Managing Menopause: How Integrative Care Can Help
July 21, 2023
The years during which a woman’s reproductive functions gradually slow down and eventually stop are known as perimenopause and menopause. A natural process, this transition typically begins between ages 45 and 55 and can last up to 10 years or longer.
“Ten or more years is a long time to cope with the often debilitating symptoms of menopause,” says Christine Kaiser, LAc, DACM, licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist at University Hospitals Connor Whole Health. “Women need to know that in addition to medical therapies such as hormone replacement, there are many natural, holistic ways to effectively manage their menopause symptoms. Through a combination of integrative therapies, most women will find relief and enjoy an improved quality of life.”
An Individual Experience
Every woman will experience the menopause transition differently – a lucky few may hardly notice the changes taking place, easing into their post-reproductive years with minimal or no problems. However, the majority of women will experience some combination of uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms as their bodies adjust to this new stage of life. The most common symptoms include:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Joint pain
- Mood swings
- Insomnia/sleep issues
- Low energy
- Brain fog
Integrative therapies can help ease these symptoms and offer women much-needed options. “The most important thing is consistency,” says Kaiser. “I recommend that women find things they enjoy doing and stick to it.”
Getting Started: Integrative Therapies for Menopause Management
“I highly recommend that women start with an integrative medicine consultation, offered at UH Connor Whole Health. This one-hour, one-on-one conversation is led by a provider (MD, NP or PA) with extensive training and expertise in integrative health,” says Kaiser. “Although not required, it provides a unique opportunity to talk to a medical professional about all aspects of your health with no judgement or pressure – the only goal is to provide you with the tools that can help you feel better.”
Following the consultation, one or more integrative health therapies may be recommended, including:
Acupuncture. This ancient technique involves the insertion of very thin, sterile needles into the body to stimulate change in key areas. “Based on research, the changes we see are decreased inflammation, improved blood flow, a shift in the nervous system to a restful state that supports healing, and the release of neurochemicals in the brain that promote relaxation and lower pain perceptions,” says Kaiser.
“These changes can help to balance hormones and bring the body back to a state of equilibrium. When the nervous system is coaxed away from a chronic ‘fight or flight’ state, it can help ease many menopausal symptoms,” she adds. “I typically recommend weekly sessions for 4-6 weeks to see how the patients respond and for how long the effects last. After that, women often come in monthly for a tune-up or more frequently if they are having higher stress or symptom flare-ups.”
Massage Therapy. Professional massage increases blood flow to problem areas and can promote relaxation, relieve tension and reduce pain. Patients often schedule monthly visits.
Meditation. “In-person meditation classes or online guided meditations are a great choice to help train the nervous system to relax,” says Kaiser. “This can have a positive effect on hormone balance, support stress management, improve sleep and promote relaxation.”
Yoga Therapy. Yoga is an ancient practice that brings together physical and mental disciplines to achieve peacefulness of body and mind. “Individual or group yoga classes are a great choice for decreasing pain, tension, stress and inflammation. Yoga can also improve balance and mobility – both of which are very important as we age,” says Kaiser.
Herbal Supplements. Certain dietary herbal supplements can have a positive impact on health. However, many supplements can interact with other medications, so it’s important to work with a qualified provider to determine which supplements are right for you.
Lifestyle Medicine. All integrative medicine providers, including acupuncturists, are qualified to counsel patients about lifestyle changes they can make to improve their health and quality of life. Lifestyle aspects that may be addressed include nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress management. Our experts can refer patients to UH specialists for more advanced care whenever necessary.
UH Connor Whole Health has a team of highly specialized integrative health providers with the expertise and knowledge to help women manage their menopause symptoms and improve overall health and wellness.
Christine Kaiser, LAc, DACM, is the Endowed Director of Reproductive Well-Being and the Clinical Manager of Acupuncture and Quality at UH Connor Whole Health.