Do You Know What Your Period Is Trying To Tell You?
Did you know that when you come in for a treatment and assessment with your Chinese medicine practitioner they will probably ask you questions about your period? Questions you may never have had before, never discussed with your friends or even thought of … such as blood colour, texture and thickness of the blood and heaviness of the flow.
Chinese medicine has been treating women’s health for thousands of years. In Chinese medicine, a woman’s menstrual cycle is a very important tool for understanding overall health, examining the body’s natural signs and symptoms for clues to underlying imbalances within the body.
Today Chinese medicine practitioners use a combination of Western medicine lab tests, blood work, ultrasounds as well as the traditional methods of observation of signs and symptoms during the phases of the menstrual cycle to determine your constitution and any underlying imbalances that may need attending to. In fact, your menstrual cycle is a wonderful report card for overall health.
So what is a healthy menstrual cycle? In this blog series I will discuss different aspects of the menstrual cycle from colour, length, symptoms, flow and how these can be explained and treated accordingly to traditional Chinese medicine.
One of the biggest diagnostic pieces of the menstrual cycle is the colour of the blood. Most people are amazed that there is such a large range of colours and that what they have experienced their whole life, although normal for them, may not be the same colour as their best friend, mother or sister!
I use a paint chart in the clinic to help people get a visual picture.
What are these different colours telling us?
- Medium Red Blood: no clots or too thin or thick- this is healthy blood
- Pink Blood: often watery or thin- this can indicate blood deficiency or digestive disorders which can have an effect on blood quality
- Purple Dark Blood: this is often thick and indicates stagnation. Purple clotted blood is often accompanied by cramping and pain. This may indicate the presence of cold and may physically show up as a fibroid or endometriosis.
- Dark Brown or Black Blood: A sign of stagnation. This may be due to either a deficiency of blood or excess stagnation in the body
- Orangey Blood with Odour: May indicate an infection, itchiness is also often present
- Very Bright Red Blood: Indicates heat in the blood. Often this will lead to very heavy periods and lots of irritability and heat symptoms. The blood may be thin or thick
There are often simple ways to improve the quality of your menstrual blood
Diet is often key- make sure you are getting enough iron rich foods and avoiding sweets, and processed foods.
Digestion-needs to be working well to metabolize and break down the food in order to support hormonal health and blood quality.
Abdominal massage or heat packs can often be beneficial to improve circulation to the uterus to help with clots and dark coloured blood.
Foot soaks can also be beneficial to help move the blood in the pelvis.
Deep breathing is very helpful for circulation of blood throughout the body, often we shallow breathe and this effects the circulation and blood flow in the pelvis.
Cold in the blood– During your period it is best to use heat packs on the abdomen, avoid cold raw food and drink, getting your feet cold or swimming in cold water.
Heat in the blood– It is important to avoid any stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, processed foods, alcohol and smoking.
In the clinic I find a combination of acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping , diet & lifestyle advise very helpful at improving the menstrual cycle and overall health.
What clue is your menstrual cycle giving you?
Chinese Herbal Medicine
I first learned about the power of Chinese herbs when I was a student and was not getting my menstrual cycle. I went to my Western medicine doctor who was not concerned at all with my year without periods after coming off the birth control pill. I then approached my Chinese medicine doctor who prescribed a herbal formula and acupuncture to bring back and regulate my cycle. Within a few weeks of taking the herbs and two acupuncture sessions my period was back. I was amazed, not only did my period return but my energy increased, my sleep was better and my stress levels felt more manageable. I became a raving fan of Chinese herbal medicine and continue to take Chinese herbal formulas to this day to support and balance my body. I love the individuality of the herbal formulas, modifying and changing with the seasons or life events. I suggest using herbal medicine in combination with acupuncture treatments, lifestyle and diet modifications. I believe that a herbal formula is like getting acupuncture every day to give your body a little boost to help combat the stresses of daily life.
Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal formulas that have been prescribed for thousands of years with personalized modifications to improve the effects of the formula for your special needs. Some common reasons to take a herbal formula include digestive complaints, acid reflux, IBS, reproductive, menstrual or menopausal symptoms, sleep, irritability and anxiety, boosting the immune system to prevent colds and illness and improve energy.
It is important to know where your herbs are grown. It is similar to food production, organic vs. genetically modified and pesticide heavy. Some Chinese herbs are grown in toxic conditions and other companies pride themselves on the quality of their products. All the herbs that are used at the clinic have been tested by Health Canada for safety and are grown in Taiwan. These herbs may cost a little more, just like your organic veggies, but it is most definitely money well spent to get a quality product.
Chinese herbal medicine is a large field of study and in British Columbia requires extra years of schooling and training in order to prescribe Chinese herbal medicine as a Registered Herbalist. Not all acupuncturists are trained or licensed to practice Chinese herbal medicine. Please make sure that you are getting your herbs from a trained professional.
Did you know that we have a compounding pharmacy where we make personalized herbal formulas? Give us a call to see if a Chinese herbal formula could help you improve your health.
Will I Ever Get a Good Night’s Sleep?
Are you dreading going to bed each night? Worried that you will toss and turn all night or fall asleep quickly but be wide awake at 1:00am and unable to fall back asleep? Are you waking up feeling more tired than when you went to bed?
Insomnia is rampant!! So many are unable to get a good night’s sleep. Feeling rested in the morning is a thing of the past. Lack of sleep is causing fatigue, brain fog, grumpiness, and even weight gain.
Although it is not easy to change your sleeping patterns, it is possible to change them, so you can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy your day.
Follow this link for my video on acupressure points for a better sleep! https://youtu.be/n9KkEcpDjLc
These tips may be hard at first to incorporate into your daily life, but if you really are serious about getting a good sleep you may need to make some changes in your routines.
- No computer screens at least 1 hour before bed
- Switch your computer screen to nighttime mode in the early evening
- No suspenseful, intense, movies, books, or music before bed- no need to stimulate the brain
- Develop a before bed routine and do the same things every night.
- Wash face, brush teeth, etc. about 30 minutes before bed
- Create a nice environment in your bedroom
- No computers, TVs, no electronics at all
- Nice lighting- keep it dark
- Have a cool bedroom
- Don’t eat close to bedtime- allow at least 2 hours to digest your food
- No spicy foods right before bed
- Limit alcohol- alcohol can act as a stimulant and effect sleep
- Limit caffeine especially in the evening. This includes coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate
- Use an essential oil- lavender is very good to help calm anxiety and quiet the mind
- Have a sleepy time tea- chamomile is a nice one
- Take magnesium- this has been touted as the relaxation mineral and most of us do not get enough of it in our diet.
- Meditate or listen to guided stories. There are many great websites and apps out there that can help you with this, my favorite is the Calm App.
Take mini relaxation breaks during the day- it is very important to learn how to sit and relax throughout the day. It is very hard for the body and mind to run around all day frantically and then be able to automatically shut down when you go to bed. If you are someone who never sits down throughout the day and gets uncomfortable and restless at the thought of some “down time” please, please, please understand that this is often the number one reason for your poor sleep. Allow yourself some down time each day to relax and do something you enjoy without a deadline or a goal in mind. This will help the mind to shut off at night and some good quality sleep to soon follow.
- Control your mind and slow your mind
Acupressure points for sleep
These points are helpful to use for 5-10 minutes before bed to help calm the body and mind and prepare for sleep
- Shenmen- Inner ear point
- Du 20- Top of scalp
- Yintang – Third eye
- K6- Joyful sleep
- CV17- Chest center
Acupuncture treatments combined with the acupressure points and lifestyle suggestions noted above can be the difference in your sleep occurrence, quality, and quantity. So yes, it does take a little (or a lot) of work to change your bedtime routine, but it is so worth it!
Follow this link for my video on acupressure points for a better sleep! https://youtu.be/n9KkEcpDjLc
Acupressure Points for Labour Induction
As you approach or even go past your due date it often puts even more stress on the family and you the mom to be. While it is often considered normal to go into labour 1 to 2 weeks past your due date, midwives and doctors alike often start to get concerned and suggest medical interventions if the body doesn’t start to prepare naturally for childbirth.
Acupressure, firm pressure on specific points on the body (acupuncture points), can help to prepare the body for birth. Please do not use these points without the approval of your midwife or doctor as they can stimulate labour. Firm direct pressure is needed on these points. You can use your thumbs, knuckles, or even a wooden spoon to press on the points. I advise holding each point for a minute or two before moving to the opposite side or another acupressure point. I advise doing this routine several times a day as the effects of the acupressure treatment continue to grow with repetition. Acupressure on these specific points help to promote cervical dilation and begin contractions to prepare for a natural labour.
I recommend these acupressure points:
- SP 6:
- Located 4 fingers up from the top of the medial malleolus (inner ankle)
- This point helps to prepare and dilate the cervix
- LI 4:
- Located between the thumb and index finger
- This point can help to stimulate contractions and provide pain relief. This point also helps aid the baby down the birth canal
- GB 21:
- Located midpoint between the neck and the top of the shoulder. Feel for the most tender point
- This point has a downward action and helps the body descend into the pelvis and can stimulate uterine contractions
What I have found to be very effective in treating women who are past their due date is using a combination of acupuncture, massage, and cupping in the office followed up with an acupressure protocol to be used at home. These points are safe, easy to use and effective. I believe that this is a very good alternative to a medical induction with far fewer risks involved for mother and baby! For more information please contact the clinic and please feel free to share this information! Follow this link to my video showing acupressure points to induce labour: https://youtu.be/smDewnmLnDI.
Post Natal Care
Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the post natal period is a very important time for determining the future health of the new mother and infant. The Chinese call this the “Golden Time” and suggest that the new mother should have a minimum of 30 days and more preferably 100 days of rest where the only requirement is to feed her baby.
This is quite an adjustment from Western thinking where “super moms” are often verbally praised for getting back to their exercise classes, work, and pre-pregnancy clothes as quickly as possible. This can have a devastating effect on the future health of the mother as her energy and blood supply have been depleted during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
Many women have difficulties after healthy pregnancies such a tiredness or exhaustion, inadequate milk supply, post partum depression, anxiety, and sleep disorder, changes in menstruation, or fertility problems that can be traced back to inadequate care in the post partum period.
What Can You Do To Help?
- Diet- Women throughout the ages have used dietary remedies to encourage lactation and promote their recovery from childbirth or a miscarriage. Foods to nourish blood and qi are encouraged during this post natal period to promote recovery and future injury. Foods such as oats, rice, potato, sweet potato, mushroom, date, fig, grape, kidney beans, tofu, beef, chicken, fish, pork, peanuts, egg, dark leafy greens, sesame seeds, mussels, and spices such as rosemary, thyme, cinnamon and basil.
- Slow cooked or lightly steamed foods are easier on the digestive system and more nourishing for the body.
- Soups made with chicken and congees, a form of rice soup, are very helpful to restore energy. Bone broths are wonderful.
- Avoid raw or cold food and drink as much as possible especially immediately after childbirth.
Here are some recipes for Post Birth Recovery from “Chinese Foods for Longevity” by Henry C Lu
- Bring to boil 10 red dates with 3 grams of dang gui in 1 cup water. Simmer until the water is reduced to ½ cup. Drink daily as an energy tonic after childbirth.
- Boil until soft 1-3 fresh figs or 30 grams dry figs with 2 red dates and 60 grams lean pork. Eat once per day to increase milk production.
- Boil 30 grams red dates with 1 whole chicken, 4 fresh slices of ginger and 30 grams brown sugar in water until the chicken is cooked. Eat at meals to restore qi and blood following childbirth.
- Adequate rest- This is the time to take it easy. Rest when you can and do not worry about housework, getting back into shape, or resuming your old life until at least 30 days post partum.
- Prepare healthy meals before birth so you don’t have to cook.
- Ask for and accept help from family and friends
- Don’t do too much all at once
- Avoid getting cold- Do not walk around with bare feet on cold floors, avoid drafts, fans, air conditioning, open windows, and wear appropriate clothing.
- Mother Roasting- Moxibustion (mugwort an herb which helps to warm and circulate energy) on the lower abdomen to build up qi and blood and prevent stagnation in the lower abdomen especially after a c-section. Very effective to nourish the mother after childbirth and help to heal c-section scars.
- Hydrate- Remember to hydrate. Drink room temperature water and bone broth soups.
- Moderate exercise- gentle walks and activities. Absolutely no cardio in the 30 days post partum stage. With some rest ad self care your weight, energy levels, mood and libido will return post partum.
- Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are effective to help with inadequate milk supply, mastitis, persistent uterine bleeding, post partum depression, anxiety, insomnia, pain and fatigue after childbirth.
The tongue colour corresponds to the underlying temperature and landscape of the body.
A pale tongue indicates cold or weakness in the body. A person with a pale tongue may feel cold, have low energy, poor or slow digestion, muscle and body fatigue.
A red tongue indicates internal heat. Often people with red tongues may feel hot, irritable, have constipation, acid reflux, restless sleep.
A purple tongue indicates stagnation, or lack of circulation in the body. A person with a purple tongue may have spider or varicose veins, fibroids, cold hands and feet.
Go ahead, stick out your tongue and figure out what clues it is giving you to your health. Here are some ways to restore balance and health depending on your tongue colour.
If you have a pale tongue, eat mostly cooked foods and very little raw foods. Drink room temperature or warm beverages, avoid cold. Keep your body warm, socks on your feet and neck covered if outside in the wind. Add cinnamon, cloves, curry and garlic to the diet. Get up and move, exercise.
If you have a red tongue avoid or minimize caffeine, alcohol and sugars as these are all warming and adding fuel to the fire. Drink mint tea or use peppermint essential oil on the wrists or temples. Do not overeat and avoid fatty foods. Take time to exercise and add some meditation or breathe work.
If you have a purple tongue add herbs such as cilantro, basil and parsley to your foods. Breath work is good to circulate the blood. Massaging and warming the abdomen is good for fibroids or large menstrual blood clots.
The coating of the tongue reflects the state of the digestive system.
A thick coated tongue indicates a sluggishness or weakness in the digestive system. This may show up as yeast infections, sinus infections, fuzzy head, weight gain, muscle heaviness and body fatigue, bloating and gas.
A tongue with a peeled or cracked coating indicates too much heat in the digestive system. A person with a peeled tongue may experience constipation, acid reflux, excess hunger.
Some tips to help if you have a thick tongue coating include minimizing or avoiding dairy, sugars and wheat as these are all hard to digest and make the digestive system work extra hard. Try not to overthink or worry as this is also taxing on your digestion organs.
If you have a peeled or cracked tongue it is very important to eat mindfully, slow down and chew your food well to allow for digestion. Avoid spicy and acidic foods such as tomatoes, chilies and curries. Add easy to digest foods such as steamed vegetables and proteins such as chicken, fish or beans.
I hope that this has given you some useful information on the messages that your tongue is giving you regarding your health.
Please send me a message if you have a question regarding your tongue, or better yet -take a picture of your tongue and send it to me.
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Chinese Medicine Tongue Diagnosis
Show Me Your Tongue!!!
Did you know that your tongue is giving very important clues about your overall health? In fact, I can find out almost everying I need to know regarding your health just from looking at your tongue!! Chinese medicine has been using the tongue to help diagnose health and underlying imbalances within the body for thousands of years.
- Red: internal heat
- Pale: internal cold
- Purple: blood stagnation
- swollen and fat
- small and thin
Coating on the Tongue
- thick coating
- cracked or peeled tongue
Different Areas of The Tongue Correspond to Different Organ Systems Within The Body
- Tip: heart, emotional health
- Middle: stomach/spleen, digestion
- Sides: liver/gallbladder area
- Root: kidneys
- Behind the tip: lungs/chest
In next weeks blog I will give you some diet and lifestyle suggestions depending on tongue colour, shape and coating. If you can’t wait until then…send me a picture of your tongue and I will give you some specefic diet tips based on what I see from your tongue!
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Ahhh don’t we all love Spring… but unfortunately for many this means the worst of allergy season and sinus congestion.
Here are a few tips to help clear sinus congestion and allergies, which zaps you of your energy and can be downright annoying and painful.
Tweak the diet: Stay clear of dairy– especially soft cheeses, sour cream, whipping cream all which are mucous producing and will clog up the sinuses. If you pay attention you can often feel this happening almost instantly after eating that piece of cheesecake! Limit wheat– this again will have an effect on phlegm build up, especially if you have a tendancy to bloating, gas, existing digestive complaints. Avoid sugars– as much as possible, as it will help to reduce congestion. Add– aduzki beans, button mushrooms, lentils, turnip and radish to the diet as they are great for draining dampness.
Steam– I love steams- these are so great for clearing congestion!!! Directions: fill a glass bowl with boiling water, add some essential oils such as peppermint or eucalyptus, fresh thyme is great too. Put your face over the bowl covered with a towel for 10 minutes- Do this two times a day- They are addicting!
Acupressure– I have recorded my first video on acupressure points to use at home to help with allergies and sinus congestion https://youtu.be/IZcTsxItSjs
Watch the video today to help clear up your congestion and then share it with your friends!
No one said it was easy- but if you can find an extra 15 minutes in your day, these daily rituals can change your life!!
I am a huge fan of daily rituals: I do mine in the morning but anytime of the day will work as long as you make it a habit! They are so great for relieving stress and that overwhelmed feeling and really starting your day off on the right foot. These are the 4 rituals that I try to practice on a daily basis- trust me, I notice and my family notices when I get lazy and start to miss my morning rituals 🙂
1. 10 Minute Meditation– I use the Calm app for guided meditations. I have also started Insight. They are another site I am learning to love!
2. Gratitude Journal– After my meditation I write down 3 things that I am grateful for today- sounds hokey and way too easy but it really does make a difference. Reflecting on how lucky you are is a great way to start your day and put things in perspective.
3. Stretch– I do a few minutes of stretching daily. Nothing fancy. Childs pose, cat & cow yoga poses to stretch out the back and hips.
4. Last but not least, a Plan For The Day– I plan out 3 things like chores, errands, etc. that I want to accomplish during my day. Nothing huge or fancy but things that if I don’t complete will start to drive me crazy and be on my “to do” list tomorrow.
These 4 daily rituals take about 15-20 minutes and make such a HUGE difference on my day. Give them a try, I think they will help you feel less stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed during your day too!
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Whenever I am out and meeting new people and they find out my profession as a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine inevitably they mention that they have always wanted to try acupuncture but they have never had…….. a sore back, a sore neck, or been sick enough to use it. Well here’s the thing, acupuncture and TCM is best used while you are healthy to help keep you that way.
Traditionally a village would have a Chinese Medicine Doctor and their job was to keep everyone healthy, monthly visits to discuss any little changes in sleep, digestion, bowel movements, energy levels, pain etc. A personalized treatment was designed and prescribed to keep the body in balance as much as possible and correct any little problems before they became big problems. This could include, acupuncture, diet recommendations, herbal medicine and some lifestyle modifications.
So you see most Chinese Medicine Doctors would rather see you when you are healthy and help to keep you that way!
My first session is still vivid: she sat with me and took her time to do an exceptionally thorough intake, asking questions about every aspect of my health. I remember leaving feeling wonderfully cared for.