Menopause is no laughing matter for many women. The hot flashes, the insomnia, the irritability and mood swings are anything but fun. And, of course, you mostly see these kinds of conditions in women around 50 years of age.
But several years back I had a patient come into my clinic who was the last person I’d ever expect to have the symptoms of menopause.
In Chinese Medicine, menopause symptoms typically fall into the symptom pattern referred to as Yin Deficiency Heat. In this case, the “Yin” corresponds with the Western medical concept of hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone. An easy way to visualize this is that the Yin quality is like water, and it’s complementary opposite, Yang, is like fire.
In ideal balance, the Yin / water balances the Yang / fire and you feel great. But when there is not enough Yin / water, the Yang / fire is comparatively higher. There’s not actually too much heat, it just feels like it.
Here are two illustrations that demonstrate the idea:
So in Chinese Medicine, when we treat this pattern, we do so by increasing the Yin and relieving the sensation of false heat.
Most people who understand this idea would find it easy to determine a 50 year old woman had this pattern of imbalance. After all, these are the symptoms of menopause. Which brings us to the weirdest case of “menopause” I’ve ever seen.
Right off I’ll tell you what was so weird about it – the patient was a 13 year old boy.
Now obviously, a 13 year old boy isn’t suffering from decreased estrogen due to menopause. But he did have all of the typical symptoms of Yin Deficiency Heat. He got exhausted by over activity, especially in warm weather. He perspired easily, and often for no apparent reason, and his sleep was frequently interrupted in the middle of the night. This is very unusual in my experience for someone of this age (and gender!)
As one of my original teachers used to say, “Not so good.”
This had been going on for 4 years when he came into my office. Nothing Western medicine did helped him. Because it had been happening for so long, I asked about what happened prior to the symptoms showing up.
It turns out that he’d had a serious infection immediately before these symptoms occurred. During the infection he had a very high temperature that didn’t get managed well enough. As a result, his ‘Yin’ got damaged due to the very high “fire” of the elevated temperature. That lead to him having symptoms similar to menopause.
Because the symptoms matched the menopause pattern of Yin Deficiency Heat, I treated him with the same herbal formula I often give a menopausal woman with these symptoms. Almost immediately he began to feel better and within a month his 4-year long symptoms were gone.
This is the beauty of using Chinese symptom patterns to identify internal imbalances in the body. It helps us look past the obvious and expected to find the real underlying situation. And with that knowledge, treating it successfully is much easier!