“At seven times seven a woman’s heavenly dew wanes;
the pulse of her Conception channel decreases.
The Qi that dwelt in the baby’s palace moves upward into her heart, and her wisdom is deepened.”
- Nei Jing (2600 BC)
In Taoist and Traditional Chinese Medicine, menopause is referred to as the "Second Spring". It represents the renewal of energy within the body, gradual energy conservation and deep self-nourishment.
Throughout many cultures, ageing is celebrated, and elders within the community are revered and respected for their wisdom and life experiences. At the time of menopause, the energy or Qi, as well as the Blood that was once utilised to nurture the uterus is now redirected to the Heart, where our Shen, or Spirit resides. It is this redirection of Qi and Blood that allows a woman’s access to her higher consciousness and connection to self to blossom.
This marks the beginning of a new cycle, one that represents creativity, renewal and self-exploration. To deepen your understanding of Shen, read our article ‘The Three Treasures: Jing, Qi and Shen’.
Menopause and YinYang
So why is it that so many women suffer through what has the potential to be a beautiful transition?
It comes down to balance, the harmony of Yin and Yang within the body.
As with any changes, transitions or fluctuations within the body, there is a period of re-adjustment that can take place as the body works to find its new state of equilibrium. Many factors including genetics, constitution, diet, lifestyle and environment can all influence how easily the body is able to find balance. For some, pre-existing imbalances can contribute to a number of symptoms that are commonly associated with peri-menopause and menopause, these can include:
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Joint pain
- Vaginal dryness
- Heart palpitations
- Digestive discomfort
- Bladder dysfunction
- Mood changes
- Excessive worry and mood fluctuations
- Changes in libido
- Change in cycle length
All of these symptoms point to an underlying Qi imbalance and would suggest that there is an opportunity to deepen into listening and learning from the body during this potent time of transformation.
From our perspective here at SuperFeast, the reason women suffer during peri-menopause is that they are being handed what Naturopath Lara Briden refers to as a 'report card' for their life. These big transitions, like the swings between seasons, stir up what has settled, what has not been processed, what is being hidden behind a facade of being busy and capable and productive and what we 'should' do. When we hit menopause, bam, the energy suddenly shifts and we're left scrambling.
It's a rebirth and a renewal and it's big. But it's meant to be. It's moving from the Summer season, of motherhood and intense caregiving and family focus, down into the Autumn season, so the energy drops, it starts to wane, and you're no longer bolstered by the Yang of the fertile years, you're feeling the Yin and it's huge for a lot of women because it's so uncomfortable. Suddenly it's not as easy to keep pushing anymore. Suddenly you can't. You don't want to. It's huge because it's about conserving your resources now, being discerning, and starting to prioritise self-care in a way that wasn't possible in the mothering years.
Menopause and Kidney Jing
The Kidneys govern the expression of our sexual function and associated hormones. The biggest changes occur at puberty, during pregnancy and postpartum, and during menopause. This decline in Kidney function is what inevitably induces menopause in the body. This usually occurs around the ages of 45-55 in women, and through a Western lens represents the decline of oestrogen and progesterone levels in the body, with the eventual cessation of menstruation.
Returning to the concept of Kidney YinYang, menopausal symptoms are due to a decline of Kidney Jing in its Yin or Yang aspect.
Yin is responsible for nourishing, cooling and moistening the body. A deficiency can lead to heat, dryness and lack of nourishment in all areas of the body – all symptoms of menopause. There can also be a deficiency of Kidney Yang present during menopause. Although menopause is often considered a Kidney Yin deficiency at the surface level, there can often be an overlapping deficiency of Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang, although always with a predominance of one over the other. It is through this lens that we can see that both the Yin and Yang forces within the body need to find harmony and balance.
From a Chinese perspective, ‘Tian Gui’ is a manifestation of Kidney-Jing that makes a woman fertile and the lack of which causes menopausal symptoms. ‘Tian’ is translated to ‘Heaven’ or ‘Heavenly’ and ‘Gui’ roughly translates to the concept of Water. This is why hot flushes are so common, when Kidney Water is not strong enough to keep us cool, we burn too hot - Yin, Yin Yin is the prescription!
‘Heaven’ suggests the cosmic influence on hormonal cycles, occurring every 7 years. Tian Gui arrives at roughly 14, bringing with it our menstrual cycle, and “dries up” at around 49. As the body ages, by this seventh cycle, we begin to see the functions of various organs decline, particularly the Kidneys. As mentioned earlier, a gradual decline in Kidney Qi, Jing and Blood occurs as a woman transitions through peri-menopause and menopause. This leads to an imbalance between Qi, Blood and Kidney YinYang. The root cause of menopausal symptoms begins in this decline in the Kidneys, subsequently impacting the Heart, Liver and Spleen. This is why we place such an emphasis on Jing-supporting herbs and lifestyle practices at SuperFeast.
*If this is all new to you, and you feel unsure about whether you are experiencing a Yin or Yang imbalance, then it’s best to work with a Chinese medicine practitioner/acupuncturist.
Menopause and Bone Health
In Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys also govern the Bones and the tissues associated with the skeletal structure. Kidney Qi/Jing is stored in the Kidneys and is transformed into Bone Marrow, which provides the nutrients for bone development and Blood formation. When Jing is abundant, this transformation supports the growth and maintenance of strong, healthy bones. During menopause, however, the decline in Kidney Essence can impair the nourishment of the bones, leading to brittle bones and osteoporosis. Through a Western lens, the drop in oestrogen levels associated with the menopausal transition period can lead to more bone resorption than formation, resulting in osteoporosis.
Supporting Kidney health and protecting Jing Essence through this time may have a protective effect on the bones, ensuring that musculoskeletal integrity remains strong.
Supportive Lifestyle Habits During Menopause
To support yourself through this transition, here are some lifestyle and dietary habits that you can incorporate:
- Ensure you are allowing your body to properly rest. Burning the candle at both ends depletes Jing Essence.
- Incorporate gentle to moderate movement every day - do whatever feels best for your body. Weight-bearing, even just your own body weight, is amazing for your bones!
- Eat a diet that is supportive of your metabolic type and health goals.
- Eat cooked and warm meals (broths, stews and congee) to ensure you are supporting your digestion.
- Drink enough water, this goes without saying but is always worth repeating.
- Drink chrysanthemum tea to help release some heat from the body.
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, coffee, smoking, greasy-rich foods and hot pungent spices such as chillies and garlic. These can be very stimulating and can dry up the Yin Fluids in the body.
- Get regular acupuncture treatments to further support this transition and manage or reduce any symptoms that may be occurring.
- Give yourself the space to sit with and nurture your emotions.
- Create healthy boundaries that ensure you are taking care of your mental and emotional health and not carrying unnecessary stress in your body.
- Incorporate practices that keep you grounded, whether that be meditation, yoga or journaling.
Tonic Herbal Medicine For Menopause
The application of herbal medicine can be used to both support a woman’s body through menopause, as well as reduce the severity of associated symptoms. There are a number of herbs that are used to reduce hot flushes, promote better sleep, ground the nervous system, cultivate emotional stability and support the body to find its new hormonal equilibrium sooner.
Tonic herbs can be incredible allies for any season of transition, menopause included. We tend to recommend seeing a practitioner for those going through a challenging or complex peri-menopause or menopause, but there is still a lot you can do from home to support your body during this time.
Assuming you have mild symptoms and are looking for support during menopause, we recommend the following herbs:
- For general support: I Am Gaia - this blend supports the Kidneys, Spleen and Liver organ systems and tends to be a great ally for women during times of change.
- To support Jing: JING blend (fairly balanced energetically), Eucommia Bark (Yang Jing), Deer Antler (quite balanced energetically), Cordyceps (Yang Jing).
- To support the Liver: Beauty Blend, Schisandra, Reishi. Note that Schisandra and Reishi may be too heating for some menopausal women.
- To support the Spleen: QI blend, Mushie M8, Mason’s Mushrooms, Astragalus.
To support the Shen: SHEN blend, Reishi.
Our number one pick for deep nourishment during the menopausal season would be JING for the majority of women, though please feel free to reach out to our team to help determine which of our herbs would be most supportive to you. I Am Gaia may also be suitable if you have a history of menstrual issues and want the extra support of a formula designed to harmonise the Liver, Kidney and Spleen systems.
If you would like to dive a little deeper into the world of menopause through the Taoist lens, listen to some of our podcast episodes below.
The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs by Ron Teeguarden
The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: Third Edition by Giovanni Maciocia
A Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs by Daniel Reid
Clinical Naturopathic Medicine by Leah Hechtman