Women's Issues


In Chinese medicine, gynecological problems have a long history of treatment. The earliest records of gynecological medical writings date from the Shang dynasty (1500-1000 BC). In that period, inscriptions on bones have been found dealing with childbirth problems. A Chinese text from the Warring States period (476-221 BC) describes medicinal plants to treat infertility.

Today, some women are finding that treatment of reproductive concerns, menstrual issues and menopause from a Western perspective is not entirely satisfactory. They are looking more toward holistic approaches, including acupuncture and herbal remedies to deal not only with the manifestations of a problem or disease, but also identifying the root cause.

Breast Disease

For most women, breast disease is a very frightening topic, perhaps more so than other life-threatening diseases, such as heart disease. There are a number of psychological and sociological reasons why this is so. Western medicine has few if any treatments to offer for so-called benign breast diseases. Oriental medicine can diagnose and effectively treat many female breast diseases in their early stages, rather than waiting for Western medical intervention at a later date, which may use radical and invasive procedures. Oriental medicine then can be used as preventive medicine.

If a woman has been diagnosed with serious breast disease such as cancer, traditional Chinese medicine in combination with Western medical treatment can be an effective duo to help the individual with emotional issues and easing the harshness of Western treatment.

Menopause & Menopausal Syndrome

American society and the media often present menopause as a disease to be put off as long as possible. From an Oriental medicine perspective, menopause is a naturally occurring transition in women's lives. In many cultures where aging brings power and status, menopausal complaints are almost unheard of. In Western societies where older women are often less valued and respected, around 80 percent of the women have menopausal complaints.

Acupuncture is often effective in helping women transition through menopause. From an Oriental medicine perspective, menopausal syndrome often involves the energy of the Liver being stuck and/or a woman's energy (Qi) flowing in the wrong direction. Since a strong point in acupuncture in its ability to regulate energy flow and balancing of the Yin and Yang energies, acupuncture is a well-suited modality for menopausal difficulties.

Premenstrual Difficulties

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is defined as a collection of differing signs and symptoms, including both mental and physical, which occur only before the menses (after ovulation) and are relieved when menstruation begins. Depending on how premenstrual syndrome is diagnosed, an estimate of women affected with moderate to severe symptoms is about thirty-five percent. PMS has been described as the world's commonest disease.

Common symptoms:

  • Anxiety, irritability, mood swings, nervousness, rage, uncontrollable crying
  • Depression, insomnia, lethargy, confusion, poor concentration
  • Bloating, weight gain, headaches, breast tenderness
  • Increased appetite, sugar and/or salt cravings, fatigue
  • Water retention, constipation, diarrhea, acne and exacerbation of asthma

Most often from an Oriental medicine view, it is all about stagnation of Liver energies (Qi), which has various etiological causes, from both excess and deficiency patterns. Chinese medicine has long recognized that when energies of the Liver are flowing freely and harmoniously, the myriad of diseases will not arise, including menstrual issues.

Other Women's Health Issues

Acupuncture during pregnancy can be supportive to the woman and fetus in general, but also helpful for some unique and sometimes serious symptoms. With the cessation of the menses, different acupuncture meridians undergo changes which are typical of pregnancy, but do not occur at other times in a woman's life. Commonly acupuncture can often provide relief for morning sickness, edema, anxiety, constipation and other issues for a pregnant woman, as well as support for the woman after delivery. Infertility issues can also be addressed.

Menstrual irregularities, such as early or late periods, heavy or scanty periods, no periods, painful periods and flooding and trickling of menstrual flow are commonly treated with Oriental medicine and acupuncture.

Dieting and Weight Loss

A number of women ask me about weight control. There seems to be so many methods out there on how to diet and loose weight, including some various Oriental medicine variations. I believe weight loss is more about balance, including foods eaten and also lifestyle issues.

We all have heard the expression, "The way you eat is an expression of who you are." Good food, good company and the right environment can bring an inner joy that even the simplest of foods can taste wonderful and be nourishing. Those who eat only for the taste of food or are on a diet often develop cravings for something they aren't getting. Cravings from an Oriental perspective often indicate an organ system imbalance -- the cravings are a symptom of an underlying imbalance.

With my Oriental medicine background, I believe the best way to treat "weight" is not to place too much emphasis on it, but treat the underlying cause of excess weight gain or weight retention and other energetic imbalances. A healthy body weight will automatically follow when the imbalances are corrected unless the patient is so severely eating disordered that they cannot remain with the regimen. Patients of this sort are best recognized prior to beginning acupuncture treatment and referred for other kinds of support or counseling as well as acupuncture treatments.

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