Read an Excerpt
The Ancient Healing Practice
That Offers Healthy Way Out of
Today's Hormone Dilemma
As you undoubtedly know from your own experience, menopause doesn't usually happen all at once. For most women, it comes on gradually over a period of years. No matter what stage you are in -- from the early years (called perimenopause) when you body is preparing for the cessation of menstruation, through menopause, and after when your period has actually ended, TCM can support you and your health.
What characterizes these stages and their symptoms? During perimenopause, you may begin to experience such symptoms as irregular periods, mood swings, or frequent bouts of fatigue. If you've moved out of this prepatory state and progressed to menopause, then you may experience the much written about, full-blown menopausal symptoms of hot flashes, vaginal dryness, loss of sex drive, digestive and urinary problems, and more. If you are now in the postmenopause stage when your period has stopped, you may still have some lingering symptoms and you are now also more vulnerable to heart disease, breast cancer, and osteoporosis. At each of these stages, TCM provides a comprehensive framework for dealing with these and other symptoms, as well as a way to help you experience a healthy journey for the rest of your life.
Because many women are unfamiliar with TCM, the next logical questions, of course, are how does TCM work and how can it help me? To answer this fully, I'd like to take the time to provide some history about this ancient healing practice and its timetested specialty of treating women's problems -- particularly the diagnosisand treatment of menopause, or what TCM calls Menstrual Cycle Ending Symptoms.
TCM's Long History of Understanding a Woman's Body
TCM is alive and well today, practiced side-by-side with Western medicine in the top medical centers and hospitals of China. Just how old the healing art of TCM is no one really knows. Generally, it is considered among the most ancient in the world. It is the only one that has remained in continuous practice with a dedicated, government-supported system of practitioners, hospitals, colleges, and academies for more than five thousand years. Interest in TCM and its healing practices is growing rapidly worldwide. Today in the United States, there are more than sixty-five schools or institutes that teach acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy.
The true origins of TCM occurred long before its principles and theories were written down twenty-five hundred years ago in the Huang Di Nei Jing (pronounced WHONG DEE NAY JEENG), considered to be the first TCM "textbook." This work is attributed to the Yellow Emperor, but scholars do not know who the real author is.
The Huang Di Nei Jing is a comprehensive work that outlines the entire structure of TCM and how it should be practiced. Among many things, it describes in sharp detail -- without the aid of x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) -- the human body and how it works; the role of Qi and the meridians (energy pathways that carry Qi throughout the body and with which acupuncture is concerned); as well as how the body interrelates with the spirit, the natural environment, and the greater Universe.
This remarkably comprehensive work addresses methods of diagnosis and treatment, as well as how to treat the source and not the symptoms of specific problems. It also describes the principle of prevention -- the gateway to real health and longevity. This is especially relevant for women whose menopausal problems can be prevented well before they arrive at the transitional time in their lives. No other medicine has a specialty that has such a long-lived, practical, and practicable framework in prevention.
It is in this ancient text that we see the first references to women and their distinct life cycles. What the Nei Jing tells us is that a woman's Qi -- and specifically her kidney Qi -- moves in seven-year cycles. (A man's cycle is eight years long.) At the end of her first seven years, a healthy young girl's kidney Qi becomes abundant, manifesting itself in the growth of hair and permanent teeth. At fourteen years old, this Qi or life force, reaches its peak, causing the onset of puberty and the beginning of menstruation. A woman flourishes throughout her "fertile" years, and then at around age thirty-five, her Qi begins its natural decline. All men and women experience this natural energy decline (it's why and how we age), but how steeply and how rapidly your energy declines is actually under your control. This is a TCM concept that I think most Western women will be very interested in because so many of them really want to take responsibility for controlling their own health and healing. They are just looking for a healthy way to do it that works. Menopause usually occurs between the sixth and seventh cycles, or between the ages of forty-two and forty-nine. At this time, the Nei Jing tells us, a woman's kidney Qi begins to drop dramatically, menstruation ceases, and she may begin to experience many of the signs and symptoms of age.
The following chart indicates that, while kidney Qi declines normally over time, another course is possible. This other pathway can mean a delay in the onset of menopause and an increase in both the length and quality of a woman's life. This alternative course is only possible, however, if a woman takes care of herself so that she maintains her Qi at a higher level for a longer time.A Women's Guide to a Trouble-Free Menopause. Copyright � by Nan Lu. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.