Over the next decade, an entire generation of women will pass through the normal transition called menopause. While Western medicine typically offers hormone replacement therapy for the discomforts which may come with menopause, many women cannot or do not wish to take hormones. Traditional Chinese medicine has a great deal to offer these women. Instead of the standard hormone replacement therapy offered by most Western gynecologists, Chinese medical practitioners treat each woman individually, taking into account the whole pattern of each patient’s physical and mental-emotional symptoms. Treatment may include either one or a combination of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, dietary suggestions, and/or specific exercises or lifestyle recommendations.
Gynecology in general is an area in which Chinese medicine shines. Its treatment is humane, without side effects, and relatively inexpensive for a wide variety of disorders. Chinese medicine may be used instead of or in conjunction with Western medicine for the successful treatment of menopausal discomforts. There are, however, many advantages to the use of Chinese medicine during menopause and for a variety of other women’s health complaints.
1. Chinese medicine is one of the most holistic medical systems available today. This can be seen in a number of ways. First, Chinese medicine does not separate symptoms of a physical nature from those of a mental-emotional nature. Classically, Chinese medical theory expects specific mental/emotional conditions to go along with certain disease patterns, and expects these emotional symptoms to respond to treatment as well as any physical symptoms. Further, in Chinese medicine each and every sign and symptom is understood and interpreted in relationship to all the others. While an MD might choose to send a patient with a variety of symptoms to two or three specialists, a good practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine sees and understands all the symptoms together as a single pattern. Any treatment prescribed is designed to work effectively with the entire pattern and all its symptoms. Done skillfully, Chinese medicine need not, indeed cannot, separate a person into segmented parts treating one symptom or part at the expense of another. It is designed to treat the person, not just the disease.
2. Chinese medicine has individualized diagnostic and treatment techniques. Because of it holistic view of the body/mind, it is more specific for each patient’s needs than is Western medicine. For example, five women may come into a clinic with hot flashes, but each of these women’s hot flashes is accompanied by a variety of different signs and symptoms, no two of which are exactly alike. Instead of each women getting the same hormone replacement therapy, each of these five women will receive an individually tailored treatment plan with different herbs, different acupuncture therapy, and different lifestyle suggestions.
3. Chinese medicine has no side effects. Because treatment is so specifically tailored to each person, if the diagnosis has been correct, the treatments prescribed by Chinese medicine should have no side effects. Any mild side effects that may arise in the initial stages of herbal treatment can be corrected by adjustments to the herbal formula and acupuncture rarely has any unwanted side effects at all. In contradistinction, most drugs listed in a Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) have at least some expected and normal side effects and many have potentially serious, irreversible ones.