Your flow tells us a lot about your fertility. From the color of your menstrual blood, to whether you have clots. Whether you have cervical mucus, or not. These are some of the things that tell us about your fertility. Keep reading to learn more about the phases of a menstrual cycle and different types of issues we encounter as acupuncture and East Asian Medicine practitioners.
GET TO KNOW YOUR CYCLE
Phase 1 is your period, there can be 3-5 days of moderate bleeding. If very light or very heavy it can indicate an issue. We look at the color or blood, how much bleeding there is, if there are clots, tissue or other symptoms like emotional changes, breast tenderness, bloating, cramping, back pain and so on.
During the period, we want to ensure a smooth and steady cleaning of the endometrial lining and we accomplish this through acupuncture and herbs that are more moving for this time of the cycle to encourage this cleansing process. In some cases nourishing herbs or acupuncture may also be used during this part of the cycle if a woman is very deficient.
Phase 2 days 4-12 is post period and here is where usually one follicle’s growth becomes dominant, the endometrial lining thickens. During this phase it is helpful to nourish yin and blood with acupuncture and herbs to nourish the developing follicle. Nourishing yin and blood can improve future periods, blood quality and fertility by helping to create lots of fresh blood to nourish the tissues and endometrium.
Phase 3 days 13-16 is where ovulation occurs, ideally on day 14. If the egg is released late it may indicate blood and yin deficiency because it takes the follicle longer to get enough nourishment to fully mature before being released. If ovulation comes early, that can indicate heat from a lack of the moistening Yin energy necessary for follicle development. Yin is associated with the hormone Estrogen. As the follicle grows it secretes more estrogen. Just before ovulation the pituitary gland signals the follicle via LH (luteinizing hormone) getting it ready to release the egg and produce progesterone. Then the egg is released into the fingers of the fallopian tubes. When ovulation occurs the Yin part of the cycle begins to shift to the Yang part of the cycle.
At this point of the cycle, acupuncture points and herbs for Yang may be used. Movement will be encouraged so that the egg will travel down the tube smoothly. Encouraging the smooth flow of emotions, the Heart and Liver Qi is also important for ovulation to occur and the successful travel of the egg down the fallopian tube to the uterus where it can potentially be fertilized by a sperm.
Phase 4 days 17-28 (*some women have cycles that are longer or shorter than 28 days) is post ovulation and possible implantation or pre-period. During this part of the cycle it corresponds to the Luteal phase and we focus more on nourishing the kidney yang and qi energy. Here we want to assist implantation.
WHAT IF I DON’T OVULATE AND DON’T HAVE A PERIOD?
If you do not ovulate and do not have menstrual cycles, treatment focuses on getting you to ovulate and have a period. First we will have to look at the reason why you aren’t ovulating or having a period, this is more typical in situations like PCOS.
SELF CARE DIETARY THERAPIES FOR TYPICAL PATTERNS
These are the types of patterns that women seeking help for fertility show up with and can affect the phases of the menstrual cycle. These categories can combine and overlap.
Stagnation: Bloating, irritable, stressed, constipation, menstrual cramps, breast tenderness, irregular cycle, period that stops and starts, menstrual blood is darker and may have clots.
Eat foods like: Whole, unprocessed foods that won’t create a burden on your body. Lots of fiber, especially in phase 4. Essential fatty acids. Small amounts of naturally sour foods such as citrus, vinegar-but don’t overdo it. Dark leafy greens. Turmeric, mint. Eat your meals away from distractions and chew food thoroughly.
Blood deficient: Pale, dizzy easily, blurry vision, floaters, difficult falling asleep, tired, thin dry hair, palpitations, tight muscles, easily injured, light menstrual flow, short period, blood is pink not red, crying during PMS, dull aches.
Eat foods like: Protein is important, legumes, eggs, meat if you aren’t vegetarian. lentils, dark leafy greens, nettle leaf tea, berries, goji berries, bone broth, beets, flaxseeds and other seeds, avoid caffeine and drinking liquids with meals, avoid excess dairy or cold/ raw foods and drinks.
Damp: Bloated swollen body, cloudy thinking, tend to sinus issues, coughs, weight issues, sluggish energy, achy body, heavy feeling body, bloating, yeast infections, clear copius cervical mucus all throughout cycle
Eat foods like: High in protein and low in carbohydrates with mostly veggies and some fruit, green veggies, whole grain brown basmati rice, quinoa, amaranth, cooked celery, cooked dandelion greens, green tea, hydrate with hot liquids to help flush the system and hydrate tissues better. Avoid overeating and cold/ raw foods/ beverages. Avoid heavy and hard to digest meals. Avoid refined or processed foods, sugars and greasy foods. Regular exercise is important.
Yin deficient: Nght sweats, dryness of hair skin nails, dry eyes, feeling hot especially at late afternoon/ night, restless sleep, thirsty, anxious, low estrogen, very little cervical mucus
Eat foods like: Flax and soy products especially during phase 2, lightly cooked foods, seaweeds and greens like spirulina, hydrate regularly, beans, nuts , wheat, oats, apples, pears, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, bananas, berries, foods that are lubricating and moistening and cooling.
Yang Qi deficient: Tired, cold, like to sleep, weak immune systems, sluggish or sensitive digestion, may have thyroid issues, low libido, may have low progesterone levels, slow metabolism, easily gain weight, easy to bruise, crave carbohydrates/ sugars, poor circulation, knee or low back pain, may have loose stools
Eat foods like: simple, easy to digest, warming foods, slow cooked foods such as soups and stews. Lightly cooked vegetables, legumes, Seeds, whole grains. Eat at regular times and chew food very well. Warming spices. Avoid cold/ iced food and drink.
Acupuncture treatment for fertility works best with regular visits to help regulate or improve your cycle, especially when you are trying to conceive. Once a week is usual, in some cases twice weekly may be recommended for certain phases of the cycle. You may be given dietary or lifestyle recommendations as well as herb or supplement recommendations.
If you are interested in scheduling a consultation and treatment at ilumina Healing Sanctuary, please call us at: 602.957.2602.
Jane Lyttleton: The Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine
Jill Blakeway/ Sami David: Making Babies