According to Dr Shen (1914-2000), a modern master of Chinese medicine, menopause is one of ‘life’s gateways’.
In his book, Live Well, Live Long, Peter Deadman explains that these ‘gateways’ are periods in our lives which are characterised by rapid change, and when behaviour patterns that can harm or help the body have a greater impact. For instance, puberty is one such ‘gateway’. If a child’s lifestyle is balanced, his/her nourishment good, and his/her environment is free from stresses, then diseases which may have persisted throughout childhood have the potential to resolve during puberty. On the other hand if a child’s lifestyle is out of balance (e.g. family/educational stress, excessive or lack of exercise, poor diet), then problems can set in and persist into adult life.
For women, pregnancy and menopause, are additional ‘gateways’, presenting both opportunities and challenges. For some women, menopause is a challenging time, experienced in terms of loss – of health, youth, fertility, femininity. As such, it can become a gateway to a period of emotional and physical ill health. For other women, it can bring new beginnings, more assertiveness, health and vigour.
According to classical Chinese medical texts, around the age of 49/50, there’s a turning point for women, marked by a weakening in the yin. As this yin diminishes, the transformation of the qi and yang, which allow the work and gathering of the essences, is undermined. So there’s the possibility of an imbalance between yin and yang, and qi and blood. In symptoms, we may see these imbalances in the form of irritation, anger, anxiety, agitation during sleep, excessive body heat (hot flushes), memory loss and tiredness. Or sometimes, as the yang becomes more dominant, women feel a more powerful outgoing energy, as they enter a different period in their lives.
What I like about Dr Shen’s explanation is that these ‘gateways’ present opportunities to change our lifestyles, to adjust to the new organisation of life within us …
Peter Deadman (2016) Live Well, Live Long
Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee (2007) The Essential Woman: Female Health and Fertility in Chinese Classical Texts