Premenstrual Tension & Period Pain
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) (Click here for Period Pain)
All women have experienced premenstrual tension or PMS at some point: feeling irritable for no reason or mood swings where you are angry and irritable one minute and depressed and crying the next. Other symptoms include feeling bloated and uncomfortable, breakouts or spots that appear out of nowhere, headaches or migraines, sore breasts and of course, those cravings for chocolate or other junk food.
Why Do You Feel Like This?
Changes to the delicate balance of hormones during your monthly cycle are the usual culprits behind PMS. Transitions between the different types of hormones during your cycle should occur smoothly without dramatic changes or swings. Stress, foods and daily life can also have an impact on these hormones. Once they are out of balance it’s difficult to get back on track.
What Can Help?
For some women, their PMS is manageable and not a big deal. But for others, it can seriously affect their quality of life and make them dread their period each month. That’s where acupuncture and Chinese herbs can greatly help. Hormonal balance and positive changes are typically seen in as little as three months with regular acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Are There Other Options?
Some women choose the birth control pill to help with the symptoms. Taking the pill keeps the hormones at an even level throughout the cycle so less fluctuations means less symptoms. But the pill is not for everyone and can bring its own side effects with it. Obviously the birth control pill is not an option for women who are trying to get pregnant.
How Does Chinese Medicine View Premenstrual Tension?
Liver Qi (pronounced “chee”) Stagnation is the main diagnosis in Chinese Medicine for women with premenstrual syndrome. The Liver in Chinese Medicine is responsible for the free flow of qi or energy and helps to regulate emotions. When the Liver energy gets ‘stuck’ or ‘stagnates’ it can lead to physical and emotional problems such as those that are experienced in the days before a period. It’s also interesting to note that women who have problems with premenstrual tension regularly describe themselves as feeling stuck in their emotional or personal lives.
What Can You Do To Help Yourself?
- Acupuncture and herbs is great for treating PMS quickly and effectively.
- Use spices that move Qi such as peppermint, rosemary, spearmint, turmeric and thyme.
- Peppermint tea is excellent for moving Liver Qi. Peppermint is ‘menta’ in Hebrew NOT nana. You can buy dried menta from the shuk or health food store.
- Avoid foods with preservatives, chemicals or those treated with hormones such as meat and dairy as these can also upset the hormonal balance of the menstrual cycle.
- Eat plenty of fiber to help the Liver do its job of clearing hormones from body. If you suffer from constipation, drink the juice of half a lemon in warm water when you first wake up in the morning.
- Vitex agnus castus (chaste tree berry)is a Western herb that has traditionally used to treat premenstrual tension. It is available here in Israel from the Altman brand of supplements or from Bara Herbs. Stop taking Vitex if you get pregnant.
- Red raspberry leaf is another Western herb that has been used to help with premenstrual syndrome. You can buy the leaves at most health food stores and make a tea out of them. Discontinue if pregnant.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine and if you smoke, QUIT.
- If you feel you are under a lot of stress, take a vitamin that contains the B vitamins as they help the body deal with the effects of stress
Women are so accustomed to hearing the words period pain that it comes as a surprise for many of my female patients to hear that periods are not supposed to be painful or cause suffering. Isn’t that just how periods are meant to be, they ask? Not according to Chinese Medicine.
Chinese Medicine (which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbs) regards pain as a problem. If there is pain, something is out of balance.
When you go see an acupuncturist they will ask you detailed questions about your menstrual cycle. In Chinese medicine, a normal period should occur every 26 to 30 days and last for about 4 to 5 days. The bleeding should be bright red and flow evenly. There may be some mild discomfort as the uterus contracts to expel the blood but a woman shouldn’t have to take medication to deal with the pain or the cramps.
What is causing this pain and what can be done to help?
The medical term for period pain or menstrual cramps is dysmenorrhea. Each month your body builds up the lining on the wall of your womb (uterus) to prepare for pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy, the lining will begin to break down. The bleeding you experience each month is the lining being pushed out of your body. Hormones called prostaglandins are released towards the end of your cycle. These hormones cause the uterus to contract to remove the lining. If higher levels of these hormones present, they make the muscles in your uterus contract harder and faster, causing more pain. This also reduces the blood supply to the muscles of the womb, which also leads to more pain.
There may be other reasons for the pain such as endometriosis, fibroids or an infection. If you experience severe pain each month or if your periods become painful after years of no pain, you should go see your doctor to see if one of these conditions is causing the pain.
If there is no underlying cause (endometriosis, fibroids or infection) for your pain, what can help?
Doctors will suggest painkillers such as paracetamol (acetaminophen, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) to help with the pain. The oral contraceptive pill is also often prescribed to women.
For those women who prefer a pill-free alternative, or those who are trying to get pregnant, acupuncture and Chinese medicine has a lot of success treating painful periods. Chinese medicine views pain as a problem, so even if there is no underlying diagnosis that is directly causing the pain, there are imbalances that need to be resolved. In my experience, period pain can be treated successfully with a regimen of weekly acupuncture and herbs in as little as three months.
In addition to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, supplements such as fish oils (omega 3s) and magnesium can also be helpful.
Foods that can also help include grapes, lemons, tomatoes, berries, beets, watercress, vinegar, dark greens, onions, scallions, cabbage, broccoli, chives, walnuts, chestnuts, mustard leaf.
Drinking red raspberry leaf tea can help ease menstrual cramps. Stop drinking this tea if you become pregnant. Also, women who suffer from bad period pain should avoid eating cold foods right out of refrigerator or putting ice in their drinks.
Don’t suffer every month. Get the help you need. Call Sharon at 054-916-0156 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.