Woman’s health concerns such as menopausal syndrome and female infertility have received favorable media attention for favorable treatment outcomes with integrative medicine.  As a result, we see a lot of women with a growing awareness that integrative medicine may be able to help them, and they are seeking acupuncture, herbal therapy, naturopathic medicine and nutritional counseling to facilitate reproductive function and balance their hormones naturally.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports the use of acupuncture for these conditions, as do landmark studies from Columbia University and infertility hospitals in China.  So while millions of women have sought help through an integrative medicine approach for menopause-related hormone imbalance and infertility, relatively few women know that integrative medicine is equally as effective for alleviating many of the common and often painful symptoms associated with menstruation, including:

  • Painful or uncomfortable periods
  • Mood swings and depression before periods
  • Irregular or excessive bleeding
  • Pre-menstrual migraine headaches
  • Pre-menstrual acid reflux

Some of the more common medical diagnoses associated with these symptoms include dysmenorrhea, PMS, PMDD, metrostaxis, menorrhagia, endometriosis and migraine headache and acid reflux.

Initially, women who receive treatment for their period problems with integrative medicine may be receiving treatment for another health concern, such as depression, fibromyalgia, back pain or fatigue.  Most women do not know that integrative medicine has excellent treatment outcomes for resolving memstrual pain, regulating emotional fluctuations, and normalizing sleep and digestive disturbances that commonly occur with their periods.  Most women are told that menstrual pain is “normal,” and that they just have to “live with” having days or even weeks of their lives disrupted by painful symptoms.  Fortunately, integrative medicine offers a healthy, affordable approach for harmonizing a woman’s body and mind.

Women who seek integrative medicine for their menstrual symptoms may also continue to work with their gynecologist in case that they have sought relief for their pain.  Usually, oral contraceptives and/or antidepressant medications are prescribed, and when these don’t work, women may feel a sense of hopelessness.

Integrative medicine offers hope through a compassionate and balancing approach to women’s health concerns.  Here are a few points that women should keep in mind about periods:

1.  Pain is always a “cry for help” from the body.  If your primary care provider doesn’t have a pain-free alternative for you, consider integrative medicine.

2.  Stress plays an essential role in affecting women’s hormones and can activate the body’s natural pain-causing chemicals.  Integrative medicine helps to heal the symptoms of stress, and may guide women towards less stressful, more positive choices.

3.  Childhood trauma and post-traumatic stress are frequently found in the medical histories of women who have period problems.  Usually, for a complete healing to take place, an integrative approach that also helps to heal the emotional pain is needed.

Integrative Medicine Approach to Period Problems

Integrative medicine seeks to re-establish balance in a woman’s physiology, and, with the help of therapies such as NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and hypnosis, heal any emotional traumas that may be sending out the body’s signals for help.  Treatment may include:

1.  Acupuncture and moxibustion to balance hormones, boost immunity and reduce inflammation

2.  Chinese and Western herbs to harmonize menstruation

3.  Diet and nutrition to reduce inflammation in the reproductive system

4.  Counseling

5.  Therapeutic exercise and relaxation

While it may take up to 3 menstrual cycles to see major improvements in symptoms, many women feel improved within the first month.  If the symptoms are very severe and have been chronic for a number of years, positive changes will likely occur over several months, and the healing will be experienced as deeper and more complete with each successive menstrual cycle.

Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM) has suggestions that menstruating women are advised to follow for menstrual health:

1.  During menstruation:

  • Avoid eating cold foods and beverages, raw foods such as salads, shellfish, and seafood, as these can reduce blood circulation, promote clot formation, and induce pain.
  • Avoid spicy, hot or fried foods that include chilies, onions, garlic, too much ginger, coconut milk-based soups and sauces, and hot sauce.  These can induce heavy bleeding in some women either now or later.
  • Eat nourishing foods such as warm soups, and eat them in lesser quality since the digestive capacity is reduced at period time.
  • Avoid prolonged baths; bathe in warm water, and avoid swimming, especially in cool or cold water.  These can induce period pain by reducing uterine blood circulation.
  • Avoid strenuous exercises, especially lifting more than 10 pounds, standing in one place, walking for more than 20 minutes, or exercises that involve jumping or induce sweating.  These can induce heavy bleeding or prolong the period, resulting in anemia and fatigue.

2.  1 week prior to menstruation:

  • Avoid confrontations and postpone important discussions with your spouse
  • Seek out calming activities
  • Eat slightly less than usual
  • Eat more blood-building foods that are high in iron such as green vegetables, whole grains, sea vegetables, and eggs
  • Get plenty of exercise, perhaps more than normal

Many of these simple solutions are preventative in nature, and have a long history of being followed in China.  Remember, that how you treat your body and mind during your menstruating years will directly affect your menopausal years.  About 85% – 90% of Western women experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia and memory loss, compared with just 25% of Chinese women.

If you have followed many of these principles and still continue to experience pain and negative mood changes at period time, the underlying cause may be emotional in nature. A deeper level of change may be necessary to experience healthy periods.

Dr. Lisanti at Integrative Med Solutions in Westchester, New York uses acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and naturopathic medicine modalities including nutrition to meet the health care needs of his patients with problems associated with menstruation. If you are affected by pain and mood imbalances with your periods, please contact with Dr. Lisanti at Integrative Med Solutions to schedule an appointment.

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