“Aunt Flow”. “That time of the month”. “Lady Business.”
We all know the common names for PMS symptoms but more importantly, do we know how to take care of ourselves so that our monthly cycle doesn’t take over our lives? We hand it over to TCM Doctor Olivia Gold to offer suggestions for how to live in harmony with your menstrual cycle.
“Cramping, bloating, fatigue, and mood swings are a few of the many symptoms that can be caused by hormonal changes around our cycle. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, PMS Symptoms can be a sign that something is out of balance. Periods should actually be pain-free and asymptomatic.
If this seems far from reality, we’re here to offer some simple daily shifts that can make your monthly cycle more harmonious and manageable.
Menstruation in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Menstruation is the body’s natural detox. It is actually very beneficial for women. It releases old tissue and makes way for the new. It can be a time of rest, nurturing and renewal- if we make the space for it.
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners ask many questions about the menstruation as it gives us a great deal of insight into the body’s functions, and the quality of Qi and Blood in the body. Any symptoms that occur during PMS and/or menstruation are vital clues that there is an imbalance in the body. So, it’s important if you are suffering from serious symptoms that you seek the help of a professional to work through these symptoms and find their root cause.
The good news: There are many small changes we can make in our everyday routines that will make a big impact on our health and wellbeing. These shifts can also make “that time of the month” much easier to navigate.
Diet and Nutrition
As a society, we are getting more accustomed to eating quick meals on the go, in a meeting or while we work on the computer. In Chinese Medicine, how we eat is just as important as what we eat. Eating while working or emotional can injure the Spleen and can cause the blood to flow to the head instead of the digestive system. This impairs digestion and can cause symptoms like: bloating, fatigue, mal-absorbtion, constipation, and loose stool.
So first, it is important that we carve out space to eat in a peaceful state and without being rushed to do so. Try to not read, watch TV, study, or work while eating. When we’re focused on something else, the blood flow is not going to the stomach to help support digestion.
Next, if we are having unpleasant menstrual symptoms, it is important that we are eating whole, nutritious foods to support the Qi and Blood (energy) in the body as well as the hormone and endocrine system. Eat plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Food Therapy (the Energetics of our Food)
The temperature and energetics of our food is also very important in TCM.
Generally, we want to focus on eating warm, cooked foods.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the digestive system is like a furnace, or “digestive fire”.
If we are constantly putting foods that are cold and damp onto the fire, it will eventually burn out. Spleen likes warmth. Cold and raw foods cause vessels and muscles to contract and cause stagnation in the body.
This can lead to cramps, bloating, malabsorption, fatigue, nausea, constipation or diarrhea- or what we call symptoms of Spleen Qi or Yang Deficiency.If you often get very tired, feel cold easily, or bloated after meals- consider swapping your smoothie or salad for a hot tea, bowl of soup or cooked vegetables. Focus on eating plenty of cooked vegetables of every color, soups, lean proteins, fish, and healthy fats. A little bit of cinnamon and ginger is also very helpful and therapeutic for the Spleen.
In TCM, the Liver is responsible for the flow of Qi and Blood. If we experience painful cramps with clotting, mood swings, anxiety or depression, add lots of greens and bitter foods to the diet. Sautéed green leafy vegetables are great at any time but especially during menstruation to replenish iron and minerals that are lost. Spinach, kale, bok choy, and collard greens are some great options. Yams and sweet potato support the Spleen and healthy hormone levels, as do flax, chia, and hemp seeds. If you suffer from painful periods, focus on eating easily digested foods like sautéed vegetables, soups and stews. The warmth is comforting and doesn’t require a ton of work for the body to digest.
Further, try to limit dairy, sugar and processed products as much as possible. Alcohol and caffeine can also have a significant effect on the flow of Qi, quality of the blood, and the hormone balance so, moderation is best here as well.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, menstruation should be a time of rest. It takes a lot of work for the body to replenish the endometrial lining and detox the body so, it’s important that we really rest and give our bodies the opportunity to do this.
The beginning of the cycle (a few days after bleeding and into ovulation) is the best time to do high-intensity exercises.
Gentle movement is extremely helpful for moving the blood and the Liver Qi. If we suffer from mood swings, irritability, sadness, anxiety, or depression at any time of the month but especially right before menstruation, movement can be a great asset in resolving the stagnant energy.
During menstruation and immediately following it, it is beneficial to stick to gentle exercises like walking and stretching.
In TCM, Body Fluids are very important. During menstruation, we are losing a lot of Body Fluids so, we don’t want to sweat profusely during this time as this can further deplete Body Fluids. Doing so can cause a deficiency of Yin or Blood in TCM. This is especially important if you have scanty periods, an irregular or missing menstrual period, hot flashes, night sweats, or feel hot or flushed easily.
Throughout history, menses were a time that women would rest from work and social activities. It was a sacred time and a time for self-care.
Of course, it’s probably not realistic for us to call out of work or cancel every engagement we have planned during our period now; but, implementing some rest, introspection, and self-nurturing during this time can go a long way!
Read, meditate, put on a face mask, drink warm water and tea, nourish yourself. Do whatever feels good for you.
It’s ok to silence the outside world that tells us “no days off” or “push through the pain.”
In certain cases, it is absolutely necessary for us to push through challenges but during menstruation, it is completely normal to want to slow down. Listen to your body.
Symptoms are whispers from the body that something is not quite right.
We do not have to continuously look outside of ourselves for answers to our symptoms.
Making small changes in our daily life can make a huge impact on our health and wellbeing.
What we do every day is much more important than what we do every now and then.
You know yourself better than anyone and deep down, you know what your body is asking for.
Power down and tune in. The world can wait”.
Written by TCM Doctor Olivia Gold.
TCM Dr. Olivia Gold is an NCCAOM Board Certified Acupuncture Physician and Diplomate of Oriental Medicine. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Social Sciences, Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences and a Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine.
It was in the search of solutions to her own medical concerns that led to her discovery of this amazing medicine at the age of seventeen. It has helped her in so many ways- physically, mentally and spiritually.
Olivia currently has a private practice in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida: Gold Point Healing. She specialises in Women’s Health, Hormone, and Digestive Health with an emphasis on mental and emotional wellbeing.
She is passionate about sharing this medicine with all who seek healing and thoroughly enjoys witnessing her patients discover how good their bodies are designed to feel!
Yours in Harmony,
Traditional Chinese Restoratives
Image via Pinterest.