If we do not take care, we will not be able to give of ourselves entirely – in our relationships, work, goals and passions. We simply are unable to ‘show up’ in our own lives. We hope that you enjoy this post, part of The Self-Care Series.
Acupuncture can be used to regulate the menstrual cycle, either to restore a regular period in women who have irregular periods (metrorrhagia or oligomenorrhoea) or when the period is absent (amenorrhea). Regulating the menstrual cycle is also of benefit to women who suffer from conditions including Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, who are trying to conceive and may have irregular ovulation and irregular cycles as a result.
Optimal results can be achieved with weekly acupuncture treatments, for a period of three to six months. Weekly acupuncture treatments are directed at correcting any underlying energetic imbalances in the body, as well as coinciding with the specific physiological changes of each phase of the cycle. The menstrual cycle is divided into four distinct phases: the menstrual, follicular, ovulation and luteal phases.
FIND YOUR DAY: PHASE 1 MENSES (DAY 1-5)
Day one of the cycle is marked by the full flow of menstrual blood (not spotting). The pituitary gland signals for the production of the hormones FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Lutenising Hormone) to stimulate the growth of follicles. Acupuncture treatment during this phase is directed at moving blood to ensure the endometrial lining built up over the previous month is fully shed and to reduce the pain from cramping as well as treating any other symptoms that coincide with the period.
Foods to regulate menses during Phase 1
- Whole Foods.
- Stock/soups made from bones (provide bone marrow and calcium from the bones)
- Small tip: add a tiny amount of vinegar to assist with the release of marrow and calcium from the bones.
- Marinated meat.
- Stewed casseroles (long duration cooking).
- Egg yolk, legumes, grains, green leafy vegetable, beetroots, red wine (best consumed during food – assists in promoting circulatory actions of wine).
- Soup – Boil whole chicken, add vegetables & herbs – slow, long cooking preferred.
- Carrots, mushrooms, shallots, sweet potatoes.
- Yam, goji berries, lychee, fresh ginger.
- Drink stock with the meat.
Menstrual Phase Herbs
RED RASPBERRY LEAF. A uterine tonic, it relieves cramping and pain. Drink as a tea or infusion daily.
NETTLE: High in iron to support blood loss & remineralize the body. Drink as a tea or infusion daily.
CRAMPBARK: Helps relieve cramping associated with menses. Take as a decoction or tincture daily.
TURMERIC: Anti-inflammatory. Supports digestive system. Helps with menstrual cramps. Add to food or take in capsule form as needed.
Menstrual Phase Adaptogens
CHAGA MUSHROOM: High in iron to support blood loss. Supports immunity & regulates energy. Works as a cleansing aid, to support this method of cleansing (menses). Drink as a decoction or in powder form daily.
ASHWAGANDHA: Helps to regulate hormone imbalances. Nourishes the body. Boosts immunity. Take in tincture or powder as needed.
PHASE 2: FOLLICULAR PHASE (DAY 6 – PRE-OVULATION)
During this stage of the cycle, oestrogen builds. This increase in oestrogen thickens the living of the uterus and increases cervical fluid. Acupuncture during this phase is aimed at improving the uterine and ovarian blood flow to aid follicular development, increasing the lining of the endometrium and increasing cervical fluid.
Foods to Improve Yin during Phase 2
- Nutrient rich foods.
- Fruits/ vegetables, protein (tofu, fish, soy milk, soy products).
- Barley, millet, string beans, asparagus, dark – coloured beans.
- Blueberries, mulberries.
- Seaweed, fish eggs, dairy products.
- Duck, pork.
- Keep well hydrated.
- Minimum 2 liters of water a day (preferably warm), may need to exceed quantity if involved in physical activity which promotes sweating.
- Stimulants – coffee, spicy – rich foods.
Phase 2: Herbs
RED CLOVER: Increases oestrogen levels. Works as a uterine tonic. Is a fertility support. Minimises complications related to endometriosis and ovarian cysts. Drink as a tea or infusion daily.
NETTLE: High in iron to support blood loss. Drink as a tea or infusion daily.
Phase 2: Adaptogens
ADAPTOGENS: HOLY BASIL. Regulates blood sugar. Boosts immunity. Drink as a tea or infusion daily during this phase.
PHASE 3: OVULATION
The release of an ovum (egg) from the dominant follicle is triggered by a surge in the hormone LH. The cervix is open and fertile cervical mucous increases just before ovulation occurs. Acupuncture treatment during this phase is focused on assisting the release of the ovum. Once ovulation occurs, the fertilised egg remains in the fallopian tubes until 5 days after fertilisation. During this time the cells keep dividing until there are so many cells you cannot count them.
Foods during Phase 3
At five days, the embryo is called a blastocyst and it makes its way into the uterus to implant. At this time, the progesterone levels increase and so does your basal body temperature. The reason for this is to provide a warm environment for the embryo to implant as well as enhancing the communication between the embryo and the endometrium (uterine lining). Based on this reason, foods consumed should be warm without being too hot or spicy and also avoiding cold foods.
Phase 3 Ovulation: Herbs
RED CLOVER: Increases cervical mucus and lubricates the vagina. Drink as an infusion daily.
Phase 3 Ovulation: Adaptogens
SHATAVARI: Boosts LH production, which promotes healthy ovulation. If you are looking to conceive, take it from menses up until ovulation begins, then stop and resume next cycle.
MACA: Increases energy and stamina. Increases libido. Balances oestrogen levels. Take in powder form or capsule daily or as desired.
PHASE 4: LUTEAL PHASE (POST-OVULATION)
During this phase, progesterone is increasing. Progesterone is secreted by the corpus luteum (what is left of the follicle after the release of the ovum) and helps to thicken the endometrium for implantation, and is necessary to sustain a healthy pregnancy. The ovum travels down the Fallopian tube into the uterus after ovulation.
If fertilisation has occurred, the embryo will implant in the uterus. Acupuncture treatment during this phase depends on whether or not pregnancy is trying to be achieved. If a woman is trying to conceive then treatment is focused on assisting implantation and securing the embryo to prevent miscarriage. If not trying to conceive, treatment is focused on regulating qi flow to prepare for the next cycle.
Foods to improve Yang during Phase 4
- Baking foods for a long duration, such as a roast chicken turn the heat down a little and bake for longer. This puts more warmth into the food especially if its marinated with great herbs and spices.
- Garlic, onions, chicken, lamb, trout, salmon, lobster, prawns, mussels.
- Black Beans.
- Walnuts, chestnuts, pistachio nuts.
- Add ginger, shallots, cinnamon to food.
- Stewed fruit is also a great snack idea.
- Avoid : Eating excess spicy foods – in moderation.
Cold food, ice cold drinks, coffee – and other caffeine type beverages.
Also important to enhance the health of your digestion, as a poor digestion means poor absorption of nutrients. If you have leaky gut syndrome, it is ideal to avoid foods your body is allergic or intolerant to and minimise the processed, sugary foods as this can impact your digestive health. To improve your gut, try taking bone broth.
Bone broth: In a stockpot, add the water, organic chicken carcass or chicken parts and veggies and bring to a boil. Strain bones and veggies. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin, one scoop at a time, into about 1 – 1.5 cups of cold water, and mix well. Add the thickened gelatin to the broth, mix well and eat daily during this phase.
Other tips include:
- Varied fresh food.
- Eat while relaxed – avoid eating when in a hurry (affects digestion).
- In the beginning of your day have warm water with a squeeze of lemon.
- Lightly cooked meals.
- Try and have a mixture of sweet, bitter, pungent flavours in cooking.
- Sweet Flavours – root vegetables, grains (not in excess).
- Bitter Flavours – rocket, watercress (assists in digestion).
- Pungent Flavours – onions, coriander, chives (assists in digestion & moves Qi).
- Sip green tea and/or peppermint tea during food to enhance digestion, or perhaps small amounts of red wine, as this too can assist in digestion.
Herbs and adaptogens during Phase 4:
CHASTE TREE BERRY (AKA VITEX): Helps to lengthen the luteal phase. This is important as a short luteal phase can be indicative of conception issues in the future (or currently if you’re trying to conceive). Boosts progesterone levels. Take in tincture or capsule form daily during this phase.
GINGER: Warms the body. Helps clear gas and bloating. Supports digestion & detoxification. Drink as a tea, add to food or take in capsule form as needed.
BURDOCK ROOT: Removes excess hormones. Cleanses the liver. Drink as a tea or infusion daily.
ADAPTOGENS: HOLY BASIL. Lifts mood and helps with mild depression associated with PMS. Drink as a tea or infusion daily during this phase.
ASHWAGANDHA. Balances stress levels. Increases vitality and energy levels, which can be low during this phase. Take in tincture or powder as needed.
In addition to supporting the individual stages of the menstrual cycle, we can support our liver all month long. Liver health is vital for proper hormone balance and menstrual health.
LIVER SUPPORTING HERBS
Dandelion root; Burdock Root; Milk thistle; Chicory root; Yellow Dock.
Ask us about 858 Liver tonic.
Fiber: Certain fibers bind to excess oestrogen in the body and help the liver to metabolise and excrete it. Fiber also helps to balance blood sugar levels and reduce cortisol levels, lowering the burden of stress in the body. In addition, fiber promotes digestive regularity, reducing constipation related to PMS. Ensure you’re getting 35 to 40 grams of insoluble fiber per day. Ground flax seeds are a good option for they can specifically bind to oestrogen receptors and balance levels.
The liver is a strong and resilient organ – it is the only organ that can regenerate itself! Give your liver a break by doing cleansing one-day a week throughout the month. This will give it an opportunity to rest and flush out toxins. One-day per week – eat light and nourish with soups, salads, juices, herbal teas, infusions & plenty of water.