Enhancing Women’s Health with Integrative Medicine

What Integrative medicine can do for women's health
May 25, 2014 Updated: August 1, 2014

Integrative medicine supports, balances, and strengthens all of the body’s physiological systems. Its ability to treat the endocrine and immune systems enables it to effectively treat women’s health issues, including menstrual, reproductive, and menopausal issues, and immune deficiencies such as candida.

In my practice, most women come in with at least one of the following: menstrual cycles of more than 32 days, PMS, migraines, menstrual cramps treated by pain medications, depression or anxiety, insomnia, weight concerns, eating disorders, or unhealthy craving for sugar and carbohydrates.

These are all issues that are not effectively treated by pharmaceuticals, and relate to female hormones, thyroid and adrenal hormones, the digestive system, and brain chemistry.

In the view of many integrative physicians, many women treated with antidepressants actually suffer from undiagnosed hypothyroid due to the unreliability of standard lab tests. Integrative therapies can support thyroid function, as well as allow women to stop taking the toxic drugs that often make them feel worse, not better.

Integrative medicine uses acupuncture, herbal medicine, classical homeopathy, and diet and nutrition to treat these conditions.

Acupuncture treats most conditions, resolving specific symptoms while systemically affecting stress reactions and providing a neuro-metabolic re-balancing. Acupuncture treats gynecological ailments, is extremely effective in treating menstrual cramps, headaches, and any pain syndrome, and also affects endorphin and dopamine production.

Using classical homeopathy and acupuncture and making changes in diet and nutrition, I have seen impressive results in treating infertility, irregular menstruation, PMS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, hot flashes and night sweats, and chronic candida yeast infections.

Below are some of the results my female patients have experienced. Patient names have been changed to protect privacy.

Judy: In her late 30s, Judy had been doing IVF with poor results in her first two cycles. After we began acupuncture and herbal medicine, her egg harvests improved, and in the third month of treatment, she became pregnant. Her son is now 21.

Angela: My patient in her mid-30s, Angela had no medical evidence of hormonal imbalance, but she was not able to conceive.

After she had tried to become pregnant for eight months, we began treatment with acupuncture, herbal medicine, and classical homeopathy. She became pregnant after three month’s of treatment.

Sarah: Also in her mid-30s, Sarah came to me for treatment for various issues over the years. When she did not become pregnant after six months of trying, we treated her with acupuncture and herbs for two cycles. We then added classical homeopathy into her treatment program, and she became pregnant the next cycle.

A very similar progression occurred with her second child and the addition of homeopathy again enhanced the benefits of Chinese medicine, or was itself the specific healing agent.

Mary: In her mid-50s, Mary came in complaining of depression and menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes. I originally treated her with acupuncture and herbal medicine, which brought her moderate improvement.

After three months, I added homeopathic treatment, and after four months, she reported her menopausal hot flashes to be reduced by 80 percent and her mood greatly improved. In the following five months, she has continued with acupuncture once a month, and herbs and homeopathy, and is very happy to be maintaining her improved health.

Understanding Chinese Medicine

In ancient Chinese cosmology, yin and yang describe forces of nature. Yang represents heaven, the creative, fire, the masculine. Yin represents Earth, the receptive, water, the feminine.

In the oracle-text the “I Ching,” or “Book of Changes,” yin and yang are described as agents of change, the intrinsic catalysts of processes of nature and human relationships. Traditional Chinese medicine applies their meanings specifically to physiology, psychology, and pathology.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there are eight principles that form the fundamentals of health and disease: yang, heat, excess, exterior, yin, cold, deficiency, internal. The eight principles combine with the five elements—metal, wood, water, fire, and earth—to create the theoretical and practical foundation of TCM.

The primary clinical practices of herbal medicine, acupuncture, “tui na” (medical massage), and dietary regimes are complemented by meditation and internal martial arts such as qigong and tai chi chuan.

In the United States, most doctors do not consider acupuncture or herbal medicine as treatment options for their patients. I had the opportunity to experience a version of integrative medicine firsthand, in 1987, when I trained in herbal medicine and acupuncture in Chengdu, in Sichuan Province.

In my experience, the doctors in China are trained in and appreciate Western medicine and how its appropriate drug therapies can be combined with TCM.

Understanding Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine pays attention to physical and mental health and to lifestyle issues such as diet and exercise programs in order to treat patients.

As practiced by physicians, integrative medicine utilizes nutritional supplements and probiotics to complement or replace pharmaceutical prescriptions. Doctors may also recommend herbs, but are not typically trained at the high level of expertise found in practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine.

Diagnostic assessments include saliva tests to track adrenal hormones, expanded profiles of food allergies and sensitivities, and evaluation of neurotransmitter levels.

Integrative medicine is a broad term and can include treatments with Western, Ayurvedic, and Chinese herbs, and classical homeopathy, a profound healing system developed over 200 years ago in Europe that uses herbal, mineral, and other natural substances to stimulate the body’s healing abilities.

While modern Western medicine excels in emergency and surgical medicine and offers antibiotics and other effective drug treatments, integrative medicine, especially when it draws from the above mentioned traditional therapies, provides the best approach for managing long-term health issues, chronic diseases, and even some acute illnesses.

Dr. Christopher Trahan, O.M.D., L.Ac., is the medical director of the Olympus Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine. He is nationally board-certified in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine (NCCA), and is a classically trained homeopathic physician. He has been in clinical practice for over 30 years. Complimentary consultation: Olympus-Center.com