What is a healthy period?
As a practitioner, the ideal that I strive for with my patients is:
- 28-day cycles
- 4 days of bleeding
- No spotting
- No clotting
- No PMS symptoms
- No cramping or pain
- No mid-cycle or breakthrough bleeding
- Consistency – menstruation is asymptomatic and the length remains the same month after month
Generally speaking, if a cycle fits within the ideal guidelines above there is hormonal balance and fertility comes naturally.
- Avoid cold, fatty, sour, astringent, processed, and inflammatory foods especially during menstruation. Examples include ice, ice cream, sugar, alcohol, yogurt, vinegar, pickles, oranges, grapefruit and currents.
- Eat light meals with organic vegetables, whole grains and high-quality meat. Foods like organic free-range eggs, soups made with bone broth, liver, chicken, carrots, spinach, peanuts and mushrooms are especially beneficial during menstruation.
- Add foods and spices that alleviate PMS and cramping such as turmeric, garlic, chives, basil, ginger, rosemary, cayenne, nutmeg, licorice, cinnamon, white pepper and mint
- Temperature matters – Avoid exposing your abdomen and pelvic region to cold. This can happen by wearing crop tops, swimming in cold water for extended periods of time, and not bundling up when it’s cold or windy outside. Likewise, a heating pad can ease menstrual cramps, especially if the pain is cold and fixed.
- Get appropriate exercise – Move in the weeks leading up to your period and take it easy during your period. Moderate exercise helps move qi but excessive exercise, especially during menstruation can deplete qi. Gentle exercises like walking, hiking, yoga and Pilates are all great options during menstruation.
- Rest – get plenty of sleep, schedule a lighter load or ask for help so you’re supported during your flow. Caring for yourself during this time will help you feel good for the rest of the month and set you up to have a healthy period next month.
- Manage stress– Emotional stress influences menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Activities like spending time outside, yoga, walking, spending time with animals, acupuncture, journaling, and meditation all help alleviate stress. Do the things that make you feel good and are good for you.
- Stay clear of tampons – Choose pads, menstrual cups, or leak-proof underwear instead of tampons. This is especially useful if you have cramping during your menses. Tampons disrupt the downward flow of blood and can cause blood stasis leading to more cramping. By eliminating tampons, you reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome. There’s also an issue with traces of pesticides and other environmental toxins found in most tampons that have unknown consequences on your health.
- Try a different form of Birth Control– Hormonal birth control forces your body on to a manufactured cycle that inhibits its own natural cycle. From a Chinese medicine perspective, long term hormonal birth control use can lead to blood deficiency or blood stasis and make it difficult for your body to resume its natural hormonal function after they are discontinued. Non-hormonal birth control methods include condoms, copper IUDs and cycle tracking, which was just approved as an effective method by the FDA.
- Acupuncture– Acupuncture reduces inflammation, promotes blood flow to the uterus, regulates hormones and alleviates pain. If you’ve tried all of these tips and you’re still experiencing pain or irregular menses, then acupuncture and herbal medicine are potent tools to get your cycle on track. For best results, I recommend that you come in at least 3 weeks before the first day of your period to give your body time to balance and heal.
–Dr. Ashley Amas L.Ac.