“If there is pain, there is no free flow, if there is free flow, there is no pain” – Chinese Proverb
When I first heard this proverb, I was convinced it was written about periods! 80% of women experience symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). For many, PMS can mean irritability, sadness, acne, bloating, cramps, breast tenderness or other discomfort before or during menstruation; for some, it can also mean debilitating pain. Whatever the severity, PMS isn’t a natural part of being a woman and deserves attention.
Menstruation is good for you
The conventional medicine solution for women with severe pre-menstrual signs, and heavy or painful menstrual flow is to prescribe cycle-stopping birth control pills. This may ease symptoms in the short-term but little research has been done into the long-term effects on reproductive, sexual and overall female health.
On the other hand, there is a growing body of research that says menstruation has significant health benefits. “The menstrual cycle is a window into the general health and well-being of women, and not just a reproductive event,” said professor of obstetrics & gynecology and pediatrics Paula Hillard, M.D. “It can indicate the status of bone health, heart disease, and ovarian health, as well as long-term fertility.”
Chinese Medicine to the rescue
From the point of view of Chinese Medicine, menstrual pain and PMS have only a few root causes and these have known, proven, natural remedies:
- a) There may be blood that has stagnated in the uterus and it is causing pain when it tries to move out. A Chinese herbal formula including Dong Quai is excellent to move blood when taken a week before and during the period.
- b) There may be an insufficiency of blood and the uterus is not being properly nourished so is unable to do its job efficiently which causes pain. Leafy greens, bee pollen and blue-green algae are great blood builders, taken all month.
- c) There may be a stasis of Liver energy. The Liver system is responsible for the smooth movement of energy through the genitals and reproductive system so any stasis can eventually lead to blood stagnation in the uterus. Exercise and stress reduction are powerful ways to move Liver energy.
- d) There may be cold in the uterus that is blocking the free flow of blood and energy. In these cases, the application of warmth temporarily soothes symptoms and moxibustion (a Chinese medical therapy) and cinnamon are excellent ways to warm the uterus internally.
For the most fast-acting and effective treatment, work with a Chinese Medicine practitioner to determine what’s happening with your body, and get set up on the appropriate path toward healing.
Lifestyle changes you can make to heal PMS
- Consciously choose foods that make your body feel good. Be kind to yourself and commit time to experiences that bring you joy.
- Take an inventory of all the physical and emotional stressors in your life and make a plan for eliminating as many as you can and addressing the rest.
- Get moving and listen to your body – it will tell you how much exercise it needs. Walk, swim, take a yoga or spinning class, get a tennis partner… whatever kind of activity fills your spirit, works your muscles and clears your mind.
- Begin a meditation practice. Even if you can only do a minute a day in the beginning, that minute of conscious breathing and personal quiet can be profound.
These lifestyle changes combined with acupuncture and herbal treatment should help you see a major improvement in your cycle in just 3 months!
Tanya Smith, R. TCMP, FABORM