes through a transitionary period. The message continues to be sent from the hypothalamus but the reproductive organs are no longer able to fulfill their tasks.
The autonomic nervous system which controls involuntary body functions such as breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure and the dilation/constriction of blood vessels is deeply connected with this command center and is also triggered by its attempt to get the reproductive organs to function. That is why this hormone imbalance makes the body unable to adjust body temperature for example, so that excessive sweating or hot flushes can occur. Irritability, anxiety, depression, thirst, vaginal dryness, burning pain on the tongue or bad breath, irregular heartbeat and sleep issues may also manifest. Other possible symptoms include, feeling nauseous due to excessive stomach acid production, brittle nails, hair loss, headache, fatigue, joint pain and osteoporosis. The list goes on and on, but the good news is, if you listen to your body and maintain it well during the peri-menopausal stage, you can prevent these symptoms. If you already have some of these symptoms, it’s never too late to ease your symptoms and prepare for the future.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we use the same organ names as Western medicine but the functions and understandings can be a little different. Let me explain by using the understanding of how a car works as a metaphor.
The Liver is the like the car’s engine, responsible for movement and regulation of the moving parts of the car. The Kidneys would be seen as providing the oil/liquid in the car. With insufficient oil and liquid, the engine will not be able to cool down, it will overheat and if allowed to continue will result in the early breakdown of the car’s moving parts. Similarly, in the human body, when the Kidney does not supply the Liver with ample fluid, heat builds up causing symptoms such as irritability, headaches and insomnia.
What do you do when you see the check engine light comes on in your car? Do you keep driving your car?
What about when your body sends you signals that it is depleted? Do you drink coffee to force your body into action, go for a run, work overtime or fill your social calendar? Then when you can’t sleep when you are over tired or too stimulated from caffeine or exercise, do you reach for wine or something stronger to calm the body? When it is put in this way, the healthy answer becomes obvious.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a great alternative way of balance back your hormones and functions. Acupuncture is a big tool of TCM. Acupuncture can treat autonomic nervous system-related diseases through modulating the imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic activities. This is one of the reasons why acupuncture is so effective for menopause.
So what can be done to get the body back into balance? A comprehensive approach that addresses the individual and their unique body constitution, lifestyle and dietary habits is the right path. “Hot flushes” is a common symptom of menopause, but not every single woman experiences it. Also severities and manifestations are different. You must have a treatment which is totally customized for you. Simply put, that treatment is Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Insightful blog about the difficulties of Endometriosis, from our friends at Yinstill Reproductive Heath.
The prevalence of endometriosis is much more common than you might think, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada report that 1 in 10 women of reproductive age have endometriosis and it was found to be present in at least half of the women who report experiencing chronic pelvic pain. For many women it may go undiagnosed until later in life when they experience fertility challenges. The most common symptom associated with endometriosis is pelvic pain that may range in pain from mild to extreme and is directly related to the menstrual cycle.
For many women, pain and cramping prior to or during menstruation has been a symptom that they have always associated with menstruation and was presumed to be normal. Pain is the body’s way of telling us there is something blocked and/or out of balance. Pain and cramping with menstruation may be normal or common for many women, as the stats above show, but it does not mean it is ideal or healthy.
Each woman with endometriosis will experience symptoms differently depending on the location and extent of their endometriosis. In addition to pain, women may experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation and nausea, as well as reproductive health concerns which include painful intercourse and fertility challenges.
Since the presentation of symptoms varies amongst women, the combination of treatment options that work for one woman may not necessarily work for another. This is where a holistic approach that addresses the individual and their unique presentation can be so beneficial. Using a combined approach of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, as well as dietary and lifestyle recommendations, relief of symptoms will often be seen in a few menstrual cycles. The conventional medical treatment of endometriosis typically involves oral contraceptive therapy which suppresses the growth of endometriotic tissue and/or surgery to remove the lesions. The approach with Chinese medicine treats the condition by addressing the specific mechanism causing pain and reducing other sources of inflammation that may be contributing to the full set of symptoms experienced. Therefore, treatment with acupuncture and herbal medicine can be either complementary or as an alternative to medical interventions.
What makes the pain worse?
Inflammation is the primary cause of pain and most of the other symptoms associated with endometriosis. Inflammation may be a result of food sensitivities, overexertion, trauma, chronic stress exposure, or autoimmune conditions. Identifying the causes and controlling the inflammation are the keys to getting relief.
What are the top 5 things that can be done to reduce inflammation and pain?
Avoid coffee and reduce salt intake
30 minutes of gentle exercise daily to promote blood circulation
Avoid cold – ice water, ice cream, cold raw vegetables
Stress management – mindfulness training, meditation, Pilates and yoga, breathing exercises (Qi gong)
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine
Dr. Harris Fisher is a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine atYinstill Reproductive Wellness (http://yinstill.com) clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia. His practice focuses on the treatment of fertility, pelvic pain and menstrual disorders. Harris also provides complimentary care to women and couples undergoing assisted reproductive techniques (IVF, ICSI, IUI) and is a fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM).
Good Night. Sleep Clean. by Maria Konnikova
Sometimes we get caught up in our hectic lives and long to do lists; it’s easy to forget the importance of a good night’s sleep. Maintain your “neural housekeeper” by giving your body adequate time to repair itself.
Our very own Karen Weggler’s debut contribution to the Genesis Fertility ‘Wellness Wednesday’ blog.
Balance is our true nature. Repeat. Balance IS our true nature. We are comprised of 50 trillion cells all living together in the complex, cooperative community of our body; that body inherently has the capacity to be balanced.
Yet it often doesn’t feel balanced in the day to day, busy-ness of life.
Breath is a fabulous way to connect to your body, your centre, and the balance that is our true nature. It is also “the most accurate metaphor we have for the way we personally approach life, how we live our lives, and how we react to the inevitable changes that life brings us (Fahri ’96).
We take approximately 26,000 breaths a day. We breathe in, we breathe out. Sounds simple, yes? Yet many of us don’t breathe well, having adopted less than optimal strategies due to stress or poor postural habits, and this affects our body-mind in a plethora of ways. We need to reconnect with breath allowing it to become the friend it once was; one we know well, that we can take comfort in, and go to for support both emotionally and physically.
Becoming connected to the breath asks that we become inquisitive and bring a quality of attention to it that is investigative and curious. If openness and patience are your guides, with a few tools or strategies, you will begin to sense and feel in a way that is experiential. When we experience something differently – really feel and experience it in our bodies rather than just thinking it (though thinking it is important too) – we begin to change habits and develop new patterns that might better serve us. Because the way we breathe, or don’t breathe, is integrally linked to our bodies neurologically, cellularly and chemically, attending to it connects us with these systems in a healthier, meaningful way.
How did we become disassociated with our breath when it is such a natural happening? As I mentioned, for many folks, it’s posture. In our current day-to-day work lives, we sit countless hours in repetitive flexion patterns that leave us collapsed in the chest and overstretched though our back bodies. This affects the movement of our diaphragm and when our diaphragm isn’t working well, our breathing patterns change and not for the better! Restricted breathing patterns can also be attributed to years spent holding in our tummies. Simply put, constantly, rigidly holding your abdominals muscles is bad news on many fronts. Holding patterns like this actually weaken your abs. They restrict your diaphragm, and tighten all the muscles between the ribs, thus inhibiting the free-flowing expansion contraction of the ribcage as it rides the natural wave of lung volume as they expand and condense with breath.
To reconnect with breath, one of my favourite exercises is to lie down and imagine my body as a cylinder. If the muscular, boney structure of our bodies is our outer cylinder, the soft organs that give that cylinder structure is the inner one. Expanding and condensing through breath gives us volume and shape. It is our first experience of space and the feeling that we are three dimensional beings.
I suggest getting comfortable by lying down and sinking into the surface below you. Gravity is our friend. We live and move in relationship to the earth and her gravity. We depend on gravity for support so use it to your advantage whenever you can. Lying on your back is a perfect place to start meeting the earth and having it’s support meet you.
Allow the inhale to expand you in all directions, front and back, side to side, vertically and diagonally. Imagine a balloon that expands equally in all these directions as you inhale. As you exhale, the balloon condenses, coming into your centre and narrowing you gently after the widening your experienced with your inhale.
Many of my teachers encourage a connection to the soft organs because they tend to relate to volume and weight. These qualities can help the body and breathing pathways return to a more neutral, natural state. As our organ systems are intimately connected with the parasympathetic part of the nervous system, allowing a dialogue between the inner and outer cylinder systems alleviates tension patterns and anxiety. Finding ways to mitigate these states of being is something all of us in our busy lives can absolutely appreciate! Breath is the physiological support for all life’s processes. Finding ways to breathe easily affords us real freedom, and helps to quiet our busy minds, returning us to a more balanced, systematically-relational, healthy state.
It’s not just your gluts that need a workout! Dr. Michael Merzenich chief scientific officer at Posit Science on cognitive flexibility and maintaining a healthy brain through mindful movement patterns.
Insightful TEDMED talk from Danny Hillis on the evolution of medicine and the studies behind “pre-empting” illness. Worth a watch.
Listed in the Vancouver Sun as one of the top 10 events to check out from September 26th-October 3rd, the Underland dance production is sure to impress!
Karen will be checking out these amazing dancers tomorrow night. Check out this Youtube clip for a glimpse of this group. Super cool!
Photo Credit: Harolds Planet
Photo credit: The Daily Mail
Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio is apparently among the many others using pilates as her secret work out weapon! Recently photographed at a studio in Santa Monica, the lovely model strutted her stuff while she worked out in funky bright pink leggings and toe sox.
Check out the pictures here for a look at Alessandra throughout her workout.
We are lucky enough to have so many people in our lives and world who we love and who inspire us. Unfortunately, sometimes you must say goodbye, and sometimes these goodbyes are truly permanent.
We would like to take a moment to commemorate two in the field of pilates who truly inspired many.
Julian Littleford, originally a dancer, became an internationally recognized leader in pilates. With a love for movement, he opened a pilates studio in San Diego. Julian passed away on August 31st, 2013 following a battle with cancer.
Secondly comes Romana Kryzanowska. Also a dancer in her youth, she turned to pilates following an injury. Working directly under Joseph Pilates in New York, she went on to teach the pilates method in its purest form. She, too, recently passed away.
A big thank you to both of your efforts and passion. We offer condolences and love to the friends and families of Julian and Romana.
For more information on each of these great individuals, check the following pages: