By Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC
Many women have been culturally conditioned to believe that menstruation disrupts life and needs to be controlled and hidden. In response to a rise in menstrual irregularities we start to question and become aware of how this mentality can lead to disassociation of our body in connection with our biorhythms and emotions as messengers.
“To have and honor a relationship with your cycle is an act of rebellion against our cultures fear and rejection of feminine power. Your cycle is a direct line to your private emotional world – rich with insight, intuition, psychic gifts and a deep inner knowing of self.” – Sheleana Aiyana
Modern Day Menstrual Woe’s
Historically this time of the month and days of a woman’s cycle leading up it were considered sacred, in tune to the moon’s cycle, a sign of fertility, livelihood, and a time to let go of doing in lieu of moving inward to reflect. These elements became less important as modern day’s speed does not approve of the slowing down that period time requires. One’s period gets in the way of schedules and interferes with exercise, mood, intimacy, self-worth, beauty, and attire; what was once beautiful to the mind’s eye is now perceived as ‘dirty’ and a nuisance.
The Imbalanced Cycle
Signs and symptoms associated with a women’s cycle are often perceived as normal, are ignored, or medicated on the surface level. According to ancient Eastern medicine, it is not a part of the normal menstrual cycle to experience monthly PMS symptoms such as headaches, cramping, bloating, cravings, and mood swings, to name a few. Menstrual disorders such as: amenorrhea, irregular cycles, PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, heavy or light periods, spotting or in between bleeding, short or longer cycles, and fertility struggles, are not ‘just happening’ either.
Benefits of Menstruation
Having a regular period is a sign of health, livelihood, a happy stress-hormone (yang-yin) balance, and fertility. The benefits of menstruation extend to protection of reproductive organs, as menstrual blood is rich in antibacterial and antiviral properties. Another benefit is that sex hormones that contribute to having a period support bone density as we age. With the awareness that our body is intelligently designed and knows what to do to restore balance, let's discuss the ideal cycle, common causes, and how Chinese medicine can help.
The Ideal Menstrual Cycle
Menarche, the first occurrence of menstruation, occurs around the age of 12 years old. Menstruation is the process in women of discharging blood and other materials from the lining of the uterus at intervals of about one lunar month from puberty until menopause, except during pregnancy. Bleeding occurs at regular rhythmic intervals from 21 - 35 days, falling within this range for at least 3 consecutive cycles. Duration can range from 3 – 7 days, and bleeding amount ranges from 30 – 80 mL. The texture may include small clots that aren’t coagulated, the colour is moderate red (not too bright or too dull), and the odour is mild to none.
Common Causes of Menstrual Disorders:
- Stress- hormone imbalance: Too much yang energy (stress hormones) consuming yin energy (sex hormones).
- Diet: Too many processed foods and/or sugars, too many heating or cooling foods, damp foods, over-eating, or inadequate nourishment.
- Lifestyle: Under or over-exercising, over-working, lack of grounding in nature, and chemical exposure.
- External environment: Constitutional sensitivity or over-exposure to cold, hot, or damp climate.
- Organic disease: Structural impediment and/or genetic involvement.
The Stress-Hormone Effect
Perceived and non-perceived stress levels from inner and external expectations and demands can constrict blood vessels, dysregulate temperature, hormone production and release, and energy pathways involved with the timing of regular cycles. On the contrary, rest and relaxation promotes blood circulation to reproductive organs, temperature equilibrium, hormone harmonization, and open energy pathways. These components along with a little loving acceptance and appreciation of one’s feminine cycle awaken the healing journey.
“TCM views the menstrual cycle as being guided by nature, Daoist principles and yin/yang theory. These principles are based on eating and living according to the rhythms of the seasons and your body’s own unique qualities, which leads to greater health and balance. By being mindful of how your cycle’s rhythms mirror the ebb and flow of the natural world, you can achieve a deeper, more intuitive understanding of your body.” – Claudia Welch
How Acupuncture Can Help Regulate Your Cycle
Chinese medicine focuses on strengthening the body-mind’s natural intelligence and ability to heal through the gentle support and guidance of acupuncture, diet, and lifestyle. For menstrual health, acupuncture and related therapies work to balance yin and yang energy and qi and blood flow of the liver, spleen, and kidney organ systems and meridians, as well as the Ren, Du, and Dai Mai extraordinary vessels. There are additional inter-connected organs and meridians that are assessed based on signs, symptoms, observation, palpation, and tongue and pulse analysis.
Weekly treatments inhibit the constricting energy of the biological sympathetic stress response (fight, flight, or freeze) in favor of the expanding energy of parasympathetic nervous system outflow (rest and relaxation). Acupuncture points activate the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine and endogenous opiods (endorphins), which stimulate the regulation of hormones. These responses positively affect the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis as well as glucose and lipid metabolism. Benefits include increased blood flow to reproductive tissue via inhibiting sympathetic nerve activity, pain relief, relaxation, and mood balancing. Cumulative effects influence the menstrual cycle, ovulation, fertility, and overall sense of wellbeing.
Note: Additional Chinese medicine therapies may include moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, diet therapy, herbs, and lifestyle suggestions.
To regulate your period I recommend one acupuncture session per week, for at least 3 months (12 treatments), to balance each phase of your menstrual cycle. If you are experiencing acute symptoms you may be advised to come in twice per week for 1 - 2 weeks. Consistency is key since acupuncture is cumulative, meaning each treatment builds energetic progress on the last. If a treatment is missed and symptoms creep back in, progress sets back.
Understand that as an acupuncturist I am a guide; the needles do the work while the permission and intentions you bring to the table open up space for healing your mind-body-spirit. Between treatments self-responsibility plays an important role in optimizing treatments and your health journey. This means self care routines, such as a whole foods diet, stress management, exercise, breath-work, and circadian rhythm balancing are encouraged.
To learn more about your menstrual cycle and the fertility awareness method (FAM), I recommend reading the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. If you are on Instagram, please follow @risingwoman for women's health inspiration. Lastly, an app that I recommend to keep track of your fertility cycle, @naturalcycles.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome | How Acupuncture Can Help
- Acupuncture For Stress & Anxiety
- Acupuncture Provides Effective Pain Relief That Is Medication Free
- What Your Period Tells You About Your Health
- Acupuncture For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle
- Chinese Medicine For PMS
- Optimizing Circadian Rhythm For Well-Being
If you’re interested in acupuncture for menstrual and hormone health I’d be happy to guide you along. Please visit www.vcaspa.com or www.juniperfamilyhealth.com to book online. To learn more about my acupuncture practice, follow @hayley_stobbs on Instagram.
In health & happiness,
Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC