Chinese Medicine has long focused on the female reproductive cycle as measure of a woman’s good health. It’s important for all women to understand what is a good, normal cycle for them, and what may need attention.
The start of the menstrual cycle begins on day 1: the first full day of bleeding. It should begin without pain, or spotting in the lead-up, and flow should be dark red with very little clotting. It is normal to feel a bit tired for the first few days of your period. Clear the schedule as much as you can; stay warm and rest during this time. After a few days of full flow, your period will lighten, and your energy will start to pick up. Bleeding should end after about 4-5 days.
Day 4 or 5 the lining of your uterus starts to build up again in preparation for ovulation. You will generally feel quite good in this phase of your cycle – eating healthily, and exercising comes easily. Oestrogen is the dominant hormone. Hormonal changes in the lead-up to ovulation improve vaginal lubrication and sex drive. This is the time to take on the world – you have energy, clarity, and magnetism!
Ovulation, (approx. day 14) requires a good flow of hormones to undertake the cascade of hormonal changes required to release an egg. Bloating, pain, fatigue, and irritability are signs your body isn’t transitioning through it well.
Post-ovulation you might feel a bit slower. Progesterone is now the main hormone, and will be released from your ovary to protect an early pregnancy. If no pregnancy, progesterone production reduces after 11-14 days you will get your period. Progesterone levels are sensitive to stress, so it is important to exercise, reduce coffee, sugar and inflammatory foods to ensure a smooth pre-menstrual week, and calm start to your period.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (or polycystic ovary syndrome – PCOS) is a complex condition in which a woman’s ovaries are generally bigger than average. Polycystic means the ovaries have many cysts or follicles that rarely grow to maturity or produce eggs capable of being fertilised. Despite the fact that these cysts are not harmful, they are responsible for hormonal imbalances in the women. The hormonal imbalance interferes with the menstrual cycle which means that the periods either become highly irregular or are non-existent.
We have noticed that this condition is affecting more women in the last few years, and they often seek assistance when they are unable to conceive. Sadly, failure to treat the problem may lead to serious health issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Long-term problems are certain to be avoided through an early diagnosis and treatment.
The body talks through sending messages in the shape of hormones
Hormones act as messengers meant to trigger different processes in the body; these include energy production and growth. Every so often, one hormone works to trigger the release of another hormone. As with all conditions (diagnosed or not) in Chinese medicine, we establish the disruptive pattern causing the illness. In PCOS, we often see a lack of kidney energy together with ineffective transformation of fluids in the body, which results in phlegm. This phlegm then blocks the natural physiology and hence the chances of falling pregnant.
According to the traditional view, the accumulation of phlegm in the ovaries which is either due to a inadequate diet or the inability of the kidney to steam the fluid to the upper parts of the body. The kidney yang (the active, energetic part of the kidney) acts as a heater that is meant to steam body fluids and ensure they are properly distributed throughout the whole body.
Some of the major symptoms of PCOS are:
Irregular menstrual cycles; absent or irregular menses
Mid-cycle bleeding, painful ovulation, or agonizing menstruation
A stabbing pain, heaviness, or distention in the pelvic region
Heavy menstruation, more so if the periods are late
As it is, PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility. The analogy behind this is the fact that ovulation is affected by the disorder.
With customised Chinese herbal medicine formulations as well as acupuncture, we will target the disruption of the reproductive system by balancing the hormones and assist the body in gaining a natural cycle including ovulation as well as regular periods. Different herbal combinations are created so as to offer the much needed therapeutic effect. The incorporation of cinnamon, more specifically (Rou Gui) cinnamon bark, works to support the water-steaming characteristic of the kidney. Fu Ling (Hoelen) is a moisture-controlling herb that, when used in combination with cinnamon and other herbs, may treat the disorder. Ba Wei Di Huang Wan (Rehmannia Eight Formula) or Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan are widely used in the Chinese medicine treatment of PCOS. The formula is administered either using pills, as a decoction or as liquid or granulated extracts.
Damp stagnation, qi and blood stagnation, and heart qi stagnation are the three major forms of PCOS. Owing to the obvious distinction in symptoms and aftermaths, it is advised that you seek personalized medical care.
Deficiency of Kidney Yang and Spleen Qi
Women ailing from this pattern of PCOS exhibit long menstrual cycles, watery blood, and scanty bleeding that may have mucus or stringy tissue. Some of them also do not menstruate at all which is principally why they seek fertility treatment. Women in this category feel bloated, add weight easily, tire easily, and do not like cold weather. Chronic vaginal discharge and chronic yeast infections are also possible symptoms.
Treatment here is aimed at dissolving the phlegm, removing dampness, and boosting the digestive system. Specific herbs, administered in formulas such as Tu Si Zi (Cuscutae Semen), Gui Zhi (Cinnamomi Ramulus), Cang Zhu (Atractylodes Rhizoma), and Du Zhong (Eucommiae Cortex), etc. may also be used. The composition of the herbal formulation will entirely depend on the pattern and your constitution.
Blood Stasis and Liver Qi Stagnation
Enduring depression, stress, or anxiety are the main causes of this pattern. These, in turn, affects blood circulation; qi is necessary for blood circulation in the liver as well as the chong (Conception) and ren (Governing) channels that connect and traverse with the uterus. Some of the most common symptoms in this pattern include headaches, irritability and restlessness, a general feeling of heat, distended abdomen or breast and predominantly clotty and heavy periods.
Herbs meant to promote blood circulation in the uterus and qi, reduce distention and pain, remove heat, and calm emotions are used. In such cases, formulas such as Dan Zhi Xiao Yao Yao San, Chai Hu Shu Gan Tang or Xiao Chai Hu Tang are used with modifications based on the diagnosis.
Acupuncture for PCOS
Acupuncture has been used extensively to offer relief from myriads of problems; PCOS is not an exemption. Through acupuncture, blood flow to the uterus is increased essentially increasing the wall’s thickness; this is an important dynamic in fertility. The stress hormones associated with infertility may also be reduced by the treatment.
Acupuncture treatment may be given once a week, or more frequently depending on the severity. Patients with pain in the mid-cycle or before menstruation are subscribed to relatively frequent acupuncture sessions. Normally, continuous treatment is recommended for about three months. However, the duration varies considerably based on factors such as the intensity of the symptoms and the Chinese medicine diagnosis offered among other factors such as dietary and lifestyle adjustments.
We found that if women affected by PCOS need to consider the following, basic dietary changes:
Reduce the intake of dairy (as milk and cheese products will encourage the formation of phlegm)
Don’t eat anything raw (uncooked) or cold (out of the fridge or frozen)
Drastically reduce the intake of refined sugars, carbohydrates and starchy vegetables
Eat healthy fats and oils (the best sources of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fish)
Use lots of pungent and warming herbs out of the garden to encourage the flow of Qi and blood throughout the body.
It is easy to ignore one’s menstrual cycle in your earlier years. Despite the urge, it is important to take note of unusual signs that may be present.
A certified Chinese Medicine herbalist and practitioner can correctly assess and diagnose the symptoms that should be addressed first, and the underlying cause.
We strongly recommend that instead of blindly taking herbal formulas without professional diagnosis and proper dosage, you should seek the services of a certified therapist.
BACKGROUND. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://www.itmonline.org/arts/ovcyst.htm
“Role of acupuncture in the treatment of female infertility.” By Dr. Raymond Chang, Dr. Pak Chung, and Dr. Zev Rosenwaks. Fertility and Sterility. 2002;78(6):1149-53. – See more at: http://www.pcosnutrition.com/links/blogs/traditional-chinese-medicine–acupuncture-for-women-with-pcos.html#sthash.yh95GMyT.dpuf
As a female we menstruate for 35 years (between 14 and 49 years of age) give or take a few years. Bleeding is a natural physiological occurrence and usually comes about once a month (in a perfect world, every 28 days). According to Chinese medicine, it is necessary not only for a healthy cycle and physiology but also for the wellbeing of a woman.
We meet many females in our practice who have disrupted, irregular, painful periods. We need you to know that this is not a necessity and if addressed early, will have an excellent chance to improve greatly. It will not only make your periods easily manageable but will also greatly influence your fertility, pregnancies and menopause (change of life).
If there are difficulties with your menstrual cycle, it should be addressed! And by the way, the Pill doesn’t fix all those problems.
If the Qi and the blood flows smoothly, you won’t experience difficulties associated with your menstrual cycle. The flow of Qi and blood depends on a certain core temperature of 36.8 – 37.0 degrees Celsius. At optimal body temperatures the Qi and blood flow un-interruptedly and maintain heathy processes and mechanism throughout the body.
If the blood flow is congested the Qi flow is blocked and vice-versa. This will cause especially one symptom: pain. Cold temperatures congeal the blood and Qi and it will stagnate.
5 things to avoid during your period:
Reduce your intake of dairy food leading up and during your period
Reduce your intake of salads or uncooked foods during your period
Don’t eat any ice-cream leading up or during your period
Don’t swim during your period, of if you have to, immediately change out of your wet bathers
Never have sex during your period!
There is a bigger risk of cold entering into the uterus or being transferred internally especially through the Spleen, Liver and Kidney channels. If you follow this easy rule – 5 things to avoid during your period – you will experience healthy menstrual cycle. If you do experience any problems such as irregular, painful, heavy or no periods, please make an appointment today so we can discuss a treatment plan that suits your constitution.