Oriental Medicine and Women’s Reproductive Health
Sep 06, 2011 08:19PM
By Curry Chaudoir
David Fife delivers an acupuncture session
A well-functioning reproductive system in a healthy woman’s body should exhibit the following characteristics, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):
- Menstruation synchronized with the new moon and ovulation with the full moon. Just as the moon’s phases affect the ocean’s tides, they also affect bodily fluids.
- Three to five days of menstrual flow should occur each each month.
- Menstrual flow should be a vibrant, red color, without abnormalities such as purple, pink, pale, brown or black colors.
- A moderate volume of blood should flow upon onset of the cycle, a slight increase midway through and a slight decrease just before its end, without any particularly heavy flow at any point.
- The rest of the month, including the days leading up to menstruation, should pass without pain, digestive issues or other symptoms.
According to TCM, development occurs in seven-year cycles, beginning at birth. For women, the transition at the seventh of those cycles typically occurs just before or after age 49, when a healthy woman experiences a gentle, brief transition through menopause with minimal symptoms. These would not include extreme hot flashes, emotional fluctuations or sleeping disturbances. Exposure to mental stressors, physical trauma and various chemicals (including hormones in food, tap water and birth control medications) tends to decrease reproductive system function, potentially leading to the severe symptoms that many women experience during menopause.
Menstrual experiences that differ greatly from those outlined above may indicate a breakdown in one or more of the body’s systems. Fortunately, the body knows how to heal itself, and acupuncturists have been helping bodies do that for thousands of years. Acupuncturists have found that when a woman’s body becomes healthy, the menstrual cycle often normalizes, and menopause may become a relatively effortless transition that passes somewhat quickly, without significant burdensome symptoms.
If a woman experiences problematic reproductive system issues, she may find it helpful to understand the following four phases of a woman’s cycle and the strategies taken with acupuncture and/or TCM to create balance:
Phase 1—Menstrual Phase (the week of menstruation): In this phase, it is important to regulate the menses and allow for proper shedding of the uterine lining. Treatment may be utilized to achieve this effect and eliminate and/or prevent improper circulation in the lower abdomen.
Phase 2—Follicular Phase (the week following the last day of menstruation): During this phase, the key strategies are to nourish kidney and adrenal function and generate increased blood volume, both of which are depleted as a result of menstruation. For those attempting to conceive during this stage, it is essential to fortify the body.
Phase 3—Ovulatory Phase (week of ovulation): The primary treatment plan during the ovulatory phase is to help eggs mature and to promote ovulation. Certain Chinese herbs and/or acupuncture points enhance the surge of luteinizing hormone (LH), which then stimulates ovulation.
Phase 4—Luteal Phase (the week before the onset of menstruation): The focus during this phase is to regulate liver function, ensure proper circulation to and from the liver and reproductive system, and treat any symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
Ultimately, in the normalizing of the phases described above, it is critical to consider what has been known for centuries in China: the kidney-adrenal system provides the raw materials necessary to produce the hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, that control reproductive organ function; therefore, it is often, if not always, involved in reproductive system imbalances.
Curry Chaudoir—author of Oriental Medicine and You: Making a Seemingly Complex, 3,500-year-old Medicine Understandable for the Layperson—is an acupuncturist and the executive director of Acupuncture and Holistic Health Associates. For more information call 414-332-8888, email [email protected] or visit MilwaukeeACU.com or Facebook.com/CChaudoir.