Managing Menopause Symptoms: You Don’t Have to Suffer in Silence

This article will help figure out if someone may be going through menopause and if it’s time to seek professional help with managing the symptoms.

An older Asian woman smiling while drinking from a mug on a couch

Menopause represents a phase that every woman has to go through. A study reported that 52% of Malaysian women felt that menopause symptoms affected their quality of life. Yet, the majority of them (75%) did not seek any form of treatment to ease their symptoms. Although it is unclear why they did not attempt to reduce or overcome their symptoms, you do not have to suffer in silence like them.

Read on to learn more about menopause symptoms and the treatment options available. 

Understanding Menopause: Signs and Symptoms

Close up image of a middle-aged Asian woman holding her hand
Joint and muscular discomfort is one of the symptoms of menopause.

Natural menopause starts after the menstrual cycle stops for 12 consecutive months. There is no other obvious medical cause for it. It can occur as early as the 40s to late 50s. However, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the pathogenesis of the menopausal syndrome is kidney deficiencies and liver stagnation, says Eu Yan Sang TCM physician Ho Li Ying. In Malaysia, the mean age of onset of menopause is 50 years old, and the mean duration of menopausal symptoms is 8 years. 

During menopause, the depletion of oestrogen – one of the main female sex hormones – leads to symptoms that may affect the quality of life. Most Malaysian women experience joint and muscular discomfort (73%). Other symptoms that occurred in more than 50% of these women include fatigue, irritability, hot flushes/sweating and sleep problems. The top 3 most prevalent severe or very severe symptoms were joint and muscular discomfort, hot flushes/sweating, and sleep problems. 

In the following sections, we discuss the treatment of these symptoms using hormone therapy and alternative medicines. 

Hormone Therapy: Benefits and Risks

A woman sticking a patch on her left arm
Hormone therapy can be administered in the form of a skin patch.

Using hormone therapy can increase the female hormone levels in menopausal women, and oestrogen represents the most effective treatment for the symptoms discussed earlier, with higher doses associated with improved efficacy. Oestrogen formulations can be administered via oral pills and skin patches. Both modes of administration are similar in effectiveness, so you don’t have to worry if you are not a fan of swallowing pills. 

However, only 20% of Malaysian women who seek treatment for symptoms undergo hormone therapy, presumably due to concerns of breast cancer risk. Studies also report an increase in heart attacks, strokes, intestinal cancers, and hip fractures. Does this mean that hormone therapy is unsafe? 

The Women’s Health Initiative shows that while these risks exist, the absolute risks are small and much lower for younger women (50-59) than for older women. Besides, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved hormone therapies, tested for efficacy and safety. Hence, it is safe to receive hormone therapies to relieve menopause symptoms as long as the FDA approved them. 

Non-Pharmacological Medicines: The Preferred Alternative

Pieces of dong quai on a table, with a spoon containing slices of the herb placed beside them.
Chinese Angelica, a.k.a. dong quai is a traditional Chinese herb used in treating menopause symptoms.

Despite the proven efficacy and safety of hormone therapies, many women may still choose to seek other non-pharmacological alternatives. It is important to note that while these alternatives may ease menopausal symptoms for some women, there is limited scientific evidence to support their efficacy. 

The most popular alternative treatments in Malaysia include traditional herbs, vitamins, evening primrose oil and massage.

Traditional herbs

A combination of traditional Chinese herbs is effective in targeting problems related to the female reproductive system.

“Prepared rehmannia root (shou di), fleece flower root (he shou wu) and goji berries (gou qi zi) are remarkably effective in nourishing the liver and kidneys. Chinese Yam (shan yao) helps nourish the kidneys and strengthen the spleen,” explains physician Ho.

Alternatively, you can consume Bak Foong Pills. This formula has honey, astragalus root, and corydalis (yan hu suo) that can help maintain hormone balance. On the other hand, Menoease pills contain astragalus root, rehmanniae radix (shu di huang) and ginseng, which helps ease menopausal symptoms. 

Besides TCM, Malaysian women commonly use jamu, made of traditional herbs. Moreover, they also consume vitamin E, as it acts as an antioxidant in the body. Evening primrose oil contains essential omega-6 fatty acids and is another natural product that can help treat women’s health conditions. 

Acupressure to relieve menopause symptoms

Illustration of a foot with a red dot pointing at Tai Chong acupoint and another at San Yin Jiao acupoint
Pressing Tai Chong acupoint helps recuperate the qi, while San Yin Jiao acupoint helps nourish the kidneys, liver and spleen.

Stimulating acupoints can also help to ease the psychosomatic symptoms of menopause, including emotional disorders and insomnia. “Tai Chong helps to recuperate the qi and blood in the body and relieve liver (stagnation). San Yin Jiao helps to nourish and strengthen the kidneys, liver and spleen,” adds physician Ho. 

Menopausal symptoms are bothersome and can last longer than a decade. Fortunately, various management strategies are available to help you reduce discomfort during menopause, and you don’t have to suffer alone in silence. If you are currently going through menopause, consult your gynaecologist to discuss the most appropriate treatment for relieving symptoms.

References

  1. Abdullah B., Moize B., Ismail, BA., et al. Prevalence of menopausal symptoms, its effect to quality of life among Malaysian women and their treatment seeking behaviour. [Accessed 13 September 2021]
  2. Kaunitz, AM & Manson JE. 2016. Management of menopausal symptoms. [Accessed 13 September 2021]
  3. Manson, JE., Chlebowski, RT., Stefanick, ML., et al. 2013. The Women’s Health Initiative Hormone Therapy Trials: Update and Overview of Health Outcomes During the Intervention and Post-Stopping Phases. [Accessed 13 September 2021]
  4. Johnson A., Roberts, L., & Elkins G. 2019. Complementary and alternative medicine for menopause. [Accessed 13 September 2021]

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