Five Ways Chinese Medicine Softens Aging

by Norah McIntire, L.Ac.

Aging may beat the alternative, but that doesn’t mean it is always a smooth or comfortable process. As my grandmother used to say, “Aging isn’t for the faint of heart.” Hormonal symptoms, increased aches and pains, shifts in mood, lower energy, sleep disruptions, and other challenges often appear as we get older.

While you can’t stop the aging process (despite all those ads that convince you to try), you can naturally support your body to make getting older a less rocky journey. Chinese medicine, which includes acupuncture, herbs, dietary strategies, meditation traditions, and therapeutic exercises, can help you maintain your health and allow you to age more comfortably. Below are five specific ways Chinese medicine can help you maximize your physical and mental mojo as you mature.

Pain relief:

As people age they often notice more joint and muscle pains, a greater tendency toward injury, and longer healing time for these injuries. Chinese medicine can be an extremely valuable way to address these. An increasing number of Western medical professionals recognize and acknowledge one of the primary benefits of acupuncture is effective relief of pain. Some hospitals are even starting to offer acupuncture in response to the opioid crisis, providing their patients access to drug-free pain solutions. In addition to acupuncture, Chinese medicine also includes various types of body work techniques that also ease muscle tension, improve circulation, decrease inflammation, and promote healing. In my practice, I also provide therapeutic exercises to improve posture if the pain is a result of poor alignment. Addressing pain and discomfort is vital to preserving health because it allows you to remain active, an extremely important element of aging well.

Stress reduction:

Stress is nothing new, and doctors in ancient China took it very seriously because they recognized that chronic stress can take years off your life. Chronic stress disrupts digestion, sleep, good decision-making, and overall energy. Chinese medicine always aims to balance the body, and this includes the nervous system. In fact, research suggests one of the primary ways acupuncture works is though regulating the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. So, if you are locked in a perpetual stress response (your sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive), Chinese medicine helps you downshift to a more relaxed state. When you are more relaxed you can make better decisions, your body is not producing stress-related hormones, and the body is in a mode more conducive to resting and healing.

Hormonal symptoms:

Our hormone levels shift as we age. For instance, for men a decrease in testosterone can be associated with a decrease in energy, libido, and sexual performance. For women changes in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone can cause the troublesome symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, fatigue, irregular menstrual bleeding, vaginal dryness, insomnia, poor digestion, and urinary symptoms. Both men and women experience bone loss as part of the aging process. With acupuncture, herbal medicine, meditative movement exercises (tai chi and qi gong), and dietary strategies, many patients I’ve worked with find relief from these symptoms. Western research is starting to support this. In fact, a recently-published review suggests acupuncture can be very helpful for reducing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

Sleep quality and quantity:

Sleep quality and quantity decreases for many people as they age. Insomnia can be irritating, but it can also be dangerous since it increases numerous health risks. Sleep provides the body time to regenerate and heal. Adequate sleep is also important to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Western research also recognizes associations between decreased levels of sleep and sleep quality to risk of dementia and heart disease. Acupuncture, herbs, exercises, and traditional meditation/visualization practices can all help improve sleep quality, which not only helps manage risk for significant health problems but also makes day-to-day living more pleasant.

Digestive health:

Both Western and Eastern medical traditions recognize a relationship between aging and digestion. Chinese medicine actually ties the aging process to the deterioration of our digestion. As one ages, digestion becomes less efficient and robust. In fact, many women entering or in menopause complain of an onset or increase in gas, bloating, and poor digestion. If our digestion is compromised and less effective at extracting and using nutrients, our cells have less fuel to regenerate. While Chinese medicine can’t provide immortality, it can strengthen and support your digestion naturally to pay big dividends for preserving and improving overall energy, health, and quality of life.

Are you suffering from any of the above issues? Are you having other health challenges? Or do you want to give your body the most support now to avoid being sidelined with any of the above later? Chinese medicine offers natural, effective methods to keep you balanced, energized, and active. If you want to know more or have questions about your specific situation, give me a call: 323-475-9282.