I must admit, I am usually quite elated when a teenage patient walks through our doors seeking help for menstrual problems. Mostly because I know how much her life will change when she begins to have a regular, easy period without pain. Chinese Medicine is so very effective at treating menstrual irregularities, especially if one begins receiving treatment as soon as irregularities begin.
What are menstrual irregularities? In order to define what is irregular, we must look at what Chinese Medicine defines as normal. According to CM, a regular menstrual cycle should occur every 28-30 days. Bleeding should last for 3-6 days with a heavier flow at the start, slowing down as time progresses. There is no bloating, cramping, breast tenderness, loose stools or big mood changes involved. One’s period should just happen, rather predictably, with no big side effects. If you or your teenager experiences anything other than this easy flow, it may be time to talk to your acupuncturist.
While acupuncture is helpful, it is mainly the herbal formulas that regulate cycles beautifully. This is also appealing to teenagers, who are often a little hesitant or leery about the needles. Usually once we talk about them, see them in action and dispel any lingering fears of hypodermic needles, most teens actually like the experience of receiving acupuncture and find it very relaxing. Yet, it’s still comforting to know that the herbal teas are the real champion of creating a normal, pain-free period.
Now, let’s stroll for a moment down a hypothetical road. Say a teenager comes into the clinic and we work together for six months. During that time, we have regulated her cycle; she experiences pain-free menstruation with no big mood changes or GI upset and PMS is a thing of the past. Before I can send her off happily into her world, there is a critical piece that must be taught: prevention. If this crucial piece is not communicated, there is a chance that her cycle may once again become painful or irregular. So, here it is: a few small guidelines to follow to ensure easy, pain-free periods.
Keep your legs, low back, low belly and feet warm during your period. Yes, I mean wear shoes with warm socks, wear pants (maybe even with warm tights underneath) and wear a fitted, long tank or under-layer beneath your shirt. There are plenty of other days in the month to wear midriff shirts or cute sandals, but not while bleeding.
Avoid sitting on cold surfaces. Do not sit directly on metal bleachers, on concrete or other cold/damp surfaces like wet grass. It’s an easy enough fix: wear a long puffy jacket that goes down to the thigh or simply sit on your backpack or on a book/binder from inside your backpack.
Avoid cold foods while on your period. This is a trickier one. Sometimes it’s challenging at high school to have access to hot foods. If you have a choice, go for soup over salad during your period. Choose hot beverages over iced ones and avoid all ice in your drinks. Drink everything room temperature or hot, even water.
Following these simple guidelines can prevent cold and damp from traveling through the lower body via the meridian system into the uterus. Preventing cold and damp from entering the uterus can help maintain a regular, pain-free cycle once it has been established by your acupuncturist.
Julie Baron is an East Asian Medicine Practitioner at the Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic in Walla Walla, WA. Julie seeks to empower individuals and communities. As a movement and mindfulness educator, she has a penchant for functional anatomy. As an EAMP, she has also has a passion for herbal medicine.