What is your period telling you?

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In TCM the uterus and liver work in harmony. The liver maintains the flow of Qi or vital energy for the body. A healthy menstrual period should be pain free with a modest amount of bright red blood with Qi flowing freely through the liver, spleen and kidney channels that run through the pelvis. These meridians all play a significant role in menstruation and problems arise if any of these channels experience congestion, deficiency and imbalance.

 

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine promote healing for a variety of unharmonious menstrual cycles. The combination of a healthy diet, acupuncture, herbs and cupping, Chinese massage, gua sha, qigong are all very valuable to creating balance within the body. Types of unbalanced menstruation include periods which are too little or large in volume, periods that are too early or late, amenorrhea, PMS, any endometriosis symptoms, tough pregnancies and infertility.

 

A healthy menstrual cycle begins with free-flowing Qi. Qi stagnation is most commonly caused by stress and results in an unbalanced liver. Liver health is crucial to female fertility because when Qi is stagnant, blood and energy can't freely flow. The following menstrual problems can arise: pain, urinary problems, lower abdominal pain and stomach distention, back pain, premenstrual nipple sensitivity, irritability, depression and headaches or migraines.

 

Some women experience missed periods. Missed or late periods are usually due to an excess of cold or dampness within the uterus. Coldness and dampness can be generated by continuous ingestion of frozen smoothies, salads, leftovers, iced water, raw foods and cold drinks (check out previous post on dampness). If left untreated over a long period of time, cold can lead to infertility. Ginger Power and Ginger Extract are vital to warm the stomach and in tandem support the liver. Eating a warm breakfast and consuming Ginger Power tea are immediate action steps to remove excess cold and dampness. Other factors that can contribute to missed periods are birth control, IBS, over exercising, breast feeding and having many pregnancies close together.

 

Because "cold” has the property of contracting and obstructing, an accumulation of cold creates symptoms such as a dark, clotty menstrual discharge, aversion to cold, late or absent period, back pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite and pain in the lower stomach, all of which can be relieved by warmth.

 

Just prior and during menstruation women should consider their emotions and not worry (check out previous post on worry) or dwell on bothersome thoughts. Avoid the following just prior and during menstruation: cold foods, raw foods, vigorous exercise, intensive stress, sex. Sex reverses the flow of Qi and blood from down and out to up and in and tends to cause the formation of blood stagnation. During this time, it is crucial to rest and relax. 

 

Endometriosis is considered to stem from poor blood circulation. To create a healthier flow, acupuncture or massage can work on smoothing the pathway that supplies blood. Avoiding excessive emotions especially ones related to fear and anger is important. It's vital to maintain free flowing Qi which equates to free flowing of blood. When there is no stagnation, energy works efficiently to produce painless menstruation and a healthy uterus. 

 

Heavy periods can be a result of any or a combination of the following: blood stagnation, spleen Qi deficiency and blood heat. Blood stagnation occurs when the blood and Qi is blocked. Symptoms include sharp abdominal pain, blood clots, and pain that is intensified with pressure to the abdomen. The spleen is important because it transforms and transports foods and fluids and contains the blood. If the spleen Qi is deficient then it has trouble controlling the blood and holds blood in the vessels.

 

Long periods that last more than 6-10 days may not necessarily have heavy bleeding but are a sign of two main imbalances: liver Qi stagnation and or kidney yin deficiency. The liver stores and regulates menstrual blood but with the stress of our modern lives, stagnation can occur with symptoms like dark blood clots, frustration, headaches, or depression. Kidney yin deficiency occurs most commonly in peri-menopausal women or when kidney Qi and Jing have declined showing symptoms like several days of spotting, hot flashes and night sweats. FollicleFuel (available on my website) tonifies Qi, liver blood and kidney Jing.

 

Short periods can be a sign of liver heat. Symptoms include feeling emotional, experiencing insomnia and a faster than usual heart rate. Managing emotions through breathing exercises, meditation and resting are extra important here.

 

Liver Recharge tincture (available on my website) helps with the following menstrual issues: acne, PMS, hormonal imbalance, frequent stress, depression, anxiety, irritability, body aches, stomach discomfort, bloated stomach, digestive issue, IBS, irregular menstruation and infertility.

 

As you can see, many menstrual problems have similar root causes but can arise in a variety of symptoms. It is important to be mindful of your symptoms and share them with your TCM practitioner. They will assist you in getting to the underlying cause. It is said that it takes about 1 month for every year of period imbalance to heal, but it is very possible to have a painless period. I have some patients who switched to all warm food and liquids and had no pain in one month. Once again, the body is trying to heal itself and give you clues on the root cause of the imbalance. It is up to you however to take action and to want to change!

Lily Choi