Menstrual Cycle Problems and Hormones
Those who are trained in Chinese Medicine theory, like me, are fascinated with the menstrual cycle and how it affects our bodies. You see, as an integral function within a women’s body, our menstrual cycle conveys so much information about what is going on in our body, and the feelings we experience.
It’s interesting then that the majority of women experience some difficulties during this time, however due to the regularity of our menstrual issues, we commonly accept these difficulties as being ‘normal’.
I’m here to tell you that this shouldn’t be the case. Having period pain is not normal. Having very heavy periods is not normal. Missing periods, for no reason, is not normal. Having very light periods is not normal. Having an irregular period also is not normal.
When one experiences these difficulties, it’s the body’s way of communicating to you that something isn’t quite right.
At the core of Chinese Medicine is finding the root cause of irregularities and discomfort. So, when it comes to menstrual cycles, our goal is to encourage regularity and eliminate discomfort. Hormones play a key role in this, however what is it that affects your hormones?
Many women ignore the impact that the stress of daily life can have on their hormones, therefore it’s no surprise that they don’t consider the consequential impact on their menstrual cycle.
As women, we try to do it all. We run households, have relationships, raise children, work, study, socialise, go to the gym, run our kids to activities and try to juggle many balls at once. This is an intense lifestyle that brings with it stress. And unfortunately, it means that we are focused on the external world and not what our bodies need. Quite simply, we stop listening to what our bodies are telling us because we are so focused on everything else going on around us. When this happens, our hormones are affected, and our bodies respond accordingly.
Women who allow extended periods of hormonal imbalances to persist, inevitably suffer from conditions that arise, such as period pain, PCOS, infertility, endometriosis, heavy periods, clots and irregular or absent periods.
The symptoms that you experience with your period are a significant indicator of how stressed your body is, both mentally and physically. When clients see me, I want to know the nitty gritty. I want to know how many days in your cycle, how many days in your period, pain you experience, moods, bloating, frequency of clots and the colour of your blood. These symptoms provide a significant indication of what is going on. The impact of contraceptive use also plays a large factor, so I’ll ask about any contraceptives you’ve taken, what you are currently taking, and how long for.
A common hormonal issue that I see in clients is an oestrogen dominance, which causes an imbalance between oestrogen and progesterone. The primary culprit for this imbalance is stress. Explained scientifically, but simply; progesterone is necessary for our menstrual cycle, but it is also essential for the production of cortisol. Cortisol is produced when we are under stress as a survival hormone. Consequently, if we are regularly stressed and producing cortisol, our bodies redirect progesterone to the production of cortisol, and away from the reproductive cycle, as this is not an immediate survival need.
Soy can also contribute to oestrogen dominance. And while there are copious amounts of research on both sides of the debate as to the effects of soy, the general consensus is that unfermented soy is not is not an ideal product. Often referred to as a phyto-oestrogen, unfermented soy mimics oestrogen in the body and is therefore a hormone disruptor – consequently contributing to oestrogen dominance. Whilst fermented soy appears to be the better alternative, unfermented soy products, especially those with soy protein isolate and soy lecithin, which are both waste products, are best avoided. It is also crucial to be aware of allergy warnings.
Additionally, plastics can also act as hormone disruptors, contributing to the oestrogen dominance that many women face. Whilst overwhelming evidence led to BPA being phased out of plastic bottles and the like, the replacements being used are no better. Heating foods in plastic containers should be avoided, as this is when hormone-disrupting chemicals leak into the food. Use of plastic bottles left in the car should also be avoided. The flimsier the plastic, the more damage it can do!
Yin and Yang
I regularly see symptoms that arise from the experience of going through menopause –commonly affecting women who have struggled with their menstrual cycle or have fertility issues.
When you look at this from a ‘yin/yang’ perspective, the yin energy embraces the feminine, internal, still and nurturing energy. During pregnancy, this is when your ‘yin’ energy is at its highest. When you are experiencing menopause, this is when the ‘yang’ energy is more dominant. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, unaddressed menstrual or fertility issues causes us to become yin deficient, which is different from becoming more yang. In these situations, women become hot and dry when they shouldn’t be.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms and issues, these can be addressed by the services I provide, which will assist you in understanding what your body is telling you and how to respond to it.
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