Mothers and daughters need not suffer with period pain and (dare I say it?) emotional outbursts and pre-menstrual symptoms. That “time of the month” can be a celebration, a cleansing of the body – not something to dread.
Menstruation is an indicator of body health, in particular the Xue (blood) and Qi (energy). Through charting and/or being aware of our cycles, we can keep track of general health, know when our reserves are getting low and have an awareness of when to seek treatment.
Seven Year Cycles
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), females are considered to follow seven year cycles of growth. The 1st cycle (7 years) is a time of great emotional development. During the 2nd cycle (14 years) the menarche occurs with the beginning of sexual energy. The child’s individuality is seen more than ever. They tend to radically separate from parents and need more freedom. The 2nd transition cycle is said to be one of the “gates of life”, a time when health can take a turn for better or worse.
Between the 3rd and 5th cycles (21-35 years) is the ideal time to have children. After this time fertility declines dramatically and generally between the 6th to 8th cycles (42-56) menopause occurs.
What is normal?
A healthy period is a regular cycle of 28-35 days, with a consistent flow for approximately five days. The blood is red, containing nil to few blood clots. Slight discomfort and awareness of menstruation is considered normal.
Patterns of disharmony
Signs and symptoms outside of ‘normal’ can aid in diagnosing patterns of disharmony occurring in the body. These patterns can occur concurrently and vary for each individual. Not all signs and symptoms are needed to know that the pattern exists. This list includes the more common patterns that cause menstrual problems.
Qi Deficiency (not holding Xue)
Menstrual signs: Light red colour, profuse, thin in quality, shortened cycle, “empty” and “heavy” sensation in the lower abdomen.
General signs: Lassitude, palpitation, shortness of breath, pale tongue with thin coating.
Caused by mental and physical overexertion and poor diet.
This pattern is more common in teens (and adults) that are academically or sports driven.
Deficiency of Xue
Menstrual signs: Watery, thin, scanty and pale coloured blood, delayed cycle, dull pain in the abdomen during or after the period which is alleviated by pressure.
General signs: Emaciation, sallow complexion, lustreless skin, dizziness, blurred vision, palpitation, insomnia, pink tongue with little coating.
Caused by chronic haemorrhage, chronic disease, caesarean section, multiparity (many pregnancies and births in a short period of time), or can follow on from deficiency of Qi.
Menstrual signs: Scanty and dark red menses in delayed cycle, irregular menstruation, pre-menstrual or menstrual distending pain in the breasts and lower abdomen, pre-menstrual emotional outbursts. Prolonged Qi stagnation can lead to purplish blood with clots and pain before period.
General signs: Mental depression, thin, white tongue coat.
Caused by depressed anger or emotions and too much time in front of a computer or television screen.
Stagnation of Xue (with Cold)
Menstrual signs: Prolonged cycle with scanty, purplish or black congealed blood with large clots, cold pain in the lower abdomen, pain before periods.
General signs: Cold limbs, thin and white tongue coating.
Caused by yang deficiency, internal cold pathogenic factor, over indulgence in cold natured and raw foods, exposure to cold and rain during menstruation.
Stagnation of Xue can occur without cold, in which case the cold symptoms are missing (cold limbs and cold pain).
Heat in the Xue
Menstrual signs: Short cycle with excessive blood, dark red or bright red colour and thick in quality, pain during periods.
General signs: Restlessness, fullness in the chest, brown urine, reddened tongue with yellow coating.
Caused by an abundance of internal heat pathogenic factor, excess pungent foods or a can follow on from Qi stagnation.
The use of the contraceptive pill, intra-uterine devices or any contraceptives that affect the hormones will greatly alter a woman’s cycle and mask signs and symptoms. This creates difficulties in identifying patterns of disharmony. In some cases, women and girls are prescribed contraceptives to mask problems such as endometriosis. This can have dire effects on the body, especially reproductive health and fertility.
Eliminating the cause of a pattern can help it to right itself. Living a healthy lifestyle, getting enough sleep, eating well and balancing physical and mental work will help to avoid or correct these patterns of disharmony.
A TCM acupuncturist or herbalist can treat these patterns and give advice on dietary and lifestyle changes specific to individual needs. It is particularly beneficial to receive treatment during the 2nd cycle to alleviate symptoms and allow a smooth transition into womanhood.
The sooner treatment is received for any of the patterns, the more quickly it will be resolved. TCM is powerful medicine for regulating women’s health.
A Healthy Attitude
It is a gift to embrace menstruation as a time of body cleansing and a celebration of life. By being open about menses and the health aspects of menstruation we can enable a positive change and allow a smoother transition through the cycles of growth, towards a healthier future.
Qi (pronounced ‘chee’ or ‘key’) is the general energy of the body and the universe. There are many types of body Qi which all play a part in functioning.
Xue (pronounced ‘shu-ay’) is the TCM version of blood, a form of Qi which plays a slightly different role than in Western Medicine by being inseparable from Qi, and nourishing and moistening the body.
Pathogenic Factors are the five external climatic factors found in nature (wind, cold, heat, damp, dryness) that can invade the body and cause ill health.
Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Foreign Languages Press, 1987