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Natural Approaches to Coping with Menopause: An interview with Nina Price, LAc.

Written by Olivia Cerf.

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Nina Price, LAc.

Nina Price is a licensed acupuncturist, master herbalist, author, speaker, teacher and radio personality who helps women achieve midlife success. An MBA by training, Nina is a former Silicon Valley high-tech marketing executive who—after an action-packed 20 years in the computer industry—traded in her high-stress lifestyle for a healthier one. Today, she is a board-certified healthcare professional and success coach on a mission to help high-powered women heal themselves and enjoy “Midlife Without Crisis”. For more information about Nina, visit her website: www.midlifewithoutcrisis.com

Have you seen Chinese medicine improve women's quality of life? How?

Every Day. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is so powerful. It is great for women’s health issues at any age, including PMS, fertility, perimenopause, menopause and beyond. Chinese medicine uses a very specific taxonomy when it comes to diagnosis. When dealing with women’s health issues TCM practitioners gather detailed information about things like: the length of a woman’s menstrual cycle, duration of periods, flow, texture and appearance of blood, so that they can develop a treatment based on that woman’s specific needs.

Here are a couple of simple examples where TCM significantly improved women’s quality of life:

I had a client say to me, “Until I tried Chinese medicine I didn’t realize that it was possible to have a month where I wasn’t out of commission for two days due to menstrual cramps.” She had great success treating her PMS with Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture and massage, and reclaimed two days each month.

Another client had suffered with endometriosis for her whole life. She had a hysterectomy, and later had a piece of her colon removed, but she still suffered with searing pain. We tried a TCM herbal formula and her pain is finally gone.

Many of my clients suffer with depression and anxiety but don’t realize that there are non-pharmaceutical ways of dealing with these problems. I help my clients recover from depression and effectively manage their anxiety without using pharmaceutical drugs. I believe that women of all ages want to be in “the driver’s seat” with respect to what’s happening in their bodies. They don’t want their menstrual cramps, endometriosis pain or menopausal symptoms to run their lives, they want to be in charge.

Acupuncture is also very effective for facial rejuvenation. It can tone up your skin while addressing other issues in your body. A facial rejuvenation acupuncture treatment is a great way to pamper yourself and also improve other aspects of your health at the same time. It’s very relaxing, and it feels wonderful.

What drew you into this practice?

When I stepped off the “corporate treadmill” in 2001 during the “dot com bust” it was clear to me that I was ready to do something else for a living than I had been doing as a corporate executive in the computer industry.

I had received acupuncture treatments and had used Chinese herbal formulas for years while in my high stress corporate lifestyle and had benefitted greatly. I studied massage and acupressure and realized that I wanted to practice acupuncture and TCM so that I could support midlife women dealing with the issues that I was dealing with.

Your practice is multidimensional, including acupuncture, herbs, and coaching - how would you describe it? How do the varying elements of your practice compliment each other?

I practice TCM and also Five Element acupuncture, which was originated by J.R. Worsley in the U.K. Five Element acupuncture deals primarily with the emotional aspects of health. I’m also a master herbalist and a certified coach. These skills allow me to work with the whole person. Many of the health concerns that my clients have involve what’s happening in their life and my approach is about dealing with the whole person and all the factors influencing their health.

When I was a kid I always came up with unconventional solutions to problems. I often got in trouble for not solving the problem “the right way”. This creative problem solving ability is a huge advantage when working with my clients today. I’m always looking for underlying influences and causes. When I can see the information a patient shares with me in a different way, I can be more effective in solving their problem when others have not been able to.

Many of my clients come in thinking that all they need is for their pain or discomfort to stop. Very often what’s going on in their bodies is connected to something going on in their lives, and working holistically with my patients to identify those things can help me to treat them more effectively.

A lot of women at midlife deal with depression for many reasons: children leaving home, career issues, relationship issues, hormone fluctuations, sleep issues. Many midlife women have low seratonin, and this is easily fixed without SSRIs. Read more about Omega 3s and menopause here.

A guiding principle for all alternative practitioners is: just because your patient's doctor doesn’t know of a solution doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Very often we’re solving the problems that others have not been able to, and that’s very satisfying to a creative problem solver.

In TCM there are classic patterns for menopause and women’s health symptoms. Very often my clients describe what’s going on in their body and I’ll say “oh that’s a classic pattern in Chinese medicine.” Often women feel relieved because others they’ve consulted don’t know what to do about what they’re experiencing.

In Chinese medicine, we care about each individual and how her body manifests the symptoms. What is your tongue and your pulse telling me? It’s all about what you’re experiencing and how to create balance in your body.

Do you think that herbs, acupuncture, or a combination of the two are most effective when it comes to treating menopause symptoms? What about other nutritional supplements?

TCM is not just acupuncture, it’s acupuncture and herbs, it can also include Qi Gong or dietary prescriptions. In most cases I do not recommend just acupuncture. I also do not typically recommend single herbs, I prefer to recommend herbal formulas so you can get the benefit of herbal synergies. Think of an herbal formula as “a team of herbs with complementary attributes”. Wouldn’t you rather have a team of herbs solving your problem rather than just one? Herbal formulas can show up as pills, teas, soups, topical creams, plasters, food, even syrups and wines.

Typically in our culture we tend to take pills because that’s the most common delivery medium in Western medicine. I run into a lot of people who hate to take pills, or if they do, they want to only take one. So for them an effective herbal remedy might be a tea or a food-based remedy.

At midlife most women need to be taking supplements. I recommend a good multi- vitamin. There are lots of good ones readily available. Personally I like the ones that address specific problems you have in addition to providing basic nutrition. You may need probiotic support, immune support, breast support or other antioxidants. Some women find it convenient to drink all their supplements in a protein shake first thing in the morning. Find what works for you and do it consistently. Read more guidelines from Nina on optimal nutrition during perimenopause and menopause here.

Do you have a position on hormone replacement therapy? Do you ever recommend it for your clients?

I do not recommend hormone replacement therapy. Most women don’t need it. Women have gone through menopause for centuries without taking hormones. Though hormones can offer symptom relief, I’m not convinced that they address the root causes of the body’s imbalances. There are herbal formulas that are very effective in resolving the symptoms because they specifically address what is out of balance in the woman’s body. Many women today are wary of pharmaceuticals and the good news is that there are good alternatives to hormone replacement.

If you need to have your hormone levels checked I can do that. By testing your hormones with a simple saliva test we can see what’s going on, and then come up with a strategy to resolve any problems we find. I do hormone testing in my practice. It can be useful. I recommend that you don’t take hormones even over the counter products until you really know what your hormone levels are. If women insist on taking hormones, I recommend bio-identical hormones.

Is there anything from Chinese medical philosophy or from your personal experience as a practitioner that you think could prevent symptoms of menopause, or prevent them from being severe?

Keeping your body in balance is really important. As your hormones shift there is an imbalance, and you need to play a more active role in maintaining the balance.

Talk to a TCM practitioner about what you can be doing differently to assist you as your body starts to change. I feel strongly about teaching my clients how to stay in the “driver’s seat” so that they don’t feel so out of control.

Midlife is all about coming to terms with what’s going on in your body. Until you’re about 40, it’s easy to ignore your body unless you’re sick. Most of us don’t tend to pay attention. I define midlife as the time when you continue to do what you’ve always done but you get different results. You’re eating, exercising, sleeping, having sex the same way…but your old ways of doing things may not work for you anymore.

Any advice for male partners in assisting women through this transition?

Be patient. Be kind. Be supportive of your partner, but don’t ignore what’s going on in your body and your life. Start taking care of yourself too! You’re probably also going through physiological and life changes.

What would you say are the positive aspects of this part of life? Does anything improve after menopause?

Hopefully lots of things improve. It’s all about the choices you make. My advice is: don’t ignore what’s going on. Stare it straight in the face, figure out what needs to change, come to terms with what’s working and what’s not. Sometimes it’s being honest about the “pebble in your shoe” that may have been there all along. The biggest thing in midlife is the personal transition, not the hormonal one. This part of life is about ditching what no longer serves you. You’ve gotten this far and you’re noticing that things aren’t working any more. Kids are leaving, sometimes partners are leaving, jobs and careers are changing. Your lifestyle habits may also not work any more. Men and women are having to reckon with the fact that their old approaches no longer work. You see people making shifts at this point in their lives voluntarily and sometimes motivated by circumstance. For some women a big midlife change involves a change in their identity, or a career change, or even a relationship change. Any kind of change at this time of life can be exciting, invigorating and motivating. In this society, women are told that they need to put the needs of others ahead their own needs. For many women midlife is about ending that pattern, identifying what they need and stepping up to exciting new things. Here’s wishing that midlife and beyond are the most satisfying years of your life!1

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References

1 Price, Nina, interviewed by Olivia M. Cerf, June 25, 2012.

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