In Chinese medicine a normal menstrual period should be pain free with a modest amount of bright red blood. Pain, dark blood and emotional fluctuations are signs of imbalance that can be corrected with Chinese medicine. There are number of different patterns that can present with menstrual irregularities and infertility, and understanding these patterns can help in choosing the most appropriate herbal formulas that will bring balance back to the body.
There is often more than one pattern responsible for PMS, and menstrual disorders. In Chinese medicine, hormonal health is maintained primarily by the Liver and Kidney energetic organ systems. Most women have more than one pattern presenting, and
the formulas can be combined as needed. Here are the most common patterns:
Liver Qi Stagnation and Premenstrual Syndrome
In Chinese medicine, the Liver controls menstrual blood, and Liver Qi Stagnation is a central pattern involved with PMS, PMDD, and any menstrual irregularity. Emotional stress and strain is common with Liver Chi related PMS. Signs of Liver Qi Stagnation could also include irritability, emotional outbursts, breast tenderness, acne erupting before period, cramps before the period, depression, or headaches.
Blood and Qi Stagnation and Premenstrual Syndrome
Where Qi goes Blood goes, therefore, prolonged Qi Stagnation will likely lead to Blood Stagnation. PMS with menstrual cramps and sharp pain, a sensation of downward pressure, and an easing of pain after clots pass are all symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation combined with Blood Stagnation in the Uterus.
Kidney Deficiency and Premenstrual Syndrome
A pattern of menstrual disorders with Kidney Yang Deficiency will often include lower back soreness before menstruation, tiredness, watery menstrual blood, diarrhea just before menstruation, cramps after menstruation begins, a sensation of downward pressure after the period ends, tinnitus, or a feeling of cold in the body.
Spleen Qi Deficiency - Dampness and Premenstrual Syndrome
The Spleen channel, or meridian, traverses the reproductive area, and is partially responsible for the production of Blood, and has a strong influence on reproduction and menstruation. Spleen Qi Deficiency patterns often present with vaginal discharges that can be sticky in nature, general fatigue, foggy unclear thinking, digestive or eating disorders, obesity, heavy bleeding, or lack of appetite.
Damp-Cold and PMS
Ongoing Spleen Qi Deficiency or prolonged exposure to cold and damp environmental conditions can create Cold-Damp internally with symptoms such as cramping pain before menstruation that is eased with the application of heat and an achy lower back.
Chinese Medicine and Premenstrual Syndrome
There is no organ system in TCM that relates to the endocrine system; rather, Chinese medicine sees the intricate balance of hormones and communication in the body as a function of several organ systems that are all inter-related. In the case of menstrual disorders, the main organ systems that must be energetically balanced to work optimally are the Kidney and Liver. Additionally, Chinese medicine includes an energetic organ system called the Triple Heater, or San Jiao, that has no comparison in western medicine. This system is responsible for regulating temperature and many functions throughout the body that could be related to hormonal functions.
Chinese medicine views Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) as a variety of different possible imbalances. Because the Liver governs over menstrual Blood in TCM, Liver Qi Stagnation is a common syndrome seen in PMS. Herbs help to remove energy blockages and in turn stabilize hormonal fluctuations. Chinese herbs are often used together with acupuncture to regulate the flow of energy and substances in the body as they both stimulate the body's natural functions and encourage it to establish optimum balance.
Western Medicine and Premenstrual Syndrome
‘Premenstrual syndrome’ (PMS) is the cyclic recurrence of a group of symptoms that peak 7 to 10 days before menstruation and for some can disappear a few hours after the onset of the menstrual flow. This condition is characterized by multiple and diverse symptoms including, but not limited to: breast tenderness, temporary weight gain, bloating, constipation, insomnia, acne, headache, pelvic pain, irritability, depression, mood swings, poor concentration, confusion, social withdrawal, impulsiveness and appetite changes. While many women experience mild symptoms of short duration, other women have more severe symptoms that last for many days and temporarily disturb their normal functioning.
Lifestyle and Premenstrual Syndrome
PMS is due to unbalanced hormonal fluctuations. A mixture of correct diet, adequate exercise, and emotional clarity, along with acupuncture and Chinese medicinal herbs can correct imbalances and bring long-term relief.
Balanced nutrition is crucial for overcoming PMS. Certain foods such as alcohol, caffeine, cold temperature foods, sugar and salt can exacerbate symptoms of PMS and should be avoided. Additionally, commercially raised red meats and poultry which have a residue of steroids composed of female animal sex hormones should be eliminated from the diet. Food necessary for a harmonious menstrual cycle include: plenty of organic vegetables, small amounts of fruit, whole grains, legumes, seaweed, small amounts of lean hormone-free meats, and fish.
Exercise plays an important role in the treatment of PMS. Thirty to forty-five minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least three times per week improves blood circulation and significantly helps reduce symptoms.
In addition to diet and exercise, some form of meditation can be very helpful. Our emotions and hormones influence each other, since they are registered in the same part of our brain. Stress can cause hormonal imbalances and therefore worsen the symptoms of PMS. Some quiet time everyday helps bring emotional and physical equilibrium.