In the United States, the average age of menopause is 51.3 years, and 11 million women reach natural menopause each year.  In Chinese medicine, this period of life is called "second Spring" and does not have to be difficult.
Peri menopause is the long period of time spanning 4 to 8 years during which cycle changes, ovulation patterns become erratic, leading to menstrual cycles complete stopping.
Menopause is said to have occurred when a period has stopped for 12 consecutive cycles. Menopause can also occur in a woman at any age if the ovaries have been surgically removed or damaged through disease or toxic agents.
More than 85% of women experience symptoms associated with estrogen deficiency related to menopause, including vaginal dryness, hot flashes, or night sweats. Some sources say 45% of women experience hot flashes for longer than 5 years.
What is a hot flash?
The scientific term for hot flashes, night sweats and flushes is "vasomotor symptoms "
Hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth, which are usually most intense over the face, neck and chest. The skin might become red, as if blushing. Hot flashes can also cause sweating, and if too much body heat is lost, there might be a chilled feeling afterward.
These symptoms typically are the worst during the first one to two years of menopause. For some women, however, they may persist indefinitely.
Why are hot flashes happening?
During peri-menopause and at menopause, the female fertility hormones estrogen & progesterone decline, while follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) rise in an attempt to stimulate the ovaries to respond.
The hypothalamus, our thermo-regulating center in the brain is adjusting to the hormonal shifts. The blood vessels dilate (flushing) and the body sweats in order to cool itself down.
Risk Factors for Vasomotor Symptoms include :
- being of African American ethnicity
- Obesity (adipose tissue is thermogenic)
In the eyes of Chinese medicine, the female (yin) hormones are declining, leading to a situation of yin deficiency. Yin characteristics are cool and moist, so when yin becomes deficient, the body becomes hot.
Acupuncture helps with hot flashes
The North American Menopause Society has recognized acupuncture 's benefit for reducing hot flashes as well as improving sleep patterns in postmenopausal women.
At Taproot, we see that our patients who have regular acupuncture during the transition of peri-menopause often express less discomfort and fewer symptoms when they reach menopause. This is because we have been able to address the root cause of minor issues and treat them before they became more complex.
Studies have found that with acupuncture treatments, hot flashes can be reduced by 35% and insomnia by 50%, and demonstrated that hot flashes are significantly reduced in patients receiving acupuncture, as compared to those receiving other types of care.
Hot flashes may be aggravated by hot weather, smoking, caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, tight clothing, heat and stress.
Try to be mindful and avoid your hot flash "triggers." Some women notice hot flashes when they eat a lot of sugar. Exercising in warm temperatures might make hot flashes worse
Nutrition and supplements for hot flashes
Favor foods that nourish the Yin:
Pear, asian pears if you can find them
Sesame seeds, preferably black
Rock sugar if you eat any sugar at all
Tremella mushroom aka silver-ear
Sweet potato and other root veggies
Wheat germ and wheat germ oil
Herbal formulas and supplement that your acupuncturist can prescribe include the following. However, we do not recommend you ever self medicate with Chinese medicine, as it is pattern-based and highly personalized. The formula that works for you might be harmful to another woman.
Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan
Geng Nian Wan
Nü Shen San
Other supplements that may be helpful:
Zinc increases levels of progesterone and decrease levels of estrogen. It also helps to build strong bones, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Vitamin E can balance volatile hormones
Flaxseed oil lowers cholesterol and helps combat mood swings
Essential fatty acid supplements like borage oil or evening primrose oil can help moisten tissue and prevent vaginal dryness
Talk to your acupuncturist!
 ACOG practice bulletin no. 141: management of menopausal symptoms. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;123:202-216.