I have always had an interest in women’s health. As a teenager and into my 20’s, I had extremely painful and heavy periods. I tried Advil. I tried western herbs (chosen by myself, not by someone who was trained). It was not until I began seeing an acupuncturist that I learned that painful periods are not “normal.” “When there is free flow, there is no pain. When there is no free flow, there is pain” is a precept of Chinese Medicine. With acupuncture and herbs my periods became less painful and then painless, which still holds true today. Thus continued my fascination with addressing women’s health from a natural perspective.
As previously mentioned, Chinese Medicine works wonderfully for painful periods (dysmenorrhea). But there are many more women’s issues for which acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are a great choice.
- Premenstrual issues such as emotional changes, low back or abdominal pain, bloating, spotting, acne, headaches, fatigue, and disturbances in sleep or digestion
- Pregnancy issues such as low back pain, constipation, morning sickness, headaches, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, spotting, threatened miscarriage, breech presentation, and delayed labor
- Postpartum issues such as postpartum depression and problems with milk production
- Hormonal Imbalances, including elevated FSH, luteal phase defect, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and premature ovarian failure (POF)
- Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and irritability
- Amenorrhea (lack of periods)
- Anovulation (lack of ovulation)
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
- Heavy periods
- Cervical dysplasia
In Chinese Medicine, each of the above conditions can be due to one or more of many different patterns of imbalance. The skilled practitioner must assess through not only signs and symptoms, but also through tongue and pulse diagnosis. Let us look at a few examples.
Many premenstrual issues are due to Liver Qi Stagnation. The natural state of Qi is to flow freely through the channels. But when its flow is blocked – due to emotional constraint, poor dietary choices, or lack of exercise – the result is stagnation. The Qi is trying to move, but it is unable to do so in a smooth manner. Imagine yourself caught in bad traffic. How do you feel? A little aggravated? Under pressure to get somewhere? This is what Liver Qi Stagnation feels like emotionally. Many of us can feel that constraint in the premenstrual phase. Our digestion gets affected; we become bloated and constipated or have looser stool. Our emotions become more heightened and mutable. The list goes on and on. Acupuncture itself is highly effective at treating this constraint; it works well and quickly. And herbs taken throughout the menstrual cycle can prevent it from happening in future premenstrual phases.
Let us look at menopausal issues. As we age, we lose Yin. As women, we have more of a tendency to do this because of our many years of blood loss through our periods and through childbirth. (In Chinese Medicine Yin and Blood are very closely related and a long-term deficiency of one will often lead to the other.) Yin is a cooling and moistening force in the body. As it declines, which can even happen well before menopause, we start having symptoms associated with lack of this cooling and moistening function such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. However, this can also be complicated by other imbalances like Yang Deficiency. Yang is Yin’s complement; it is warming and drying. If you are deficient in both, and you only treat one, you will make the other worse. This especially applies to Chinese herbs and dietary therapy. This is one reason why it is important to see a Licensed Acupuncturist rather than do self-diagnosis.
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