How To Leverage Ancient Traditions For Real-Time Menstrual Relief

Many women experience difficult periods in their teens, during stressful times, or as they approach menopause.

Symptoms women experience vary widely but can include cramping, irritability, back/hip soreness, headaches, digestive disturbance, fatigue, general discomfort, breast tenderness, sleeplessness and more.

Don’t despair: These symptoms may be avoidable.

If you go to your doctor to complain about symptoms related to your periods, the first thing your doctor is likely to give you is birth control. The birth control pill, and other birth control that contains hormones (like injectable forms or some IUDs), is likely to change your cycle by dominating the hormonal communication that is going on in your body to signal creation of estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones. The logic here is that your body must be regulating your cycle improperly. Sometimes these extra hormones work to relieve undesirable symptoms; sometimes they don’t.

Seeking relief in Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine, of which acupuncture is the most famous component, offers some perspective on the menstrual cycle that may be helpful.* Chinese Medicine was developed over many centuries of scientific observation, but uses a different kind of logic than mainstream medicine does today.

In Chinese Medicine, the menstrual cycle is governed by the blood. The healthy state of your blood produces healthy fertility and menses. Those essential things we sometimes neglect—decent sleep, minimal stress and a proper diet, for example—can affect your blood and lead to worse periods. Some things to avoid: excessive alcohol, sugar, caffeine and tobacco.

The four basic patterns of dysmenorrhea

There are four basic patterns we see with painful menstruation: The healthy state of your blood (from the Chinese Medicine perspective) can be affected by stagnation of circulation, emotional stagnation, lack of nutrients, and high stress levels.

With circulatory or emotional stagnation, you may experience cramps, back soreness and emotional upset, and you may see menstrual blood that is dark red or brown with clots. For relief, eat more spicy foods with herbs like cumin, coriander, cinnamon, oregano, and turmeric in them and increase the amount of exercise you get.

If you’re lacking nutrients, you may observe menstrual blood that is thin and a flow that lasts only one or two days with cramping, hot flashes, and fatigue during and following menses. For relief, eat lots of vegetables, healthy proteins and fats, get lots of rest, and don’t exercise excessively.

If you’re frequently under a lot of stress, you may experience any of the above. Try to reduce your stress and take all of the advice above. You can also go to an acupuncturist; acupuncture and herbs can smooth out your cycle fairly quickly.

*These are general guidelines and are not meant to diagnose or cure any disease. If you have serious problems, please see a licensed practitioner or your doctor.

This article was originally published here, feel free to check it out.

Six Steps for Dealing with Stress

Stress

Stress by Becky Wetherington www.flickr.com/photos/macbeck/

Of all the factors in modern life that degrade our health, stress is probably the greatest one. Whether it’s traffic, money problems, scheduling, family or societal expectations, we constantly need help with stress reduction, even if you’re the calmest person outside of a meditation hall. Rather than yell at someone or eat too much dessert, consider trying some of these offerings:

1. Eat regular meals, preferably three. Three sit-down, hot meals would be perfect, maybe even with your family. I know this can be difficult for many with a busy lifestyle but it’s worth the change. Lack of food can be as much a stressor as too much food while the stress relief of having a healthy ritual that allows you to relax, improve your digestive function and relate to your family or friends is golden.

2. Sleep eight hours a night on the same schedule. Deviating occasionally is not a problem, but erratic sleep schedules and chronic sleep deprivation can be a serious problem.

3. Take time to relax. Having a busy job is one thing, never taking time to relax away from phone, computer and constant work is another. This should be daily and weekly with occasional trips to the beach, mountains, wilderness, etc…

4. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs can reduce stress. Acupuncture is great at relieving those tight muscles at the shoulders and lower back that come from overwork. Internal stress, with symptoms like slightly elevated blood pressure, irritability and difficulty in focusing, can be helped with both herbs and Acupuncture, by supporting the “rest and digest” aspect of the nervous system.

5. Qigong (pronounced chee- gong) is a chinese form of exercise that has been practiced for centuries to reduce stress, among other things. Qigong is a little like Yoga, but it is much easier for the average person to do. The story from China is that qigong was created by Bodhidharma, the same monk who brought buddhism to China from India and is credited as the creator of Zen buddhism.

6. As the Buddha once said: “Focus.”* Be present with your stress, your job, your family, your joys, your frustrations. Allowing yourself to be distracted with another project when you should be finishing a presentation for your boss won’t get either done faster. Thinking about work when you’re spending time with family will just fill your down time with stress. Stay present and take care of what is in front of you; everything will work itself out.

See how these six help you with your stress and let me know what happens!

*The Buddha didn’t actually say that.

Seasonal Affect Disorder

An article on Seasonal Affect Disorder might seem a little late, since the days are getting longer and we are all looking forward to Spring and, soon after, Summer. Truth is that the lack of sun can get us down, especially in Portland and Seattle where we get plenty of overcast sky for nine months of the year.

Chinese Medicine places us in the context of nature where the cycle of the seasons means everything. We’re supposed to bundle up in the Fall because our immune system isn’t ready for the cold weather – this is why flu season starts in the Fall. It’s also important to keep warm in the Winter because our bodies expend a lot of energy keeping us warm when it’s cold out. When it’s cold, our immune system doesn’t have as much energy to defend the body as it does in the Summer. It’s even worse in modern times because we don’t sleep that extra time in the Winter anymore. Do you know anyone who sleeps at sunset and wakes at dawn? Me neither.

Chinese Medicine supports seasonal eating as well. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables in the Summer is great, but if you eat the same thing in Winter (shipped from California or Chile) that’s going to be a whole lot of cold to dampen your digestive fire, which may be in short supply because of the cold weather outside. Better to eat colder food in the Summer and warmer food in the Winter like soups and broths. Eat your vegetables and fruits cooked in the Winter – the nutrients are more bio-available this way anyway!

If you’re not feeling well this time of year (and especially in the darkest of December) spend more time outside and get a happy light (full spectrum light). Since we don’t get enough sun in the Winter, you still might want to take some Vitamin D until the sun visits us again on a regular basis. Yes, we are a thoroughly modern society, but nature and the seasons still effect us; let’s stay healthy!

The Three Essential Building Blocks for Health

Get at least eight hours of sleep. If one of your complaints is fatigue, exhaustion or something similar your body is telling you that you need sleep. Go to bed early or sleep in if you need more than eight hours.

Eat three meals of healthy food per day, including sitting down for your (preferably hot) meals. If you avoid any foods, make sure you tell your acupuncturist this, because this can indicate a digestive weakness that can be improved upon.

Get some moderate exercise. If you are not feeling well, make the exercise mild or skip it. I recommend Qigong because I teach it. If you can’t find Qigong; yoga, cycling to work or classes at the gym will work. If you walk for exercise but still have significant challenges (such as weight issues, blood pressure or other medical issues) consider seeing an Acupuncturist or other medical professional. If you are constantly wearing yourself out with daily exercise, consider why and how you can change it.

These might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t have good sleep, food or exercise in their regular routine.

Balancing Hormones During Menopause: Questions and Answers

Can Acupuncture help with hormonal balancing during menopause?

Yes, Acupuncture can help with hormonal balancing during menopause and at other stages of life as well. Some of the symptoms we treat are hot flashes and night sweats, insomnia, decreased libido, anxiety, irritability, weight gain, and memory loss. Chinese Medicine, which includes acupuncture, uses a unique diagnostic system and many treatment methods in addition to Acupuncture, including Herbs, Exercise (called Qigong), dietary and lifestyle changes.

 

How does Chinese Medicine look at menopause?

Chinese Medicine was invented 2000 years ago, some even say closer to 5000 years…. As you might imagine, they saw things differently. The chinese saw menopause as part of the continuum of a healthy life, one of many changes throughout life, including puberty and parenthood. Andropause is different, which some people call male menopause, but it is also seen as part of the healthy continuum of life. Menopause is not a disease, it is just a change in our hormonal makeup. Women don’t need to put that energy into fertility and menstruation any longer; they are free to use that energy in other ways.

 

Since you say menopause is a healthy and normal part of a woman’s life why seek treatment? 

Many people say this to me: they don’t need to see a doctor OR an Acupuncturist for menopause because it is a natural change and intervention is not really needed. I agree with this, except to point out that Chinese Medicine is all about preventative, beneficial approaches which can help balance, relax and sustain us even absent acute problems. So if you’re suffering with symptoms from menopause such as foggy thinking or fatigue, this is caused by an imbalance. We can help with that, it will make you feel better and you might even live a longer healthier life.

We’ve heard some negatives about hormone replacement therapy (such as cardiovascular and cancer risks, osteoporosis), but Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs rarely present significant side-effects, unlike conventional medicine.

Let me explain a little further.

Throughout our lives, imbalances can occur, whether it is as a result of injuries, like a car accident or a pulled muscle, or as a result of normal changes, like puberty or menopause. When we see these things, Chinese Medicine uses a few different approaches to help people get better. One of the primary tools we use in hormonal balancing is called Yin and Yang. This is a lot like the philosophical idea of yin and yang we see in that pictograph with the two tadpoles chasing each other in a circle. The idea here is that we are grouping symptoms, hormones and functions into two opposing camps, then we are seeking balance between these two. Yin and yang is dark versus light, female versus male, wet versus dry, heavy versus light, cool versus hot and so forth. We need both yin and yang, but the important thing is that they remain in balance.

An example of a yin imbalance would be a standard menopausal symptom: hot flashes and night sweats. Around 75% of women in America experience hot flashes during menopause. The heat here shows a lack of Yin, a lack of the cooling properties, so it gives us an idea of how to approach these symptoms clinically. We would prescribe cooling but nutritive herbs and foods and take a similar approach of cooling and nourishing with acupuncture.

The opposite symptom picture for us would be a person who is cold all of the time, with cold hands and feet, and is fatigued. This shows a lack of Yang, a lack of heat in the body. We would tend to prescribe warming and energizing herbs and foods, such as red meat, and cooked meals with spicy, warming herbs.

So, just to summarize, menopause wasn’t viewed as negatively as modern Americans view it, but as just a normal, healthy life change that sometimes presents the challenge of imbalance.

 

Are there any differences between menopause in traditional China and in modern life? Is menopause worse for modern people? 

In traditional cultures where aging brings power and status to women, women have tended to experience few if any symptoms of menopause. Perhaps they also know more natural ways to keep their lives balanced. Our modern lifestyles include incredible technologies and advancements but have also brought a lot of stress and emotional blocks, increased toxicity, many illnesses and, in this country, poor preventative medical care. Getting a hip replacement is easy in this country, finding a simple effective solution to hormonal imbalances is hard without Chinese Medicine. If we could reduce stress, eat out of our gardens and from local farms and walk places instead of driving without air pollution and industrial chemicals, we might not suffer as much through natural transitions.

 

Did the ancient chinese know about hormones? Is menopause about hormonal insufficiency?

No, they didn’t have microscopes, or other things that rely on modern technology. They were, however, masters of external symptomotology such that we can treat many things effectively without ever doing hormone tests, blood tests, MRIs and so forth. One thing the chinese were also great at is understanding how everything is connected together. So they knew that treating physical complaints would help emotional complaints and vice versa; they knew how psycho-emotional complaints could be treated with physical interventions like Acupuncture and Herbs.

There are a few different hormones involved in the reproductive system, and the female system is a little more complicated than the male. Once ovulation stops, or slows down, it takes a while for other systems to follow suit. The body wants to make sure that it is providing a proper environment for creating a child, so it takes a while to shut down the system. The short answer is that menopause is not about lack of hormones, but actually about shutting down part of the reproductive system in a smooth way so that women can apply their energy to other things than childbirth.

 

So, is it necessary to supplement hormones at all with the Chinese Medicine approach?

No. Chinese Medicine returns proper function to physiology so that, as long as you are eating and sleeping properly, your body should be able to make and balance the hormones that it needs. In fact, menopause is part of a natural change that oversees a normal decrease in many hormones.

 

Is Acupuncture painful?

This is a great question, and a common one. Acupuncture needles are tiny and are sometimes not even felt by the patient. There may be an initial pinching sensation, followed by tingling, warmth, heaviness or a feeling of movement. Acupuncture is a little like a massage. Most people find acupuncture extremely relaxing and are able to fall asleep during treatment.

 

How does Acupuncture work? Who would have thought that sticking pins into the human body could have a therapeutic effect?

There are lots of theories of how chinese medicine works. Some people talk about it as activating adenosine in the area where the needle is inserted. Adenosine is used in energy production in the cells. Others talk about it as releasing hormones and neurotransmitters. There are modern applications where the focus is on releasing the muscles. Some also talk about working with the fascial planes in the body and removing adhesions. There are lots of scientific explanations and it’s actually pretty clear that a lot of those things may be going on at the same time.

From the CM perspective we talk about a smooth flow of energy through the body and there are ways we learn how to see that. Particular parts of the body relate to particular organs and functions and this is called the channel system. There is something called the stomach channel that runs down the front of the body. So if someone comes in with digestive problems, we will often do pins on that channel. The great thing is really that it works, and it works for many disorders and problems.

 

You mentioned Chinese Herbs, how do those relate to Acupuncture? And what about Qigong?

Chinese herbs use the same diagnostic system that all of Chinese Medicine uses.  We would give a patient between 5 and 10 herbs that bring balance to the body. One example would be balancing yin and yang in the case of hormonal imbalance. Another could be to improve sleep in cases of insomnia. Herbs can be taken as a pill or a tea.

Interestingly, I want to note that most modern pharmaceuticals are built from chemicals derived from natural herbs. So, while drugs are derived from herbal medicine, but herbs are a much safer and natural way to treat illness and promote health.

Qigong is a meditative form of exercise that opens the circulation and builds strength and flexibility. We can apply it prescriptively for health problems. I am teaching a Qigong class starting on June 2nd, please see my website for details. This would be a great introduction to individuals wanting to improve their health.

Qigong Massage for Autism

I will soon be offering Qigong Massage for Autism training for parents of autistic children here in the Portland, OR metro area. Below you can check out a video with an introduction. I will offer training to parents who will do this massage with their kids every day. The studies on this system have shown a 30% decrease in sensory and self-regulation problems of autistic children over a 5 month treatment period.


Herbs for Colic: Gripe Water

FennelSeedLadyBug

Herbs were once known for their many medicinal qualities. I can assure you they are still a powerful force for your continued health. One example, gripe water, is a remedy that has included many different ingredients. The version I have found to be useful contains fennel seed and ginger decocted in water. Easy and simple herbalism; a great natural remedy for your baby. This decoction warms the stomach and intestines making it easier for your infant to digest. Your baby is getting used to new foods as she continues to build that good bacteria in the intestines and so needs that healthy addition to the digestive fire. Start low with the dosage, but these are both food-grade herbs.

Are you or your baby having any problems with digestion? Call us here in Portland at Spring and Autumn Acupuncture to schedule an appointment today.

Acupuncture For Kidney Stones

Kidney Stone

Kidney Stone Wave Machine

Kidney stones are a common problem and perhaps one of the more painful things we can experience. Many who suffer from kidney stones end up in the emergency room with incredible pain and the only solution offered is pain killers. If you don’t want to experience this, I suggest the natural route.

Chinese Medicine can offer both Herbs and Acupuncture to help with kidney stones. Herbs and Acupuncture can help reduce pain, dissolve the stones and guide them out of the body. Not only that, but Chinese Medicine can help change the underlying condition that caused the stones in the first place. We can help you prevent a relapse too.

Are you or is anyone you know experiencing kidney stones? Call us at Spring and Autumn Acupuncture to schedule an appointment today.