Fifty Percent Of Women Suffer From Period Pain
Have you ever dreamed of having a normal, healthy period? As a woman, you have a one in two chance that you will suffer from period pain. In fact most women have experienced this excruciating and potentially debilitating experience. Why is this so? Surely with all the understanding and research we have today you would know why!
I wrote this article to educate you about how you can understand your female body better and learn how to care for it better yourself in a respectful, healthy and loving manner.
Getting Your Period
Take a trip down memory lane, what kind of advice were you given as a young woman when you started getting your period? If you were lucky you got a nice chat about it with mum, but it’s very common that you were told it was a woman’s curse for the rest of your life.
The pain, the burden, the embarrassment to the inconvenience all loom overhead. In fact you will have been told many things that weren’t exactly true such as just carry on with life as normal to it is fine to swim for hours in cold water. Or perhaps you were brainwashed by advertising to aspire to be the Carefree tampon girl who works, runs, bikes and rides a horse with glee on her lady’s vacation! Read on to learn about how to have a healthy period.
Enjoy Being In A Woman’s Body
The one thing I have learnt now about a woman’s cycle is that it is a beautiful thing to be celebrated! It is the difference between a woman and man’s energy. Men tend to be stable, steady and less emotional. As you know a woman’s energy rides with the waves of the ocean. As a woman you can be volatile, emotional and vulnerable. And so these aspects flow through your monthly cycle. Like the waves of the ocean and change of the moon. Read more here about Divine Feminine Energy.
If you understand how to look after yourself well during your period it is a very powerful way to restore your health as a woman and enjoy the female body you are in.
What is Dysmenorrhoea?
The following section details what is period pain and its relation to Chinese Medicine.
Secondary (Acquired) Dysmenorrhoea
Underlying Causes of Dysmenorrhoea
Chinese Medicine & Women’s Health
Chinese Medicine has been used for thousands of years for women’s health in China. Certain sacred traditions were created to encourage women to ensure that they were best looked after during their ‘tong jing’. Some traditions were auspicious and backward in thinking; such as a woman was dirty and needed to be isolated when menstruating. Nonetheless the women got a break and good source of feminine bonding in the red tent! But other pieces of advice are logical and make sense.
Thus, women’s fertility and menstrual issues can arise from the way you care for yourself generally and specifically during your period. For example drinking too much coffee can increase your cortisol levels and affect your female hormones. Also, not eating enough essential fats means your body will find it hard to get the essential building blocks to make these hormones. The ancient Chinese were very focused on a woman having a healthy period.
Your mind leads your body. What you think creates your world. When you have a healthy, stable and purposeful mind you will feel good within yourself . This helps you to live well. Having a healthy mindset regarding your menstrual cycle and feminine energy can allow you to have a good cycle. Thus have a healthy period. If you have gynaecological or fertility issues you may have personal imbalanced feminine or masculine energy (to that what your body personally needs). You may find it difficult to connect with your feminine side or harbour unconscious shame at being a women. Finding out your own authentic mindset requires doing your own inner work and support.
Beyond the mindset follows areas such as lifestyle and diet. According to how your think about yourself and treat yourself these aspects follow. For example, if you feel you must be the same and equal to a man you may ignore how you feel during your period. Thus ignoring your instinct. Being in touch with your feminine energy means your natural gut, instinct is good. Instinct is a strong aspect of the feminine and to ignore it as a woman can be self-harming. If you genuinely love and care about yourself, this makes it easier to fuel yourself with healthy and life-giving foods and drink. When you listen to your body and your healthy mindset it is so much easier to respect yourself and give yourself what exactly you need. In Chinese medicine, eating food that tonifies blood is important for having a healthy period.
Lifestyle is very important too. Listening to your body and what you need is important. Women are often tired around the period due to the loss of blood, iron and the body’s increased demands for magnesium. How does this relate to lifestyle? It means you may need to say no to the night out when you get your period if you feel exhausted. Perhaps it means you may need to leave work on time. Or you need a bowl of hearty home-cooked soup instead of take-away.
Chinese Herbs For Period Pain
There are many herbs and herbal formulae used for period pain. As always in Chinese Medicine, you first need a diagnosis before prescribing a formula. This is why having a personal Chinese Herbalist is excellent, you will aways be then taking a formula that is specific to you. Usually period pain is associated with blood or qi stagnation. When blood or qi are stagnant, these vital substances cannot move and then pain results. Pre-menstrually as a woman about to get your period, your Liver Qi builds and Liver Qi is prone to stagnation. This is why it is common for you to get PMS or pain before the period even has started. Then as the period begins, there may be pain due to this Qi and Blood Stagnation. As a Chinese Herbalist, I diagnose your pattern and consider your constitution then prescribe suitable herbs.
Common Chinese Herbs For Period Pain
Some of the common Chinese Herbs I prescribe for period pain include:
Blood Moving Herbs
- Chi Shao (Red Peony Root) – Regulates the blood and moves the blood. Clears heat and cools the blood.
- Chuan Niu Xi (Cyathula Root) – Regulates the blood and moves the blood. Dispels wind and drains dampness. Moves blood more than Huai Niu Xi.
- Chuan Xiong (Chuanxiong Rhizoma) – Regulates the blood and moves the blood. Promotes movement of qi and alleviates pain. Dispels wind and calms pain. Also excellent for pain in the head, headache or migraine.
- Yan Hu Suo (Corydalis Rhizome) – Regulates the blood and invigorates the blood. A spicy, bitter and warm herb that moves qi and blood and relieves pain.
- San Leng (Common Burr Reed) – A bitter, spicy and neutral herb that has a strong function to break up blood stasis, promote the movement of qi and alleviate pain. Supposedly dissolves accumulations.
- Mu Dan Pi (Tree Peony Root Bark) – A slightly cold, bitter and spicy herb that clears heat and cools blood. It can clear fire from deficiency. Activate blood and dispel blood stasis. Clear liver yang rising fire, drain pus and reduce swelling.
Blood Tonic Herb
- Dang Gui (Angelica Root) – Tonifies the blood. A warming and spicy herb that tonifies blood and regulates menstruation. Disperses cold. Moistens intestines and unblocks the bowels. Can reduce swelling of abscess, sores, generates flesh and calms pain.
Warming Interior Herb
- Rou Gui (Cinnamon Bark) – A hot, spicy and sweet herb that strengthens kidney and spleen yang energy. It warms the interior, hence warms the channels, unblocks the channels and vessels and alleviates pain. Leads kidney fire back to mingmen and allows the body to regenerate qi and blood.
Regulate Qi Herb
- Xiang Fu (Cyperus/Nut Grass Rhizome) – Regulates Qi. A neutral herb that spreads liver qi, regulates liver qi and ultimately regulates menstruation whilst alleviating pain.
Helping Your Period Come
Sometimes, as a woman you will feel like your period is trying to arrive but cannot! You may experience pain or symptoms indicating this. There are things that you can do, a quick scripts Herbal Medicine formula can help it come along. Essentially there are a few things you can do, go for a run or a brisk walk. Castor oil packs can be useful or even a hot water bottle placed on your abdomen is soothing and relaxing. Drinking hot drinks like hot water or herbal tea. Listening to a meditation, placing you hands on your abdomen and relaxing is also beneficial.
Acupuncture For Period Pain
Acupuncture is renowned for pain, for where qi flows blood follows. Where there is pain, there is stagnation. This could be stagnant qi or blood depending on the presentation, signs and symptoms. Acupuncture aims to move qi and blood. Hence, Acupuncture can be a functional form of treatment for period pain. It allows the qi and blood in the body to flow, and understanding that your Qi is prone to getting stuck prior to menstruation means that if is flowing, you should feel better and have less pain and less PMS. Once this has been achieved, the aim is to prevent further qi and blockage in life whether it be from stress, work, study, relationships, lifestyle or diet.
Acupuncture Research & Period Pain
There has been much research regarding Acupuncture and Dysmenorrhoea. Dr Mike Armour is a native Kiwi pioneering research in this area and suggests the results are promising. A study of 74 Kiwi women with primary dysmenorrhoea (period pain with no underlying cause) published last year in the international journal PLOS One found that 12 Acupuncture treatments over 3 months was significant. Whereby it reduced the intensity, duration and symptoms of the period pain for up to a year.
Life Coaching for Feminine Issues
Life Coaching for Women’s Health issues such as period pain is ideal for women who have tried various forms of medicine and alternative therapies and have struggled to understand how to personally manage their menstrual cycle. Understanding what you are doing and how it affects you have a heathy period is life-changing. Life Coaching can be helpful for women who have a lot of issues and challenges in their life and are willing to make the changes needed to overcome this. You may feel like there are things that you are missing out on in your life that you need, or that you hate your job or are stuck in a rut and need guidance to move out of this from a supportive and wise person who accepts you for who you are without the judgement. Ilana is an experienced Life Coach who is passionate about supporting women to be happy, healthy and well.
Menstrual Cycle & Lunar Cycle
Allegory with phases of the moon, our menstrual cycle is comparative to the lunar cycle whereby both recount a waiting period of approximately 28 days. The state of period reflects our womanly wellbeing. An ideal period has adequate flow, is punctual (give or take a few days), regular, without discomfort or clotting and looks fresh red in colour. This reflects that blood circulation, production and hormones are in order. This is something that most Western women are unaware of. If you have issues with your menstrual cycle, such as PMS, dysmenorrhoea or dark, clotty bleeding, it’s possible your lifestyle habits are contributing to these signs and symptoms.
Ever noticed getting super emotional prior to your period or the full moon?
What Can Affect Your Female Hormones?
- Working hard and long hours
- Inadequate rest and sleep
- Poor self-esteem, not loving yourself or your feminine side
- Lots of cold drinks and food
- Too much caffeine, sugar, alcohol and processed foods are all key offenders
- History of drug and medication use
- Poor self-care during the period
- Too much oestrogen exposure
Meridians & Woman’s Cycle
The following meridians are involved in a woman menstruating:
The Ren meridian is the sea of all meridians. It rules the yin meridians. It opens at lung 7 and closes at kidney 6.
Bao Mai & Bao Luo
The Womb (Uterus)
What Causes Menstrual Irregularities?
A stressful lifestyle, poor diet or eating habits, emotional upset encourages blood being weak and stagnant qi (energy movement) .
10 Tips for Menstrual Self-Care
1. Keep clean & hygienic – avoid sex while you have your period (unless it is your fertile time and you want to conceive). Don’t use tampons or have vaginal examinations during your period. Wear organic pads – click the link to read why. Don’t use harsh soap or vaginal hygiene products on your vagina.
2. Avoid intensive exercise, overworking or lifting heavy things – exercise such as a good walk, appropriate gentle yoga poses or a brisk jog is great.
3. Keep warm – avoid swimming, drinking or exposing yourself to cold water, drafts, rain, leaving your hair wet or damp and midriff exposed to cold or drafts.
4. Eat well and nutritious – Such as soup, porridge, cooked fruits, whole grains and vegies. Don’t eat cold, raw, difficult to digest or uncooked foods. Drink hot teas like raspberry leaf, nettle and ginger.
5. Protect yourself from overly emotional situations if you can during the period, you are weaker (losing blood and prone to exhaustion/pain) and we don’t deal so well with it. Rest more and go slow, getting sick during the period can mess with your hormones.
6. Keep your legs, feet and lower back to abdomen warm, the Qi in the acupuncture meridians on this area of the body need to circulate well. Wear warm slippers/boots and socks, no bare feet on cold tiles!
7. Yoga during the period is fantastic. Seek a professional yoga studio. A study published this year showed that yoga is beneficial for menstrual pain.
8. Reduce salt, caffeine, sugar and alcohol intake the days before and during your period. They can increase cramping & PMS.
9. Enjoy good foods rich in Vitamin C, Magnesium and Potassium.
10. Drink plenty of warm water to cleanse salt and electrolytes out of your body and reduce bloating.
Most importantly, be good to yourself, and be grateful that you are a woman who menstruates, and can experience the wonder of your femininity.
To make an appointment for in Clinic Acupuncture or online Holistic Health coaching Book Online or contact us on 0466 866 450.
Copyright © 2020 Ilana Sowter · All Rights Reserved
Kirthika et. al (2018). Efficacy of Yoga Asana and Gym Ball Exercises in the management of primary dysmenorrhea: A single-blind, two group, pretest-posttest, randomized controlled trial. CRISMED Journal of Health & Research. 5, 2: 118-122.
Armour, M. (2017). The role of treatment timing and mode of stimulation in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhoea with acupuncture: An exploratory randomised controlled trial. Published: July 12, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180177