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Menstruation

Updated: Dec 2, 2023


Menstrual cycle

It took me 37 years and studying acupuncture to learn that my menstrual cycle shouldn't be:

  • Painful

  • Heavy with dark blood and clots

  • Mood swings (I have written about premenstrual dysphoric disorder here)

  • More than 7 days in length

  • Irregular or missing (unless pregnant or menopausal)


My menstruation as it was, incorporated most of the above. My periods were so out of control I had a number of doctors appointments and hospital visits to ascertain what could be done. Apparently not very much, especially if I didn't want to take oral contraception. Which I didn't.


If you don't think your periods are 'normal' consider

  1. Keep reading this blog post

  2. Start tracking everything. Mood, duration, quantity, quality, basal temperature, discharge. I do mine using this free download I have created for you. It is a menstrual tracker and it allows you to work out what is happening with your menstrual cycle

  3. Please go and visit your GP or doctor as your first step armed with your cycle tracking knowledge

  4. Think about booking to see an acupuncturist for your menstrual cycle

  5. Read Maisie Hill's Period Power. It is a life changer for understanding your cycle. She also has a brilliant podcast

  6. I have also created a list of other brilliant books you can learn more from

I hope you find today's blog post useful and as always if you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.


Love Andrea

 

I am wondering, does anyone have normal periods?

In acupuncture, 'normal' periods should be none of the above. They should be:

  • Regular to you: this can be between 24 and 31-day cycles - the first day of your period, proper, is the first day of your cycle

  • Length: Between 4 to 6 days in length

  • Colour: Fresh red blood, no clots

  • PMS: There should be no moods swings, breast tenderness, bloating

  • Flow: Not heavy (if you are changing your menstrual product every 1-2 hours this is too heavy

  • Not missing (unless in menopause or pregnant). I have written a separate blog here about amenorrhea

  • Discharge is normal and useful and is a good indicator of where you are in your cycle. As you reach ovulation it will change and after ovulation, it will start to dry up. The discharge should not be smelly or have a colour to it (other than white or clear)


 

The menstrual phases

The menstrual cycle has four distinct phases.

  1. Menstruation: this starts on day one of your full flow (approximately day 1-7)

  2. The follicular phase: an increase in oestrogen causes the uterine lining to thicken and cervical fluid to increase (approximately day 7-14)

  3. Ovulation: the rise in progesterone warms the uterus and dries up cervical fluid to help provide an environment for an embryo to implant. During ovulation, an egg is released from the dominant follicle. Following the release of the egg, the follicle seals itself off and forms the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum helps produce progesterone during early pregnancy (approximately day 14)

  4. The luteal phase: as progesterone increases it prepares the endometrial lining and inhibits the secretion of FSH & LH. If fertilisation doesn't occur the corpus luteum degenerates and progesterone and oestrogen decline. The endometrium is eliminated from the body. As progesterone and oestrogen are low they cannot inhibit the anterior pituitary and the cycle starts again (approximately day 14-28)


Does your face change shape nearer to ovulation?

Did you know that they thought your face changed shape during the phases of your cycle? Take a look at the video I did for 30 days of my face to see if you notice any changes.



Interestingly an updated study, in 2020 has since found that the attractiveness of the face doesn't change nearer to ovulation but I still found this exercise interesting.

 

How acupuncture looks at the menstrual phases

The four phases of the menstrual cycle are also crucial in acupuncture. Even if you are not coming in for treatment for periods, an acupuncturist will also treat depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle.


Because much like the seasons, we should live according to where we are in our menstrual cycle.


Keep reading to find out more.

  1. Menstruation: unsurprisingly this week is about Blood! If you do not have any problems with your period then we will not treat you during this week. However, if you are experiencing pain and or excessive and heavy bleeding this week would require acupuncture treatment.

  2. The follicular phase: this phase relates to Yin. We would be working on rebuilding the Blood lost during ovulation and helping increase the endometrial lining in preparation for ovulation.

  3. Ovulation: this phase relates to Yin turning into Yang. This is seen with the movement of the egg and an increase in temperature.

  4. The luteal phase: this phase relates to Qi. If Qi is stagnant we may start to see premenstrual symptoms such as emotional outbursts, breast tenderness, bloating.


Menstrual cycle phases

 

Mindful menstruation

As I mentioned above acupuncture (and your acupuncturist) will urge you to live according to your menstrual phase.


The way you eat and live should reflect where you are in your menstrual phase.


Menstruation

Menstruation/Blood:

Lifestyle

  • set boundaries,

  • nourish yourself

  • rest / don't rush

  • release feelings/beliefs

  • listen for insights & creative solutions

What to eat?

  • stews, casseroles, whole grains & root vegetables.

  • magnesium for headaches, spinach, chard, avocado, almonds, cashews, black beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, bananas, dark chocolate

 

Follicular phase

Follicular/Yin:

Lifestyle

  • potential / plan

  • expanding & building

  • opportunities & curiosity

  • playful & fun

  • high energy exercise

What to eat?

  • protein-rich foods: build yin & blood. e.g beans, fish, eggs & meat.

  • cooked leafy greens & shellfish such as mussels or oysters are excellent in the early part of this phase to re-mineralize the body after bleeding


 



 


Ovulation

Ovulation/Yang:

Lifestyle

  • invincible

  • connected & communicative

  • productive

  • life feels good

What to eat?

  • lighter foods e.g. fish, quinoa


 

Luteal phase

Luteal/Qi:

Lifestyle

  • deep thought & focus

  • reviewing,

  • insight & clarity

  • organise / tidy

  • speak candidly

  • yoga, swimming, walking

What to eat?

  • warming foods for yang: Increase protein intake again, cooked vegetables, brown rice

  • yoga, swimming, walking

 


 

How acupuncture treats painful periods

In a 2017 study of dysmenorrhea and acupuncture they found


acupuncture administered over three menstrual cycles gave both statistically and clinically significant reductions in menstrual pain compared to baseline and persisted for 12 months

As with everything we treat in acupuncture, your acupuncturist is interested in your pain during the menstrual cycle.


If your period pain is severe before or during the period we will be asking about the nature of your pain


Is it cramping pain?

Is it fixed stabbing pain?

Is it abdominal pain with bloating?


Because each of these will require different treatment.


Different guidance I can give you to continue at home.


 

Acupuncture cheat sheet

Because I have so many wonderful acupuncturists who follow me, I wanted to share the cheat sheet I made, in college, for helping me remember the patterns of disharmony in periods.


I hope that they find it helpful.








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