Archive for June, 2013


This blog post has a few good points. Acupuncture and herbology are not just Chinese. Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is a term used a lot. I don’t think I would have gotten parental approval to go to graduate school for it if not for people telling them it is harder to get into traditional medical school than modern medical school in Korea. And Oriental is a word with its own ick factor.

“It’s only the east if you’re from somewhere else. It’s a Eurocentric name… which is why it’s wrong.” Traditional East Asian Medicine still is a bit of that, but it’s better than the other two, in my opinion. I’m not sure if it’s going to stick, but I’ll try it.

Regular blog readers know my whole household is all about the cat, who is literally The Genki Neko. The humans frequently say, “Go Team Cat!” and high five if we’ve, for example, prepared a particularly nice dinner. Thus the title for today.

Feeling prickly. Flushed. Breaking out in a sweat. Waking up at night with the sheets all drenched. So hot, you itch. Like you might never feel cool again. Summer in Texas? Try Summer in Texas and going through menopause.

If you’re reading this for someone else and never had a hot flash? (Say, too young, or male?) If you aren’t prone to low blood pressure, you can simulate one by taking 30 to 50 mg of niacin. (Not niacinamide, and check with your doctor first if you are on any medications.) In the summer, this is an uncomfortable exercise in empathy. In the winter, it’s a pretty neat trick to make doing the dishes more comfortable when on camping trips. While Asian women experience hot flashes less than many demographics, Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) has a well developed explanation of the phenomenon.

TEAM has its roots in balance. The modern medical term would be homeostasis, keeping the internal environment of a living organism stable. For life processes, temperature, pH, concentrations of water, sugar, and electrolytes, among other things, need to be in a pretty narrow range.

The most fundamental TEAM balance is the yin/yang balance. Yin and yang are opposite, but complementary. Like light and dark, something is not precisely one or the other, but they are on a scale. An overcast day is darker than a sunny one but is lighter than the night of a new moon. A man can be empathetic, and a woman can be strong.

 

Yin

Yang

female

male

cold

hot

dark

light

matter

energy

wet

dry

stillness

activity

contracting

expanding

 

As modern medicine explains menopause as estrogen withdrawal, TEAM looks at it as declining yin in the body balance. When there is not enough yin, yang takes over, resulting in symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and irritability. Fortunately, there are ways to supplement yin that aren’t straight hormone replacement!

So how can you beat the heat from the inside and out?

Some very basic yin boosts include staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax. Smoking or being around a lot of secondhand smoke is particularly bad for menopause–fire is about as yang as you can get! Although stillness is yin, exercise is beneficial. Regular activity from the muscles leads to the internal organs not having to work as hard.

While Black Cohosh is a very popular western herb, it is not in the TEAM materia medica for menopause. It is in the chapter for the common cold, though. Eating a slice of watermelon every day (nibble on the rind a bit; that part is beneficial, too) can help clear heat from the body. More fruits and vegetables are good in general. Meat, dairy, and alcohol promote heat. One drink may promote relaxation and benefit the heart. More than one makes the body work harder, so cut yourself off.

For more specialized treatment, see a licensed acupuncturist. Acupuncture is generally very relaxing and has recently gotten good press for diminishing hot flashes. In my clinical experience, herbs are more effective and efficient for these symptoms. In Texas, acupuncturists take a national exam for herbs as well as acupuncture. There are a few very commonly used formulas for hot flashes, but your particular case may call for something different.

I would recommend to everyone trying to survive summer, wear layers and wicking fabrics. Carry a water bottle–you’ll drink if it’s with you. I hope this helps you stay cool!

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