Throughout the 9 years I have been practicing and teaching Traditional Chinese Medicine, I have noticed, especially in North America, an increase in female infertility patients. One suggested reason for this, is a lack of attention and care to one’s reproductive health – more specifically, women not regularly monitoring their periods. I frequently observe female patients who do not keep regular track of their menstrual cycle and often won’t begin to monitor their periods, until they start to experience reproductive health concerns, such as severe menstrual pain. A healthy period is actually a significant indicator of properly working female reproductive functions, which is why it is especially important that women know how to properly take care of themselves throughout their period, when the body is much weaker than normal.
One of the most famous Chinese Medicine Classics, Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (also known in Chinese as Huangdi Neijing), mentions that “a female’s Tian Kui reaches its maturity at the age of fourteen; Energy in the Ren Vessel runs the smoothest, and Chong Meridian at the fullest; therefore, menstrual blood shows.” This explains that in TCM, when a woman’s kidney emits smooth energy, around the age of fourteen, this will result a healthy, and regular menstrual cycle.
Common health concerns and problems affecting menstrual cycle in females
Some habits which TCM regards as “unhealthy” to female reproductive health, include consistently consuming cold food and drink, a lack of sleep and excessive sexual activity (especially during one’s period). According to TCM, pain (either light or severe pain), is caused by a deficiency in Kidney Yang Energy (or warm energy), poor circulation of a woman’s Qi and Blood and Cold Energy in the Uterus. These may further result in such health concerns as excessive flow of blood (menorrhagia) or scant blood (hypomenorrhea) during the menstrual cycle, a prolonged menstrual cycle, amenorrhea (no period) or dysmenorrhea (painful period).
What are some tips which can help to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle?
- Healthy emotions – It’s important to keep your mood and emotions in check during one’s menstrual cycle. Stress and anxiety will lead to further health concerns, which is why it is important to engage in relaxing activities.
- Keep warm– When experiencing your menstrual cycle, Traditional Chinese Medicine advises to not drink cold water or other cold fluids, take hot showers, always dry your hair after washing, wear warm clothes (i.e. long sleeves and long pants), and avoid air conditioning. If you must be in an air-conditioned room, make sure you are wearing enough clothes to keep the body warm, especially the feet.
- Avoid cold foods – Avoid cold, raw fruits and vegetables, as well as iced drinks and iced teas.
- Lifestyle Choices – Avoid sexual activity during your period, avoid physical and mental overexertion, engage in light exercises (i.e. meditation, yoga), and try to go to bed every night before 10pm in order to restore and nourish your body’s Qi and Blood.
What are some tips which can assist women who have dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cycle)?
- Warm the Yang Energy
- Dissolve stagnation (get rid of blockage)
- Circulate blood and smooth the meridians
All of these tips, can ultimately be aided through effective:
- Acupuncture Treatment – Acupuncture in Traditional Chinese Medicine, has been known to effectively treat irregular menstruation, PMS, dysmenorrhea and infertility. Treating the “root cause” of dysmenorrhea means approaching the body with the correct treatments.
It is important to state that a painful menstrual cycle is, first and foremost, a warning sign. If the patient only works to temporarily stop the pain, but does not investigate further into what is really causing the discomfort, this may lead to other serious health problems. Monitoring and regulating your period, and ultimately knowing your own body, are the first steps in the right direction to great reproductive health.
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