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Easing Menopausal Symptoms with Chinese Herbs

Easing Menopausal Symptoms with Chinese Herbs

The journey through the time of menopause can be a very challenging one for many women.

With so many changes occurring within their body and in their life as a whole, it can be a confusing, scary and difficult time.

As a society, we don't tend to talk about the menopause and this makes it even more likely that women will face this time feeling quite alone and that they need to just 'put up with it'.

This doesn't need to be the case, and in this episode, Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist, Dana LaVoie chats to Clarity Junction host, Gillian, all about the menopause and how you can ease its symptoms with the use of Chinese Herbs.

For many years, Dana has specialised in women's health and she shares her knowledge and expertise in this extensive interview.

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Meet Dana

Dana is a Acupuncturist and Herbalist with over 15 years experience. In her clinical practice, she specialises in women's health.

Dana LaVoie

Dana is dedicated to teaching women all over the world, how to balance their hormones naturally during and after menopause, using customised Chinese herbs supported by the best diet and lifestyle for their hormones.


How to Contact Dana


Transcription

Gillian Duncan 0:00
Hello and welcome to the Clarity Junction podcast. I'm excited to be joined today by Dana LaVoie. Dana is an experienced acupuncturist and herbalist who has been running her own clinical practice, specialising in women's health, for over 15 years. Throughout these years, Dana has realised the importance of balancing the body's natural hormones when it comes to the time of menopause. And now, she dedicates her time to teaching women how they can do this naturally, using Chinese herbs to complement a healthy diet and lifestyle. Today, Dana will be sharing her knowledge and expertise on this topic, so keep listening to learn more on how you can use Chinese herbs to ease the discomforts of menopause. My name is Gillian Duncan, Positive Life and Well Being Coach, inspiring women to lead the life they want, and I am delighted that you're here with me today.

Hi, Dana. Welcome to the Clarity Junction podcast.

Dana LaVoie 1:02
Hi, I am so happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Gillian Duncan 1:07
Oh thank you for making the time to be here and to share your knowledge with us today. Dana, you are a highly experienced acupuncturist and herbalist, and you specialise, particularly, in women's health. Today, you are here to chat about how symptoms of the menopause can be eased by the use of natural remedies, and in particular, the use of Chinese herbs. Now, as someone who has a low tolerance to modern Western medicines, I am always keen to learn more about alternative and complementary treatments. So, I am really, really looking forward to learning from you today.

Dana LaVoie 1:51
Wonderful. I'm so, always so happy to be able to share this information.

Gillian Duncan 1:55
Thank you so much for being here. But, before we jump in just too far to our topic, I was just wondering if you would share with us how you started out on this journey of practising acupuncture and herbalism. It's not sort of your normal, everyday path that you go into. You don't go to school and say, 'I know I'm going to become an acupuncturist'. That's what I want to do'. So, what was it that attracted you towards these treatments?

Dana LaVoie 2:22
You know, there were two things that led me towards wanting to study Chinese medicine. One was I actually had an interest in, in meditation and Eastern philosophy, from the time I was about 16 years old. I was just really interested in it, and like, even in college, I, I studied, you know, Eastern philosophy, that was my major, and I took meditation classes and all that kind of thing, and I mean, I was not planning to use it for my career. I didn't expect to turn it into a job. It was just what I was interested in. So, I had this lifelong interest in it. And then After I graduated from college, I actually had a head injury that left me with migraine headaches. I had these migraine headaches all the time. And, you know, I went to so many doctors and other than pain medications, which I really didn't want to take, they had absolutely no help to offer me. And I went to alternative medicine too, you know. I went to everyone I could find, you know, from chiropractors to craniosacral therapists, osteopaths, everybody, and the only place where I really got improvement was with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. It helped me immensely with my own migraine headaches when nothing else was giving me any relief. So, I went to acupuncture for years myself, as a patient, and absolutely loved it and felt like it just was the thing that let me get my life back because I, you know, I just wasn't getting help anywhere else. And so, a few years later, when I was going through a career change, I was like, 'Okay, well, what do I want to do?'. And I was like, 'Well, you know, I love acupuncture. I believe in it, and I love Chinese philosophy, the eastern way of thinking. I love thinking about that all day long. And if I'm an acupuncturist, I get to do that'.

Gillian Duncan 4:11
That sounds amazing. You've tied the belief and your hobby almost, isn't it? You're actual, your desire to learn more about it, and you've turned that into a career. That's just fantastic.

Dana LaVoie 4:21
And another thing for me, personally, was I always liked working with my hands. You know, just like I'm a tactile person. I just always had kind of jobs where I worked with my hands, but I wanted something that wasn't really intense in terms of the physical labour side of things, because, you know, you get injuries and then you know, you get older and there's like a time limit on that in terms of what your body can do. So, acupuncture again, it was like a way of working with my hands, but it's so gentle. So there were just all these things about it. And I was like, 'Oh, that would be perfect for me'. And sure enough, it was just like the perfect fit from the moment I started.

Gillian Duncan 4:54
Now tell me, do you use needles with your acupuncture? Or do you use a no-needle method?

Dana LaVoie 5:01
Both. I definitely use needles almost all the time, but I incorporate a number of other methods as well as needed, but definitely people who come to me for acupuncture, you know, usually I use needles on them. I love the needles.

Gillian Duncan 5:16
Yeah? A lot of people might be put off by thinking about the needles. Just before we start, and we go into our topic, is there any sort of advice that you'd like to give anybody who would like to try the treatment of acupuncture but are scared of needles?

Dana LaVoie 5:33
I would say, first, you need to know that the needles used in acupuncture are so different and so much smaller than the needles they have at the doctor's office. That it's a completely different experience. The doctor's office has these hollow stiff needles and the acupuncture needles are solid and they're very, very thin usually about the thickness of a human hair. Flexible little pieces of stainless steel wire and acupuncture, most people during an acupuncture pre-treatment fall asleep, and they just wake up so right you know. They wake up and they say, 'Oh, I forgot where I was. I thought it was home. I thought I was in bed. I'm so relaxed. I feel so wonderful'. That's generally how people feel with an acupuncture treatment. And, so if it's really painful, find a different acupuncturist! I will say this; people who do a Japanese style of acupuncture, they tend to use even smaller needles. So that's something to think about, but it's really more about the individual person. But it should be a very relaxing experience, you know, should really feel good, it should feel relaxing. You pretty much forget where the needles are once they're in. You just feel so good. So, so look for that kind of experience.

Gillian Duncan 6:43
So, if you are thinking about it, then don't let the needles put you off. Go and speak to the acupuncturist first. Find out. Have a look at the needles and, sort of talk it through before you commit, but obviously, you know, don't let it put you off and find out more about it.

Dana LaVoie 6:59
Absolutely. I had a guy who came to see me. He was the son of one of my patients, and he was about 12. And he had gotten this cough in the winter, you know that, like a upper respiratory infection, and it turned into a cough, and then it turned into wheezing. And so the doctor was telling him, 'I'm going to diagnose you with asthma. And you're going to have to go on asthma medication'. And this little boy, young man, he really didn't want that he didn't want to have asthma, you know. And his mother said, 'Well, you can go see my acupuncturist if you want, or you can do what the doctor says', you know. She said, 'Well, if you want to try acupuncture first, we can do that'. And he was really, really, really scared about the needles, but he wanted to give it a try. So, he came to see me and I remember when we were getting started, he said he wanted to give it a try, so, and I just remember him sitting there and he was, you know, his fists are clenched, and he was, you know, he was, he was just like, bracing himself, you know, and I said, 'Okay, here we go', and I put in the first needle, and I said, 'How was that?', and he just burst out laughing in this giant laugh, you know, and his fists relaxed and his whole body relaxed. He said, 'That was it?'. He said, 'I practically didn't even feel that!', and I said, 'Yeah, it's, it's not painful'. It's just so hard to imagine that it's not going to hurt when the only needles you've had are at the doctor.

Gillian Duncan 8:26
Yeah. And I think our mind really adopts to fear very well. So, we are absolutely magnifing every sort of thought about needles to this huge proportion. So yeah, definitely find out more about it, before you let fear take you down a path where there's no return, because acupuncture really can, can help relieve so many different symptoms and different conditions. So, tell me, you also are a herbalist, so you use, you specialise in Chinese herbs. Can you tell me a little bit more about Chinese herbs?

Dana LaVoie 9:01
Sure, so Chinese herbalism has been around for a really long time, like, thousands of years, and it's a big, big part of Chinese medicine. And it's a very, what I love about it is it's a very sophisticated method of herbalism. You know, they use the whole, sort of, Chinese medicine approach is looking at a person, looking at all their symptoms, and then looking for the underlying imbalance that is causing those symptoms, you know, what's the common denominator, kind of thing. So, you're treating symptoms, you're treating the underlying imbalance, and you're also looking at the person as a whole. You know, where this person's systemic strengths and weaknesses? Where is things tending to get stuck? What energies do they tend to be low on? What pathological factors do they tend to accumulate? Like this person tends to get damp or this person tends to get dry, you know, or this person gets achy joints in the cold? You know? So, you're treating the whole person. You're treating their symptoms. You're treating the underlying cause of the symptoms, and you're kind of looking at their overall body balance, and strengthening their weaknesses as well. And so, a lot of systems of herbalism will use just, you know, like one herb, you know, or two herbs or something like that. In Chinese herbs, you almost always get these herbal formulas that have, you know, six or eight or ten or twelve herbs in them, and sometimes you use two or three formulas together, and you can customise them, you know, the combinations for people. So it's, it's very sophisticated and I love that you can fine tune the results that way.

Gillian Duncan 10:40
So when you take the herbs do you take them in a drink? Or do you have them in your food or...? How do you administer them?

Dana LaVoie 10:50
There are actually all different ways that you can take them. You can get them as a powder, which you can either take as a powder by mixing it into a little bit of liquid or the powder you can get inside a capsule and just swallow it, as a capsule. They often come in little tablets too, or as tinctures which is a liquid usually in an alcohol or glycerin and alcohol base, which is nice because you can put it in a cup of tea or something like that. So, there's so many ways you can take your herbs. Like, personally, I usually use herbs that come as powders. They're...the way they make them is they make a tea out of the herbs in a very controlled environment, you know where it doesn't get too hot and it cooks for the right amount of time and they capture all the essential oils, and then they dry the tea into a powder. It's called a spray dried powder. So it's not like ground up herbs. It's actually a very bioavailable powder. And so what I do is I just put that powder, like, into a smoothie or a cup of herbal tea and I whip it up in the blender for a few minutes and I make like an herbal latte, I call it. That's how I like to take them, but you can take them and you can put them in food, you can put them in a drink, you can swallow them as pills or you can get them as tinctures or you can make them into a tea. You know, sometimes you can even get the raw herbs and cook them into a tea, but that tends to be a little smelly when you cook it.

Gillian Duncan 12:10
So it seems really versatile, and that there's something there for everybody. So, if somebody doesn't like taking tablets or somebody doesn't like tinctures, you can really find a way that suits you. That's just brilliant.

Dana LaVoie 12:23
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. It's very versatile.

Gillian Duncan 12:26
So, you were talking about treating the body as a whole. You were looking at individuals symptoms, underlying symptoms and imbalances. Now, we are going to be talking about the menopause, because that's something that you specialise in when you treat women, and I have a feeling that these imbalances have definitely got a relationship to the menopause. So, can you tell us a little bit more about the symptoms of menopause, because we were just chatting off-air before we were recording for this podcast, and I was saying to you, you know, I have spoken to so many different women about the menopause, and I have not really met one person who has sort of identical symptoms. They're completely ranging from one extreme to another, you know, there might be some little underline ones, maybe the hot flushes, or, I don't know, forgetfulness seems to be quite a key, a key symptom, but there's all different symptoms, you know, from having skin dryness or, you know, problems with their hair or their nails. But we were saying how, although there's all these symptoms out there, we don't tend to talk about them very freely. We don't tend to talk about the menopause very openly as women and we were saying that it's very hard to because a lot of the times you know, you're in a rush, you meet, bump into somebody in the shops, there's never that time to sit down with somebody and say, 'Right. Let's talk about the menopause. How are you doing today?' It's not one of these topics of conversations that come up, and, and also, we, we spoke about the fact that, you know, one of the closest people we will have in our life, our mothers, sometimes by the age, when we reach the menopause, we've sadly lost her mothers. And so we have lost that female who's the most closest to us, and that's that person has been through it. So, you know, you must be a fantastic point of contact for women to come in, because you will have, you know, obviously heard of other people's symptoms, you'll know a different range of the problems that may be facing. And also, you are a complete point of contact of somebody that the women can approach and speak to and you understand, and you can take that time and chat with them.

Dana LaVoie 14:49
Yes, absolutely. I feel like so many women are, they're scared, they're confused. You know, they really either they don't know if they're in menopause yet, they don't know If the symptoms they're experiencing are caused by menopause, or by something else. They don't know what to expect. So it's just kind of this scary, like, 'Wow, what's going to happen?'. Or it starts to happen, and they're like, 'Oh, my goodness, I had no idea it was going to be this severe', you know, because it can, it can really, really, the symptoms can really interfere with your life, you know, they can, they can be pretty severe, and it's confusing. And then you go to start to try to learn about it and it's hard to find information and the information you do find is often contradictory or confusing or incomplete. So there's a lot of women who are just confused, overwhelmed, really are not sure what to do, and they're suffering and they feel, you know, like they don't know who to talk to about it.

Gillian Duncan 15:46
And I think, as well, that not, well noone is textbook, and I feel that a lot of information out there concerning medical related conditions are categorised. They're that, sort of, textbook speak, you know, if you don't fit in, if you don't take these boxes then, oh well, you're not suffering from that. So you might be suffering from this. It's very confusing. It's very overwhelming. And it's an embarrassing topic as well. It's very personal. Very intimate.

Dana LaVoie 16:17
Yep. Yep. And I think it's, and yet all women go through it, so I, it kind of makes... I feel like it's kind of crazy that there's not a way that we share information. That we make sure women have information about what it is, when it's going to happen, what it's going to feel like and all the different options of what they can do about it. Like, everybody needs that information.

Gillian Duncan 16:39
Yes, it's not something to be swept under the carpet. It's something that we need to go and discuss, and that will help us in the long run because I know that there's a lot of, apart from the physical imbalances, there's a lot of emotional imbalances as well. And the whole feeling of that time in your life where you are maturing, and you know, you're losing that ability to have kids, now by that time, a lot of people don't want to have children anymore, they've had their kids or they've had their family or they've decided that, you know that that's not been for them. That's not the main issue. But for some reason, when you hit that age, and the opportunity has been taken from you, or, you know, you start to change shape and, you know, the physical symptoms come on, and all of a sudden, you sort of look at your life a little bit differently. Yeah, and you're unsure of yourself. So, I think emotionally you become really, sort of, there's an unrest there.

Dana LaVoie 17:36
Yeah. It really is the beginning. You know, in Chinese medicine, there are these cycles to a woman's life, and this is the beginning of a new cycle. It is a transition into a new phase of your life. And it's really interesting, actually, how the hormonal changes that we understand scientifically from modern medicine are so perfectly aligned with the changes that are laid out in the way Chinese medicine sees menopause, in terms of being a new phase in your life. In Chinese medicine it's, menopause is actually called the second spring.

Gillian Duncan 18:15
Wow, I like that.

Dana LaVoie 18:17
Yeah. And it is an ending, right? It's an ending of the years, like you said, in which you can have kids. But it's also the ending of the years in which, for a lot of women, your primary focus is about being a mom, about taking care of other people about, you know, these little people waking you up 10 times a night and it's kind of like their needs are more important than yours. And having those really high levels of progesterone hormone, it gives you this sort of cushion against stress, you know, this kind of like golden glow or it's kind of, all okay, and you can put up with that. It actually, physically makes it a lot easier to do that. And when that progesterone comes down, it cuts, usually the first hormone to come down in perimenopause, all of a sudden it's like, 'Okay, 18 year old. Time for you to start picking up your own socks', because, you know, all of a sudden, I feel this, you know, imperative to get back to the painting that I used to do when I was in college or I want to write a book or, you know, some kind of new endeavour that's either about taking better care of yourself, having more time to take care of yourself, or really about sort of, you know, using all the wisdom you've gained from all these years, you've been, you know, learning and alive to, to do something of your own. Some kind of work, some kind of creative endeavour that you're going to put out into the world that's really special. So, it's seen as a time for women to either you know, do something creative or travel or take positions of leadership or, you know, do something really exciting, that's a little bit more about them than about everybody else.

Gillian Duncan 19:55
So this time is a new spring for us and that is a time for, for women to become themselves once more. They are not there solely to look after other people. It's time for them to refocus in on themselves. Is it not such a rubbish time for this imbalance to happen physically and emotionally because it knocks everybody off kilter? In the sense that, you've just got this sort of feeling of 'freedom!', and then you're like, 'Oh, no, wait a minute, I've got to go through this change again, and I've got to, you know, relearn my body and relearn my mind and relearn what is going on in my life. There's so much going on and so much to cope with'. So, it's a bit, in one sense, is a bit unfair after dedicating your life to, you know, other people or, you know, looking after people and having that control, to then have to relearn everything and rebalance. So I'd like to go back to your use of Chinese herbs. I want to ask you, because you mentioned perimenopause, and you mentioned menopause and you mentioned post menopause. There's huge changes going on from start to finish of this process. When should a woman consider using Chinese herbs?

Dana LaVoie 21:22
Yeah. So I have a, I have a two part answer to that question. And the reason is because most of the women in, in, you know, like the West in America and Europe that I talk to, when they think about using herbal remedies, it's because they're having a problem. All right, I've got these hot flashes or weight gain that I can't lose, or brain fog, or mood changes, or I can't sleep or, you know, some kind of problem has come up and they're looking for a solution. And, when you're looking for a solution to those kind of hormonal discomforts, it's definitely a good time to consider using herbal remedies. I think they're a great option for that. And we can talk more about that. But I will, I just want to say that Chinese medicine has a little different way of approaching health care that's deeply built into the Chinese medicine philosophy and they tend to put a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of resources into, what I would call, preventative wellness. So you know, if I could I would take every woman who comes to me for menopause, and I'd like pop us into a time machine and I'd go back before they started perimenopause by at least a year or two, and I would start treating them with herbs then. Right. So really, from a Chinese medicine perspective, that's the best time.

Gillian Duncan 22:54
The sooner the better.

Dana LaVoie 22:55
Yeah. To prevent you know, to do, to do this preventatively. To get the herbs going ahead of time. There's a lot you can do to, kind of, prepare yourself for an easier menopause. And then once you've already got the herbs going, if you get a discomfort, if all of a sudden you get hot flashes, you just change your herbs a little bit, but because they're already in your system, and you're already used to using them, it's like this little blip, you adjust right away.

Gillian Duncan 23:18
Something that's already there. You're just perfecting it.

Dana LaVoie 23:20
Yep. And a lot of it you can even prevent. So either one is a good time, you know, do it ahead of time, or when a problem arises and you're looking for a solution. Definitely consider herbs as one possible solution. So, both good times.

Gillian Duncan 23:34
So, I know a lot of women are recommended when they go to their doctors, to take hormone replacement therapy. There's so much to be said for this style of treatment, and a lot of people do find this, you know, a great way to help their symptoms and their journey through menopause. How to Chinese herbs, how do they compare to HRT for controlling these discomforts? And can you use them together with HRT treatment, or are there any contraindications and reasons why you shouldn't mix the two?

Dana LaVoie 24:15
So, Chinese herbs, really herbal remedies in general, can help to help you get relief from menopause in what, in what I see as three big ways. I mean, there's some other secondary ways but three big ways. The first one is, a lot of times women having discomfort during menopause, it's because their hormone levels are going too low and after menopause too. Your hormones don't just, I mean, of course, they're going to decline, your hormone levels are going to decline during menopause, but they go lower than they should. They just kind of bottom out. They can go all the way to zero, practically, and they're really not supposed to. So they drop lower than they should or they drop faster than they should. So the first way that herbs can help is herbs that support the body in making more hormones, like herbs that are rich in phytoestrogens which are you know, things that the body can easily turn into hormones. And so, this first category of herbs, this is really the most similar to hormone replacement therapy. Because hormone replacement therapy, that's what it's for, you know, it brings your it brings your hormone levels back up. So the first category of herbs used for menopause are pretty much trying to do the same thing as the hormone replacement therapy. Then the second category of herbs are herbs that, because once your body gets these hormones, your body still needs to know what to do with them. You know, it needs to send them to the right places at the right times. You know, your body is micromanaging your hormone levels, bringing them up and down and up and down and adjusting them Your hormones need to be in the correct ratio with each other, right? So like the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone is just as important as whether they are high or low. And your body micro manages that for you. And that's done by your endocrine system. You know, it sends out the messages, 'Make a little bit more of this hormone. Get rid of a little bit of that hormone. Send some of this one over there, you know, for dryness over here', you know, it tells your body what to do with the hormones. And it also tells your body, 'Okay, get rid of a little bit, we got a little bit too much of this one going on, get rid of a little bit of that hormone'. So it helps your body know what to do with those hormones when you have them. And the herbs that help the body with that are adaptogenic herbs that support the endocrine system. And, for some women, this is more of an issue than just having the hormones, and the hormone replacement therapy doesn't really address this side of things. So this would be adaptogenic herbs. Not in Chinese medicine, but probably the most common one use would be maca. You know, a lot of women take maca, they feel better. Well, this is kind of how maca helps your body. So, some women need more help with category one, which is bringing the hormone levels up. Some women need more help with category two, which is those hormonal messages getting sent out at the right time, going to the right places. And then the third category of herbs that help with menopause discomforts are herbs that help with liver function, and detoxification of hormones, and even supporting the health of your digestive system, if you're compromised there. Because these are all really important, in terms of your body being able to manage your hormone levels well. A lot of hormones are activated or put into their active form in the digestive system. Herbs are detoxified out of your body, through your liver and through your bowel movements. And so being able to have a really good liver function is really important too. And, again, hormone replacement therapy doesn't really help with this third type of support. So, that's how I see them comparing is with herbs, you have to get support for all three areas. Hormone Replacement Therapy helps with that first area bringing the hormone levels up and it, it's powerful for that. And, as to your second part of your question, I love using herbs and hormones together. I often will recommend women start with herbs, see how they feel. If they get 100% of the relief they need, great. It's such a natural, safe way to start. But, if even with the herbs on board, they find they're doing well. They're doing better but they're still having a little trouble getting the hormone levels up high enough, because some women, you know, genetically, that's very challenging for them. Then I say, go ahead and get a little bit of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, use it with the herbs and because you have the help with your body knowing what to do with the hormones, with detoxifying any extra hormones if you need them. I find that women who use herbs and the hormones together tend to have a lot less side effects and a lot better results, just from little small amounts of the hormone replacement therapy.

Gillian Duncan 29:00
I can understand where that would be coming from because every time you go to the doctors and they give you something to take, it is a standard level, isn't it? It's, it's, it's not just produced individually for you. It's just, sort of, mass produced, and, you know, it's there and it's available, so you, you know, you take it because that's what they prescribe you. So it's not personal, and it's not tailored to your body. Whereas, I can see that when you work with herbs, you can adjust levels. You can work with what you're presenting, and as you say, you can complement what other medicines you may be taking the time. It's certainly more a tailored approach.

Dana LaVoie 29:43
It can be, yeah. I mean, a lot of times if you just go grab an herbal remedy off the shelf for menopause, it's likely to be just one or two herbs in there. They might just be from category one. You know what I mean? But if you use Chinese herbs and you get a customised combination, then it's gonna, it's going to cover all three categories. But for one woman, it's going to be 80% herbs from category one, and for another woman, it's going to be 80% herbs from category two, right? Or for another woman, you know, so the ratios of which type of support you need is going to be customised for you.

Gillian Duncan 30:18
So you mentioned the other herbs and other supplements, how do the Chinese herbs compare to these other products?

Dana LaVoie 30:27
You know, there are a lot of products out there for helping with menopause. And it's like, they're all good, you know, they can all be helpful, but usually what they are is something that is either from that first category, or it's from that second category. or it could be from that third category, right? Or it could be a lifestyle thing, you know. So it's not that it isn't helpful, it's just that I often find it's not a complete solution. So, it might be for a while, like, maybe you do need help bringing your hormone levels up, and you happen to get on an herbal remedy that helps with that. But then after six months, like, first you were feeling a lot better and then after six months you start having side effects. Right, I just heard from a woman recently that this started to happen to her. And so, it's like, once you get those hormone levels up, then you keep taking that same herb, and if you're not detoxifying well, now maybe you've got a little bit too much of something. That's not really the support you need anymore. And that's another thing I like about Chinese medicine, is that it's not like you get one formula that you stick with forever. You know, the formula, the herbs that you're going to need in the beginning of perimenopause are going to be really different than the herbs that you need, you know, 20 years later to support you post menopause. So your herbal formulas are going to change every time your hormones change, every time your symptoms change. Because a lot, a lot of women try herbs, they work for a while and then they stopped working. It's so common and it's because you need different herbs. You know, it's like you got what you needed from those or your hormones changed or, you know, your needs changed, and if the herbs can get updated with you, then they can keep meeting you, meeting your needs as your needs change over time, and the results can really, you know, go to another level.

Gillian Duncan 32:20
So again, it's matching what your body is presenting at that time. So it's personalised in that respect. It completely complements what you're going through at that time, because as you say, with this time, it's such a changing time and, you know, from one day to the next, things can change and certainly from one year to the next, and when you're talking about a time span that the menopause takes in order to complete its full journey, that means that your body is completely different from when it started out. So yes, I can see that taking the same thing from start to finish might not work for everybody.

Dana LaVoie 33:00
Right, yeah, it's like hitting a moving target, you know. You need to change your, change your aim. So yeah, there's lots of great supplements and herbs and menopause remedies out there. They can all be helpful. I think the key, though, is to have an understanding of, you know, big picture what's going on in your body so that you're getting support in all the different areas, and you're getting the sort of most support in the area where you need it the most, and that might change over time. So it does, it's not like you have to use all Chinese herbs, you just have to be, you have to have a way of putting together a complete solution. You know.

Gillian Duncan 33:37
Yeah. I think you just mentioned something really important there as well, about understanding your body. I think taking the time to listen to your body, and that might sound a little bit 'woo-woo' to a lot of people but I think we need to just take a step back sometimes and have some quiet time and ask ourselves some questions. You know, as if we were talking to a good friend and say, you know, 'What is going on?'. You know, use a journal, note it down. What, what is happening? Be honest with the changes that are happening to you, and as we've said before, it might be a, sort of, time that you want to, sort of, hide or you're embarrassed to think about it. You're not comfortable with the changes. That is one of the problems. Unless we accept and identify what's going on with us and say, 'Well, this is happening. I've got to deal with it', then we're not. We're just going to hide under our duvets for the next few years, and hopefully, it'll, it'll work out at the end. But it wouldn't do you any good by doing that. The best thing that you can do is to try to understand how you're feeling, what the changes are going on with your body. And yeah, sure, you might need to go and speak to somebody so that they might help you identify what's going on, but as long as you take that action to, to come to terms with everything and to understand your own journey.

Dana LaVoie 34:56
Absolutely. I think that a lot of women that I work with, say that they find, like, just because on my, my blog or you know, from working with me or talking to me, or it coming on a Q&A on my Facebook group, that they, you know, they start to understand what's happening in their body. You know, because I explain it, you know. And that having that knowledge is so empowering, and it's such a relief so that, you know, I am like, 'Okay, well, you know, here's where you're at, here's what's going on. So when this symptom crops up, it's because this right here got a little bit low, and you can use this herb to counteract it'. You know, it's like, they just say that kind of knowing what's going on, and how the remedies that they're using are addressing it specifically, is so empowering. It's, it's such a different feeling from not knowing where it's come from, or what's going to happen next, or why some things help with one symptom and not with another. You know, having that knowledge is really helpful.

Gillian Duncan 35:54
Yeah, it gets you back into control of everything doesn't it? It makes you feel that you're able to do something, and it's not just a runaway train. You are in control. You can understand what's happening to you.

Dana LaVoie 36:07
Exactly.

Gillian Duncan 36:08
So, at the moment, there's a lot in the media, a lot in the news about obviously, we have to take more responsibility for a healthy lifestyle for a healthier diet, and I'm just wondering, you know, there's a lot of talk about how having a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle can well, almost cure everything. I'm wondering, obviously, how you do the Chinese herbal remedies compare with just solely managing your diet and your lifestyle? How can it complement them? How can it help to balance our hormones during the time of menopause?

Dana LaVoie 36:46
Yeah, so I really believe that our bodies were designed to go through menopause with very minimal symptoms, no major discomfort. That's really what our bodies were designed to do. To go from higher hormone levels to harmoniously transition to lower hormone levels after menopause, but not zero, still high enough to keep us feeling well. And there are some women out there who experienced that their periods stops, and then they're just kind of postmenopausal, and they really never have, you know, met very many symptoms, and they feel really great afterwards. It does happen.

Gillian Duncan 37:21
They're lucky.

Dana LaVoie 37:22
They're lucky. They are lucky. They're very lucky, but that, I really, really do believe that that is what our bodies were designed to do. They, they actually have the built in mechanisms, you know, to do that, but for so many women, it doesn't quite happened like that. And so, we need to make sure that we are giving our bodies everything that they need to do that because that's actually what they're designed to do. And it starts with the right diet and lifestyle. Like, if you don't have a good diet or you have a very unhealthy lifestyle, then it's unlikely you are going to have that experience because you're not, for instance, when your body needs to make some hormones, if you're not eating the right foods, you're not giving your body the building blocks it needs to make those hormones. You know, the message goes out, 'Oh, make more of this hormone', and even though theoretically, it should still be able to, you know, if it doesn't have anything to make it with,

Gillian Duncan 38:16
It's not got the ingredients.

Dana LaVoie 38:17
Yeah, it's not got the ingredients. So the, the basic building blocks for hormones are in your diet, and also the basic detoxification nutrients that you need to get rid of hormones are in your diet, too.

Gillian Duncan 38:30
Right.

Dana LaVoie 38:31
So, diet is like the most basic building blocks that you need to manage hormones. And lifestyle also is really important in terms of, there are things you can do in your lifestyle that are going to be hormone disrupting. You know, that are going to like, actually interfere with your body's mechanism that takes care of your hormones. You know, endocrine disruptors, like, you know, chemicals that we put on our skin every day that are known endocrine disruptors. And the other things in lifestyle is, you know, getting a little bit exercise, but also managing stress is really important because high...stress is a hormone, basically, we have stress hormones. And when your stress hormones are very high, they interfere with your other hormones. You know, our hormones are very interrelated with each other. So, if your stress is totally out of control, it's very unlikely you're going to have a perfect menopause, you know, because your body can't do what it was designed to do.

Gillian Duncan 39:34
And the problem with stress, as well, it's a vicious cycle, isn't it? Because, once you start being stressed and you release those hormones and you release the reaction, then it then triggers off other things and then you get more stressed about that. And then, you know, particularly if you're going through the, you know, the time of menopause, and it's not going so smoothly for you, then you're going to get even more stressed,

Dana LaVoie 39:54
Right, yeah. And like even too much sugar in your diet can actually turn one of your forms of oestrogen that's good form into a stress hormone.

Gillian Duncan 40:03
Yeah, great. Just what we need! So, we have to be thinking twice about that chocolate then, don't we?

Dana LaVoie 40:09
Well, chocolate by itself is okay. It's just when there's a lot of sugar in it.

Gillian Duncan 40:14
That's the stuff we like, though!

Dana LaVoie 40:16
Yeah, exactly. So, that's the thing is like the right, you know, basic diet, like, sort of a basic hormone friendly diet, which is, you know, not too much sugar, you're getting your protein, you're getting a high enough percentages of vegetables and fruits. And, you know, healthy fats are really important too. So you're getting all those basic building blocks, and that you have, you know, you're, you're managing stress, you're, you know, not exposing yourself to a tonne of chemicals, you're getting a little exercise, you're getting good sleep, right, which I know you talk about a lot, we can talk about that more. So the basic diet and lifestyle are absolutely a great place to start for balancing your hormones, because some women who are really, like, genetically blessed and you know, they, that might be all they need to have a symptom free menopause. So, I definitely recommend starting there if you can, but what I see a lot is that can be difficult. For sure. I know I should eat a better diet, but it hasn't happened so far, you know, how likely is it to happen now that I'm in menopause and I'm not sleeping, and I'm more stressed up. So, the relationship between the diet and the herbs, and the lifestyle and the herbs, is that the herbs help your body do what it was designed to do, right? So your body was designed to make hormones, to detox hormones, to manage hormones, and the herbs give very specific support to get that working better. So if you don't have the diet or the lifestyle in place, the herbs aren't going to work quite as well. So, the right diet and lifestyle definitely help the herbs to work better, but I have so many women who find if they start with the herbs, that works better because once they're sleeping, once their knee's not hurting, once they have more energy, once they're thinking more clearly, you know, it's so much easier to start exercising, or to get more sleep, or to have a better diet, you know. So the herbs can help you make those good intentions happen. So, they work together, but you can start with either one, I guess.

Gillian Duncan 42:13
I do have a question. A lot of people I've spoken to, including myself, get to that age, and we gain weight. And it's not related to anything else. We're eating the same diet, same foods, we might have a healthy food, we might be exercising the same. Nothing in our life has changed.

Dana LaVoie 42:36
You might be eating less and exercising more, and still gaining weight.

Gillian Duncan 42:41
Yep. And then you get to that point where you eat less and less and less and less, which is extremely unhealthy for you, because obviously, you go into stress response and, you know, that just triggers everything. You don't sleep well. It goes into that cycle. Can the Chinese herbs help at this point?

Dana LaVoie 42:59
Yeah. Absolutely and, and even changing your diet can too. Like, like you said, if you eat too little, that's not the answer. See, when we're younger, I think a lot of women, like, we grew up with some myths that were really popular at the time. Like, that a low fat diet is going to help you lose weight. That a lower, the lower fat your diet, the better, right? That weight loss was a formula. The calories you eat, minus the calories you lose during exercise, that's your weight, right? So if you take in less calories and burn more calories, you'll lose weight. We grew up thinking that that was the way it worked.

Gillian Duncan 43:40
Yeah. And it's still out there. That's the. that's the plan.

Dana LaVoie 43:43
Yeah, yeah, and it actually kind of does work that way for, like, teenage men. It is sort of like that. But when women hit menopause, there are other things going on, that are much more important. It has to do with your hormones, your metabolism and your brain chemistry. When your brain starts sending out those messages, the messages say, 'Okay, every calorie you eat, I want you to store it as fat'.

Gillian Duncan 44:13
Yeah, I love that message! It's just wonderful!

Dana LaVoie 44:15
Yeah, right. When your body is sending out that message it is so hard to lose weight, no matter what. And the hormones are kind of the same thing. They can really make you feel hungry when you're not, they can prevent you from feeling full, and they can also make you have carbohydrate cravings and sweet cravings, right? So when they are working against you, and hormones is all about your metabolism, right? So when your metabolism starts to get shut down, so you're not burning calories, again, it is so hard to lose weight. And if you can turn that around, if you can shift your brain chemistry and your metabolism and your hormones so that you're starting to burn calories again, so that you change the messages, so your body saying, 'Oh, eat some calories, let's burn them up. Let's turn them into energy', not, 'Let's store them as fat', all of a sudden, the weight will just start to melt off without being on this, you know, crazy diet. Because even the crazy diet is probably not going to work, it's probably going to just shut your metabolism down even more, and a lot of women simply even over exercise too, and that can have the same effect.

Gillian Duncan 45:25
And that's also good as well because if you're not getting the right balance of nutrients, and also at the time of menopause, joints can start changing as well, the, the chemistry round about them, and if you're pushing your body to extreme limits, when you've not done it through your life, and all of a sudden you're subjecting your body to really harsh exercising, then this can do more damage than good.

Dana LaVoie 45:50
Yeah. And also when you exercise, you know kind of hard, it creates inflammation in your tissues and that's normal. That's healthy. That's fine. But for women at menopause, we need to be careful of that. If we create a lot of inflammation, and then we go out and do the same exercise the next day, we never, our body never has time to get rid of that inflammation before we're giving it more inflammation. And the inflammation turns on those wrong signals. Those wrong messages about storing fat. And so, it's important that we, if we're going to exercise in a way that creates inflammation, that we do it for a short enough period of time and wait long enough before we do it again, that we can resolve the inflammation. So there's little tricks for like, you know, how much to exercise, and what kind of exercise, and how long and how often, and the same thing with diet. How much to eat, how often, you know, sometimes more calories and eating more often, you'll actually lose more weight because you're getting your metabolism turned back on.

Gillian Duncan 46:54
And the Chinese herbs can also help?

Dana LaVoie 46:56
Yeah, because, because think why did this happen all of a sudden, when you hit menopause? Because your hormones changed. So that's kind of what I was saying is, you know, some approaches like a Western approach, might be to look at this as, 'Okay, well, let's give you some kind of, something to rev up your metabolism, right? Because the problem is you're not burning enough calories', whereas Chinese medicine is going to say, 'Okay, well, that's the symptom. And we might, we want to make sure that your, you know, digestive system is healthy'. Sometimes women in menopause, we tend to have less stomach acid, less digestive enzymes, less, you know, bio diversity in our probiotics and stuff like that. So sometimes we need a little digestive support, and that's sort of a symptom-based treatment. But the underlying cause of that weight gain is a hormonal shift. And so, if you can address that underlying hormonal imbalance, then, you know, it resolves that sort of unreasonable, stubborn weight gain, because that's what caused it in the first place.

Gillian Duncan 47:54
That's just brilliant to hear. I have asked this question, really, because that's exactly what's happened to me. Hit 40, and I gain weight, and no matter what I do, you know, even with my you know, sleep restored and with exercise and my extremely healthy diet, I have weight. And I remember, I spoke to my Mum about it, as you do, and she went 'Oh Gillian, don't worry about it', she says, 'It's just in your genes. That's what's going to happen to you. You've hit the big 4-0, from now on, it's just downhill. You, know, just get used to it. Just by bigger clothes, it'll be fine. Just re-adjust to your new image'. And you know, bless her. that it was lovely and supportive in one sense, but in my mind I'm going, 'No. I'm fighting this. I'm fighting this and I'm fighting this'. And I even went to my nurse for a checkup, you know? As you do every year, or wherever. You get your weight sorted and you have a chat with them, make sure everything's okay, and I'm very good at doing that. And I said, 'Oh no, I'm getting worried about my weight you know. Maybe it's my thyroid. Maybe it's something'. I had all my bloods done. 'No, everything is completely fine'. 'But what about the weight?', 'Oh, you're weight's fine'. Now, if I had gone, say, 20 years ago and said, 'I'm worried about my weight', they would have said, 'Yes, you're overweight. You lose that weight', but because I am of a certain age, it is now okay. And that just, in one sense, that kind of, it makes me slightly depressed because it's almost like, 'It's okay darlin', you're 40 now, you know, you're over the hill, you can't do anything about it. You're, you're going to just live a life of the spare tyre. And, ya know, you've got bigger things to worry about'. And that, there is something that we can do about that. And that, that's brilliant. This is gives me hope.

Dana LaVoie 49:44
And, and it's interesting too, because, you know, there's different types of weight gain, like when you were younger, if you gained weight, it would often go in your hips, in your thighs, but often once we hit 40, it's like we gain it around our middle like you said, that spare tyre.

Gillian Duncan 49:59
It's a spare tyre. Nowhere else, just the middle.

Dana LaVoie 50:02
Right. And that particular kind of weight gain is really interesting. If you look into it, it's very, very hormonal. And it, it's funny because once you have that type, that belly fat type of tissue, it actually sends out chemical messages telling your body to make more of it. And it's very hormonal. It's very tied in with oestrogen and hormones very much so. Yeah.

Gillian Duncan 50:28
Yeah, it doesn't complement the fact that I've had two cesarean sections as well. One of the hardest places for me to lose weight because I have lost muscle there through several operations, not just my sections, so you know, even trying to tone muscles up...and at the time this was happening just, it's a personal story this one, but the time this was happening, I was, I was teaching four yoga classes a week. And I, you know, as I said, my fitness level was just the same as always was. My diet was the same, and I was putting it down to maybe I'd had a couple of glasses of wine too much, you know, but really, I hadn't. It is, it's that trigger point - you get to that age and unfortunately, we have to sort of start readjusting and looking into what our bodies actually doing. So, it's been a fantastic insight for me today, talking to you. And I really do hope that there's other women out there that are listening to this, are actually going, 'Oh gosh, yes, I recognise this. I, I want to talk about it more'. And I encourage everybody to talk about the menopause more. I think, sometimes, it gets a really bad press and a really bad write up. I think, sometimes, people can shy away from it. Sometimes people get the, the whole idea that we just get to a certain age and all women go slightly crazy. You know, we all, we all put weight on and we go crazy. And I think, honestly, as you said, this is another springtime, isn't it? This is a different season for us, and I think we need to embrace it. But we need to readjust and relearn our bodies and get to know ourselves more, all over again. And I think we should enjoy doing that. But I think the key is to get out there, not be afraid of it and to talk to other women all about it because the more we share and the more we discuss this topic, the easier it will become, the less taboo it will be, and the more we will be able to share our own thoughts, and our own help, our own remedies, for example, using Chinese herbs. I never would have thought about using Chinese herbs before, before talking to you about this today. So again, that's just another point that we need to get out there. That are treatments and there are ways of helping this balance all the way through the journey. So, not just at the start and not just at the end, it is you know, it can continue all the way through.

Dana LaVoie 52:45
Yeah, after menopause, in all those years after the transition part is over, your body can still make hormones. It's still supposed to be making hormones, keeping your sex hormone levels at a certain level, sort of around where they were when you were 10, or 11 years old, right? For a lot of women, they go all the way down to practically zero. And the difference between zero and that natural higher level, even though it's postmenopausal they're still there, makes a big difference in how you're feeling, and is very protective for your health. And so the herbs and other things to, to make sure you're keeping those hormone levels high enough after menopause, right, which you're probably not even worrying about yet, is also really important. And so keeping them from dropping too low during menopause, helps with that. You know, each state helps with the one that comes after. If you, if you give your body support while you're going through it.

Gillian Duncan 53:40
Yeah, and if we know about this, the more we know and the more we know about the journey, the, you know, the fact that we should be really thinking about it before we even reach perimenopause, we should be thinking, you know, perhaps, you know, from mid 30's onwards, we should be thinking, well, this change is going to happen and it's, it will inevitably going to happen to us. And then through our 40's and into our 50's and beyond, we should always be taking that extra care and reassessing our health journey, our health plan.

Dana LaVoie 54:10
Right. I mean imagine if, before it started to happen, you started practising stress management regularly,started eating a bit better and started taking some, you know, herbal supplements to make sure that all your hormones were replenished, you know. So you're not, your hormones are about to drop in menopause, you want to make sure they're not already depleted when they start to drop.

Gillian Duncan 54:32
Yeah. That's brilliant advice. You have more advice, and you have got an online programme, and it's all about the use of Chinese herbs. Can you tell us more about Dana?

Dana LaVoie 54:44
Yeah, absolutely. So, on my website, I try to spread all this information and I have a pretty extensive collection of video blog posts that are completely free and some free downloadable resources that everyone, you know, can access to understand more about what menopause is, when it starts, how long it lasts, what the symptoms are, the different stages, you know, just to really help everyone understand what's going on, and what are the options of what they can do about it. And for women who want, decide they want to use the Chinese herbs, I have an online programme, which is something that is really just a tool, it's not a lot of theory in it, it's more just, you go into the course and it teaches you how to use the herbs. Like, how to take them, how to get maximum effect. So you know, when does, everything you need to know about using them safely and for maximum effect. It gives you all those herbalists tips. And then in the middle part, it walks you through this system, where you put in how you're feeling all your different symptoms, and it translates it into a combination of herbs. That's always going to address all those three categories we talked about, but in a ratio for you, at that time. And it tells you just how to take them. And then what you do is like a few months later, when things change, you just go back, put in your new symptoms, and it, you know, gives you a new combination. So you can use it to have an updated custom combination of herbs, all the way through and from just before and all the years after the menopausal transition to support your hormonal balance.

Gillian Duncan 56:24
That's brilliant. That's a brilliant resource, as I say. And you've also got other free downloads there. You've got one which is a hormone balancing smoothie, and you've got the recipe for that as well, that's on your website.

Dana LaVoie 56:39
Yep. Yeah. And it's like a bunch of different variations on my smoothie recipe. But it really then comes with a series of emails that talk you through when I was talking about, like a hormone friendly diet where you're getting all the building blocks for hormone balancing and hormone detoxification, what's in that basic hormone friendly diet. So the smoothie download will give you that information as well.

Gillian Duncan 57:00
That's brilliant. And the one thing that I really do like is the fact that you also have got a Facebook group. And so you have got that supportive group for women. The group that I was saying that we really need, when we go through this. We need to have other people who are going through the same journey. It's really good to talk. It's really good to have that support all the time. And you've got that group there.

Dana LaVoie 57:24
Absolutely. It's on Facebook. It's for women only, but it's free. Any woman can join it. But I like it because inside the group, in the conversations, it's just women talking to other women. And I'm in there answering questions, for sure, but what I love is that, you know, there's like a couple of thousand women in there now and they talk to each other. You know, 'Hey, has anyone tried this?', 'Did anyone, this happened to anyone?', you know, it's like, it's just a great place to have those kind of conversations in a safe environment. And I just wanted to mention that I actually did recently change the name of the group. So, we'll put a link on the, on the page, but it's, it's just called 'Menopause Made Easy', but it's the same group. It's the same people.

Gillian Duncan 58:03
As you say, I will put the links to your website, your group, and how to contact you, how to get in touch. And I'll put that on the post for this podcast, along with the full transcription for the podcast so that people can take time, they can read through it, and they can go over what we've discussed today, because there's been a lot of information. I've absolutely loved our conversation today, our chat, and I knew I would. This has been so informative, and I've loved chatting with you Dana, and I really just want to thank you for sharing so much information with us today, and being so supportive and helping getting that whole topic out there. It's not taboo. We need to talk more about it, and yeah, and also teaching us all about Chinese herbs. I've learned so much, so thank you very, very much.

Dana LaVoie 58:49
It is my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. I just love talking about this. I hope it's given you or some other woman some little glimmer of, 'Maybe there is something out there that will make this easier'.

Gillian Duncan 59:00
That's brilliant, Dana. Thank you so much.

That's all for this episode. My sincerest thanks to Dana LaVoie for explaining all about the use of Chinese herbs when it comes to easing the symptoms of the menopause. I am sure that we have all learned something new and helpful from Dana today. To find out how to connect with Dana, how to join her online programme in Chinese herbs and to download her free hormone balancing smoothie recipe, then hop over to www.clarityjunction.com/chineseherbsformenopause. There you will find all the details you need, including links to her facebook group

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