Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are exceptional alternatives to regulating your cycle naturally. The history of the medicine has always placed women’s health as a high priority in medical care. Now this doesn’t really come from an altruistic place, but thousands of years ago, when China was looking to try to expand their territory, they realized that they needed strong soldiers. The best way to get strong healthy soldiers was to understand women’s health and make sure that women were healthy enough to give birth to healthy, strong babies. The benefit thousand of years later, is that Chinese medicine has continued to expand on that original knowledge of women’s health.
We often taken many aspects of our cycle for granted as something we have to live with regardless of how painful, heavy, irregular, or emotional it may make us during our cycle. However, all of these are symptoms of different organ systems being out of balance. In Chinese medicine, our goal is to help everyone woman have a regular 28-32 day long cycle with a 3-5 day long menses, that is not painful or only slightly painful, moderate bleeding, and slight to no mood swings. This can actually happen, and we frequently see women in our office achieve this cycle with the help of acupuncture and herbal medicine.
One of my favorite aspects of women’s health through acupuncture and herbal medicine is that we give your body the tools to regulate hormones and achieve that regular, relatively easy cycle. The combination of acupuncture, herbs, and often nutritional adjustments allows your body to find its way back to ideal health, essentially fixing the problem. The goal is to help your body repair without needing to come in for herbal medicine or acupuncture forever.
This will get a little bit detailed, so if you are not interested in reading about menses please skip this part. Heavy menses typically involve gushing on the first 1-4 days of the menses, and can cause bleed through of a pad or tampon. Women with heavy menses often have to change super or super plus tampons every 2 hours or less and wear a back up pad. If using pads, some patients report having to change an overnight pad every 2 hours or less on their heaviest days. Heavy menses can also include longer menstrual cycles, 5-7+ days, with 2-4+ days of heavy bleeding. It could also include a shorter overall cycles (ie-2 menses in a month) with heavy bleeding.
Heavy menses typically leads to anemia or low iron levels in the blood. This can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness, getting easily fatigued with exercise, insomnia, and headaches to name a few. It can be difficult to overcome anemia while continually having a heavy menstrual cycle.
The goal is to reduce the bleeding to changing a super or a regular tampon every 4-6 hours on heavy days, only having one heavy day, then each day tapers off until the menses ends in 3-5 days. The overall length of the cycle is 28-32 days. To reach this goal, an acupuncturist will ask you a number of questions about your entire health, feel pulses at each wrist, and look at your tongue. There are a number of different patterns that lead to heavy menses in East Asian medicine. Both your tongue and pulse, when paired with the questions you answered, will give a trained acupuncturist more information about each organ system’s ability to function ideally in the body. This helps us to identify what specific pattern you have that is causing the heavy menses.
The acupuncturist will use acupuncture based on the pattern to help each organ system return to ideal health. Chinese herbal medicine is usually indicated to treat heavy menses. To learn more about Chinese herbal medicine in general, click here. Finally, we view food as our first medicine in East Asian medicine. Your acupuncturist will help you look at your diet for any foods that might be influencing the heavy menses, and to make sure that you are eating plenty of iron rich foods, while avoiding foods that can prevent proper absorption of iron.
The biggest benefit of using acupuncture and East Asian medicine to regulate your cycle, is that we are teaching your body to regulate your cycle naturally without stronger interventions such as a uterine ablation surgery. Women can often see their cycle improve in just one to two months, with a graduation away from treatment in six months to a year if the case is relatively simple. Other menstrual challenges benefit well from an East Asian medicine approach, such as painful menses, PCOS, irregular cycles, amenorrhea, and long cycles. The length of suggested treatment is highly individualized and based on the complexity of your individual pattern. Your acupuncturist can go over treatment planning in detail once they have a change to identify your pattern.
Lindsey Thompson is an East Asian Medicine Practitioner at the Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic in Walla Walla, WA. She loves growing vegetables, raising chickens, and striving to get the most out of life. Practicing medicine and help people find ways to improve their health at home is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her career.