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Menstrual Health – Eliminate PMS and Enjoy Easier Periods
As a Traditional Chinese Artist who works in Women’s Health, many women who come into their periods have menstrual irregularities that lead to painful periods, pre-menstrual syndrome, lack of periods, irregular cycles, uterine cysts and fibroids. For all menstrual issues, there are preventative measures that should be taken to enjoy a smooth period. I have to say that a simple acupuncture treatment with a customized herbal formula can have amazing results. Women start having painless periods and less premenstrual symptoms. With support, women are no longer afraid of their cycles and find them easier.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine we recommend that certain lifestyle changes be made specifically around menstruation. My approach is to see this as a time to respect our bodies. Menses is a reminder of good fertility.
First things first, you need to track your cycle. Note the day your period starts on the calendar. The first day of your period is considered the first day of bleeding. By keeping track of your cycle, you can be more in tune with your body and your natural hormonal changes. You can find out how many days between cycles, when ovulation is expected, and when to prepare for the next cycle.
Usually, fourteen days before your menstrual cycle is when ovulation occurs. Some women experience lower abdominal cramping, fatigue, or emotional sensitivity during this time. Keeping track of your cycle will let you know what to expect. From ovulation until the first bleeding is considered premenstrual. Some women should have premenstrual symptoms starting with ovulation, others have symptoms one to ten days before their period. Some have no menstrual symptoms at all.
Premenstrual symptoms may include breast tenderness, bloating, lightheadedness, headaches/headaches, fatigue, food cravings, low libido, insomnia, mood swings including anger, anxiety, irritability, depression, depression, and crying. All these symptoms are considered to be affected by the liver organ in Chinese Medicine. Through acupuncture, herbs, diet, and lifestyle changes, we focus on “smoothing” the liver to experience menstruation.
Menstruation should not be seen as a time for “business as usual.” Instead, it’s an opportunity to connect with your body. This is the time to slow down and be gentle with yourself. For some, this may mean canceling appointments and making frequent sacrifices to do less. In general, you need more time off and this will mean adjusting your schedule whenever possible. Take time to pamper yourself with a warm bath and get more sleep. Schedule a massage a week before your period. This is especially helpful for those who experience menstrual headaches and muscle stiffness before menstruation.
Menstruation reminds us of our power to create life. Reward yourself for being more creative this time of the month. Journal, draw, paint, write, sing, dance, and do other creative endeavors for fun and enjoyment.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine we always warn against cold. Cold contracts muscles and decreases circulation. During menstruation, we need the body to have the right temperature to stimulate circulation. This means that you should avoid excessive exposure to cold and damp places. Keep well wrapped with warm clothes in cold weather. Avoid cold foods including anything frozen – ice cream drinks, ice cream, ice-cold popsicles, and frozen smoothies. We also think that raw vegetables are cold, so eat cooked vegetables instead of salads. Dairy products, including yogurt, cottage cheese and kefir, should not be eaten directly from the refrigerator, but after they warm up to room temperature (about 1/2 hour outside the refrigerator). This is a general recommendation in Chinese Medicine, however it is strongly recommended that you avoid cold foods before and during your appointment. This is a great time for soups and warm teas. For those who experience menstrual cramps, a hot water bottle can be used overnight a week before menses to help warm the uterus and prevent bleeding. A hot water bottle will provide relief from cramps as well.
We also want to avoid strenuous exercise before and during that time. Moderate exercise is often helpful in relieving premenstrual symptoms, but excessive amounts of physical activity will deplete the body and create hormonal imbalances. So before and during your period do more stretching, yoga, tai chi, and other relaxing, gentle movements.
Also integrated into everyday life, but very important before and during menstruation is breathing exercises. Take slow deep breaths in your lower abdomen, relax your shoulders and neck, and calm your mind. If you have thoughts coming, let them go gently. You can listen to relaxing music, repeat a positive intention, or simply follow your breath as you breathe in and out. Practice this for 10-20 minutes every day. Even five of these breaths in the middle of your day will produce a significant healing effect.
In terms of dietary recommendations, avoid alcohol, coffee, and refined flour and refined sugar. Eat unprocessed foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, eggs, beans, nuts, whole-fat dairy, and pasture-raised (grass-fed) meat. Make sure animal products come from hormone-free sources. Most dairy and meat products contain synthetic hormones that are fed to animals to increase productivity. Not only is this inhumane to animals, then you will use these artificial hormones thereby disrupting your own natural hormones. I don’t recommend soy because of the estrogenic quality that will disrupt your hormone balance. Small amounts of fermented soy are usually not a problem – including miso, tempeh, and soy sauce. Other foods such as edamame, soy milk, tofu, and any processed meat substitute should be strictly avoided.
Eat at regular times, and eat snacks when needed. Keeping blood sugars stable will help regulate hormones. Eating quality nutritious meals and snacks will help keep blood sugar stable. Eating enough protein through meat, eggs, nuts, cheese, dairy products and beans will help. Limiting refined sugar and refined flour products will help reduce spikes in your energy levels.
Healthy fats are very important for hormonal balance. Avoid fried foods and foods high in partially hydrogenated fats (also known as trans fats). Fermented cod oil, fish oil, flax oil, hemp oil, walnuts, fatty fish (sardines, wild salmon, mackerel), egg yolks from pasture-raised chickens, and grass-fed meat (in fat) provides healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Gamma-Linoleic acid, a type of omega 6, can be very helpful in balancing hormones. I recommend 1,000 mg per day (500mg 2 times a day or 1000 mg per day) of Evening Primrose Oil taken 2 weeks before meses is expected to help hormone balance. With Evening Primrose oil, women often experience a reduction in premenstrual symptoms such as breast tenderness, mood swings, headaches, and cramping. B vitamins are very helpful. Foods rich in B vitamins include fermented foods, tuna, turkey, beef, brown rice, wheat, rye, lentils, peas, bananas, and cabbage.
Finally avoid plastics and chemicals in general. Certain plastics, especially #7 plastics contain chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body; thus causing hormonal imbalance. In general, chemicals will affect all the proper functioning of your body and will indirectly affect your hormone levels. Choose organic and natural cleaning products, body care products, and reduce your exposure to chemicals. Choose glass or stainless steel water bottles and food storage containers.
I invite you to try these tips to balance your hormones and enjoy simpler times.
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