Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), as well as many cultures around the world, view menopause as a sacred right of passage for women, denoting a shift in a woman’s role in the community from that of mothers and professionals, to that of the matriarch and sage femme. It is believed that the cessation of menses creates less distraction from family life, allowing women to focus on the greater needs of the community. Often the women who have made this transition, are sought out for their vision, understanding, and wisdom by the younger people in need of advice for life’s problems. They help guide and shape the future of the community and because of this, they are held in high esteem. Elderly women are viewed as a community asset.
Now contrast that view of menopause with how the West perceives it – essentially as an unwelcome medical condition requiring treatment. In our society where sexual prowess is more important than wisdom, menopause marks the end of usefulness. Instead of gaining power and position, older women are often marginalized and the community ends up squandering a very valuable resource. Added to that insult, is the reality that stress, overwork, lack of proper rest, poor diet and lifestyle choices make menopausal symptoms much worse. Western women experience a much greater degree of hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, memory issues, foggy thinking, bone loss, and low energy. It’s not surprising that many women in Western cultures don’t look forward to menopause!
Now you may be thinking, “This is an interesting philosophical discussion, but what does all this have to do with treating my menopause?” My point here is that menopause is not a medical condition. Like menarche, it is a natural change for the body. This is important because so often we treat is as a medical problem and miss both a valuable right of passage for women as well as not taking advantage of a valuable resource. I am not suggesting to avoid treating bad menopausal symptoms, but rather, reconsider how we approach this phase of life.
Ultimately, I believe we need to reframe how we think about this important life phase. I ask you who better to consult for advice on a life problem than someone who has actually lived through it? Perhaps menopause isn’t something that needs treatment? The exception being in cases where the symptoms are so bad, they detract from the quality of life. If that is the case, I invite you to consider natural therapies. TCM and other natural therapies are highly effective with virtually no risk associated with their use. If you are interested in learning how TCM treats hot flashes and night sweats, look for part II of this article to find out how TCM helps menopausal symptoms.