Although menstrual irregularities and symptoms that occur around the menstrual cycle are common, this doesn’t mean that they’re normal! Gynecologists often prescribe birth control pills to ‘regulate’ women’s cycles and to alleviate symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle. But the pill is not the only answer, nor is it a particularly good answer! The birth control pill works by providing your body with hormones that it might otherwise not be making enough of. These synthetic hormones are useful in providing you with peace of mind in that you start to enjoy regular, pain-free, acne-free cycles without the emotional highs and lows commonly associated with premenstrual syndrome. However, what the pill is not addressing is the reasons why your body wasn’t making these hormones appropriately in the first place.
This is where Chinese Medicine comes in. Some key areas I will look in to when a woman is dealing with any menstrual irregularity or symptoms around her cycle include:
- Diet: Are you eating enough (No, the 1200 calories touted by the diet industry is NOT enough). Are you eating a lot of cold/raw food? Avoiding fat? Carbohydrates? Do you have insulin sensitivities?
- Exercise: Are you exercising too much? Physical stress in the form of exercise can cause the hypothalamus to shut down and result in hormonal irregularities. Are you completely sedentary?
- Stress: Are you under a lot of stress? How can you work to reduce this stress?
- This may help you uncover if you suffer with hypothalamic amenorrhea (a fancy term that basically means not eating enough and/or exercising too much to maintain natural cycles).
Then we get in to the nitty gritty:
- Length of time between cycles (normal between 28-35 days)
- Symptoms before, during, after menstruation: Emotional, physical (cramps, headaches, digestive discomfort, fatigue)
- Color and consistency of the menstrual blood
- How many days the bleeding lasts
All of this information combined with any other symptoms you commonly experience, the color, shape and coating on your tongue and the quality of each radial pulse will indicate a Chinese medical ‘pattern.’ In Chinese medicine we don’t treat diseases or illnesses or even symptoms, we treat patterns.
Acupuncture, moxibustion (so great for cramps!), cupping and Chinese Herbal Medicine can all be used in the treatment of amenorrhea (no period), dysmenorrhea (painful period), irregular cycles (early or late), PMS. The menstrual cycle is such a key indicator of the state of one’s health. To mask the symptoms that your body is using to tell you something is off (i.e. with the birth control pill) is to miss an opportunity to listen the body’s innate wisdom. Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact me.