Whenever I have a female patient, I often have a lot of questions regarding her period; length of cycle, heaviness of flow, colour and consistency. All of these details give much insight into a woman’s gynaecological health from both a Western and Eastern point of view. From a Western point of view, cycle and menses length, plus the inclusion of any symptoms before or during the period can tell me about what is happening with her hormone balance. Colour and consistency, on the other hand, are important details to consider in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine? Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is an ancient for of medicine that has been used in China for thousands of years. TCM philosophy and healing revolves around the concepts of 1) balance between yin and yang, 2) harmony between the different organ systems, and 3) the uninterrupted flow of energy, or Qi. All of this can be achieved through dietary changes, acupuncture, cupping, herbal prescription, and specialized exercise (Tai Chi).
Qi The Qi (pronounced “Chee”), or life-force, is the universal manifestation of energy that exists in all things. It is said, in ancient Chinese texts, that life is a gathering of Qi and that a living being is considered healthy when all aspects of Qi are in harmony.
Yin and Yang The different aspects of Qi can be described in terms of yin and yang – opposing characteristics that exist in everything that lives. That is to say, we all have yin energy and yang energy. Yin energy is feminine, receptive and cold, while yang energy is masculine, active, and hot. Yin is night while yang is day. Health can be determined by the balance of yin and yang energies.
Organ Systems The TCM organ system ,or zang-fu, describes how the body works. The Zang organs are considered yin, while the fu organs are considered yang. The Zang organs are the Heart, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys. The Fu organs are the Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Gall Bladder, Urinary Bladder, Stomach, and the “Triple Warmer’. The zang-fu organs don’t describe anatomical organs, but rather, physiological processes and the lifestyle factors/emotions that affect them.
An ideal period – The TCM way Just as in western medicine, the ideal cycle length is about 28-35 days with 3-5 days of moderate bleeding. The ideal colour is crimson and the consistency of the blood is similar to the blood that you would see if you cut any other part of your body.
Pale pink with watery consistency This indicates deficiency in your Zang-Spleen, otherwise known as Spleen Qi deficiency. The Zang-Spleen carries out the functions of the digestive system – it processes food that we eat in order to produce blood and Qi. If the Spleen is deficient, then it cannot produce enough blood for a proper period. Symptoms that often accompany Spleen Qi deficiency include bloating, cramping, and heaviness in the legs.
Dark red blood A dark period indicates Liver Qi stagnation, or simply, the Liver Qi is not flowing freely. The Zang-Liver is easily affected by stress, so you may see a darker period in months that are particularly stressful. Symptoms that you may notice with Liver Qi stagnation include breast tenderness, intense cramps, and headaches.
Bright red blood with a mucous-like consistency Bright red blood is an indicator of heat, or in Western terms, inflammation. If you experience bright blood accompanied by fever, foul smelling discharge, or severe pelvic pain, see your doctor to rule out any infections.
Purple blood with large clots ‘Purple blood’ refers to an extremely dark period. If you have experienced Liver Qi stagnation for a long period of time, you may progress into what Is known as ’stasis’. Stasis is common in gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids. It may be accompanied by intense stabbing cramps and very heavy flow.
If you experience any of the above symptoms or would like to learn more about your health from a TCM standpoint, source out your local naturopathic doctor, TCM doctor, or acupuncturist!
Dr. Esha Singh, ND Naturopathic Physician
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