Acupuncture & Women’s Health

The traditional medicine of China is one of the world’s oldest systems of holistic healthcare. It is based on regulating the energy of our body with the environment in which we live. It recognizes constant change as normal. As women, we experience change throughout our lives with menarche, pregnancy, birth and menopause. Our bodies are always changing and maintaining balance among the change can be difficult in our daily lives. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is both effective and gentle, with the most common side effects being relaxation, improved energy and digestion, and improved mood.

Menstrual Irregularities

The natural cycle of periods are a great reflection of how our bodies are doing. A period that is too long, too short, heavy, light, or even absent reveals information about hormonal balance or imbalance in the body. While the pill is a great option for many to regulate the cycle by overriding their own hormonal changes, many women have some concerns or wish to try to naturally rectify the imbalance without the use of oral contraception. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine provide a natural, effective, and safe alternative to resolve many menstrual irregularities.

To understand the cycle and how Chinese medicine views it, we must first visit the concepts of yin and yang. Yin is considered the cooling, nurturing aspect, while yang is the warming, energetic aspect. They are constantly in motion and should always remain in balance. We can find yin/yang pairs in everything: the sun and moon, water and fire, women and men. Our cycles can also reflect this yin/yang balance. We must first build up a blood supply in order to nourish another life, and then shed this blood when it is not needed. In order to have a regular, healthy menstrual cycle, we need to have enough yin (to build the blood) and yang (to move the blood). When either becomes imbalanced negative symptoms can occur.

 

PMS

Premenstrual syndrome is a common and often debilitating condition affecting many women. It can present with emotional symptoms such as depression, irritability or anxiety, or physical symptoms such as headache, breast tenderness, cramping, bloating, or digestive upset. From a western perspective these symptoms are a result of hormonal shifts related to the period and are often relieved once the period begins. They can occur for a few days up to two weeks before the period.

What Can Chinese Medicine Do?

In Chinese medicine we look at the phases of the period. The first, beginning after the period, is the blood building phase where the body works to build up blood in the uterus. The second phase is all about movement, releasing the follicle into the fallopian tube, then releasing the uterine lining if no pregnancy occurs. PMS is a problem in the second phase. Symptoms occur because the movement is blocked. This blockage gives a feeling of being ‘stuck’, causing irritability, fatigue, and many of the other symptoms common in PMS. Using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine we are able to help the body in this second phase, by regulating the movement, allowing it to flow freely, the PMS symptoms are often eliminated.

Acupuncture has been found to be a very effective, simple treatment with no negative side effects. It can greatly reduce symptoms of PMS, and help the body to heal and regulate itself, getting at the root of the issue and allowing you to live without needing medication or treatments.

How Many Treatments Are Needed?

Generally PMS responds fairly quickly to treatment. You should notice a difference within the first month of treatment. It is generally recommended that you receive treatment once per week for one month, and then reduce treatment based on your response. Most women will need between 4 to 8 treatments to resolve their symptoms.

Other Recommendations

We believe strongly in helping you learn what changes you can make in your diet and lifestyle to maintain the positive results of your acupuncture treatments. During your treatments we will discuss some lifestyle and dietary modifications that can make a significant difference in your life. Exercise has a profound effect on your bodies ability to regulate hormones, and as we say in Chinese medicine, to move the ‘qi’. The stuck ‘qi’ is what causes these PMS symptoms, and by moving our bodies, we help to move our qi, eliminating the symptoms. During your treatment your acupuncturist will look closely at your lifestyle and diet and make recommendations that will help you learn how to treat yourself.

 

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is often found in women experiencing painful, heavy menstrual cycles. It is defined as endometrial tissue (the lining of the uterus) that is growing outside of the uterus. Some think it is caused by a back flow of menstrual blood and tissue into the abdominal cavity. The tissue responds to estrogen during the cycle, which causes it to grow, and then bleed during the period. It is this bleeding that can cause pain. There are also theories that the endometrial tissue causes an autoimmune response in women, which can cause inflammation and infertility. While many women will experience painful cramping and heavy bleeding during the period, 30% of women with endometriosis present with no other symptoms than infertility. It can only be confirmed by your doctor visually, by doing a laparoscopic procedure.

Western treatments can include birth control pills or other medications. Laproscopic removal of the endometrial tissue is also used in cases of severe endometriosis for women who are trying to conceive.

What Can Chinese Medicine Do?

Through acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, we work to restore the cycle naturally. We will take time to understand your symptoms, whether it is pain, heavy bleeding, clotting in the blood, increased symptoms of PMS, or infertility. Both acupuncture and herbs can work to reduce pain, break up the old stagnated blood, and promote hormonal balance. Acupuncture works to naturally help your body regulate itself, heal itself. While women with mild cases can find relief through Chinese medicine alone, those with more severe cases need to use both western and Chinese medicine.

How Many Treatments Are Needed?

The length of treatment will vary based on the severity of your symptoms and your goals. If you are looking at decreasing painful periods and heavy menstrual flow generally we recommend treatment once a week for three months. The goal is to help your body regulate itself and find hormonal balance naturally, so that you will no longer need to relay on any treatments (either Chinese medicine or western medicine). If you are looking to become pregnant, treatment can last four months to eight months, and can be done in conjunction with western medicine. Combining both Chinese and western medicine is a very effective way treating the symptoms of endometriosis and reduce negative side effects of other treatments while trying to conceive.

Lifestyle and Diet

Diet is an important and powerful tool in treating endometriosis. During your treatment we will discuss dietary changes recommended specifically for you. In general, a diet that reduces inflammation is recommended. A great place to start is to eliminate refined foods, sugars, alcohol and red meat.

 

PCOS

Polycystic Ovary syndrome is becoming more and more common for women of reproductive age. It is diagnosed by a presence of symptoms and can present in many different ways. Initially women may notice a longer than normal menstrual cycle, or absence of menstruation altogether. PCOS is often diagnosed through ultrasound, or through blood work. It is a complex disorder that affect a woman’s hormone levels, periods, and ovulation. For reasons that are not well understood, hormone levels become out of balance, and because hormones all work in response to one another, when one becomes out of balance, they all become out of balance. Women will often present with excess levels of testosterone in their body, which can halt ovulation and cause excess body and facial hair. The body may also have a problem using insulin, which can cause blood sugars to rise. Many women with PCOS grow cysts on their ovaries, and these cysts are related to the hormonal imbalances. Doctors do not know what causes PCOS and treatments are generally aimed at controlling the cycle using birth control pills and regulating insulin levels using a diabetes medication called metformin.

What Can Chinese Medicine Do?

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are used to help regulate the hormone levels and resolve the issue at its root. We aim to understand why the imbalance occurred in the first place and to put together a plan that includes acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet, and lifestyle advice that will help restore the natural balance of the hormones and regulate the cycle. Research has shown the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of PCOS: it is known to increase ovulation, regulate the hormone levels, and improve the body’s ability to regulate blood sugars.

How Many Treatments Are Needed?

Treatment time can vary depending on a woman’s response to the treatment. Generally it can take four to six months of weekly acupuncture to regain a regular cycle. For women experiencing an infertility diagnosis due to PCOS, acupuncture and herbal medicine, used in conjunction with western medical interventions, can result in increased conception and healthy gestation.

Diet and Lifestyle

While acupuncture and herbal medicine are powerful tools to regain a normal balanced cycle, diet and lifestyle are also very important. Due to the relationship between PCOS and insulin resistance, we recommend a diet consisting of foods with a low gylcemic index (not easily changed into sugars). This includes eliminating refined foods and grain (white bread, flour, pasta, etc.), refined sugars, soda, and juices, while increasing the amounts of lean proteins and whole grains. Exercise is also vitally important. A lifestyle and dietary assessment and recommendations will be put together for you as we begin your treatments.

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