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Let’s Talk PMS! 5 Ways Acupuncture Helps Smooth Your Cycle

My periods sucked when I was in my teens and twenties. Constipation, bloating, fatigue, achey low back, and wicked cramps.  While these issues are common, they are not normal or healthy.  No one had told me that, so that’s why I’m here. To tell all the women in Naperville and beyond, that a healthier easier cycle is totally possible.

 

Does everyone get PMS?

Lots of women get signs before their period starts.  Some get emotional, while others get sore breasts, some get irritable and short-tempered.  We all have friends, relatives, or ourselves that experience one or more signs of PMS.   While almost everyone gets some sort of signal of when their period is coming, there’s a difference between a gentle signal and pain and suffering.

In fact it’s so common to have discomforts or disruptive issues associated with the menstrual  cycle,  that more women do than don’t.  According to the Department of  health and  human  services, 90% of women report  having some PMS.

 

PMS vs Dysmenorrhea Vs PMDD

The range of experiences varies as much as our toenail polish choices! Some get no sign at all before bleeding and some notice mild moodiness or mild cramping.  Dysmenorrhea which is the term used for any type of pain associated with the menstrual cycle, to Pre Menstrual Dysphoria Disorder (PMDD) which is severe mood alterations.  All of these can happen before and or during menstruation but happen cyclicly.

 

Take Charge of Your Health!

Our monthly cycle should not cause us to miss work or school, or have a negative impact on our relationships.  I’m here to advocate for you. in a world that doesn’t always understand.  Read on to learn 5 ways acupuncture can help you get your life back.

 

Regulate the Cycle

Irregular can mean coming  at different frequencies, even skipping months or coming twice in a month.  It often indicates that the Liver system is not functioning properly.  Stress and sugar are the big culprits, and acupuncture helps to reduce stress and cravings. Using pulse diagnosis, abdominal diagnosis, and questioning we pinpoint the imbalance and work to correct it to regulate the cycle.

 

Reduce Pain

Dysmenorrhea, or painful periods, are miserable! Pain can include the lower abdomen,  low back, thighs, breasts, and head.  Get a migraine every month the day before your  period? That points to what we call Qi Stagnation, which is pent up energy blocking the normal flow of blood and nerve signals.   Acupuncture works by unblocking the energy channels which in turn relieves pain.  Low back super achey?  This points to low energy creating weakness, and sometimes herbs may be added to your treatment plan for internal nourishment and support.  Uterine cramping is lack of proper flow in the uterus, which can be due to a variety of reasons that I differentiate to tailor treatment.

 

Mood Management

So many women are  upset by  how  they seem to transform into a  beast the week  before their period.  Understandable – we know it’s not our true nature yet it  feels out of control.  This is yet another manifestation of how the  body can’t regulate smoothly due to being overburdened.  Acupuncture will help you feel yourself more and less out of control.  And of course the relaxation factor is not to be underestimated!

 

Smooth Digestion

Lots of women experience bloating, constipation, or diarrhea before and/or during their period.  This is because the fluctuation in estrogen, progesterone, and prostaglandins affecting the muscles of the intestines.  Acupuncture really helps regulate the hormones, prevent energy blockages, and again, smooth out the fluctuations.

 

Promote Fertility

Whether you have been told high FSH, idiopathic (unexplained), or male factor infertility are  interfering with conceiving, acupuncture works by  balancing the hormones, calming the nervous system, and promoting circulation, all of which contribute to increased fertility.  If you have trouble conceiving and have any of the above issues, then resolving those issues often helps to resolve the obstacle pregnancy.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome

https://www.healthline.com/health/period-poop#constipation

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327490

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Herbal Highlight on Skullcap

The Wonders of Skullcap

 

This blog is inspired by a patient who asked me about Skullcap – the common name for an herb I call Huang Qin, and whose scientific name is Scutellaria. It’s one of the most bitter herbs in our Chinese Medicine (CM) pharmacopeia, and it’s a very important herb that I prescribe daily as part of a balanced formula.

I do want to emphasize that we rarely prescribe a single herb in Chinese herbal medicine.  We mostly prescribe 2-12 herbs combined into a single formula.

Scutellaria baicalensis, the variety of skullcap that we use in CM, comes from China, flowers in the summer, and is a member of the mint family.  This beautiful purple flower is so named because of the cap-like shape of the flowers.  This variety is also called Chinese Skullcap as there is a native American variety, Scutellaria lateriflora, that is also an herb but used differently and not in Chinese Medicine.

chinese herb for sore throat and headaches

As a key component in many herbal formulas, it harmonizes the pivot mechanism in the body – this means it corrects the movement and functions in the body that become out of alignment due to stress, improper diet, or past or current viral and bacterial infections.  It works to allow the body’s own immune system to function properly, thus restoring health.

 

Common indications you need a formula containing Huang Qin include redness in the eyes, headaches, sore throat, neck pain, insomnia, and hot flashes, to name a few.

 

Again, we don’t use this herb in isolation.  And it should be prescribed by a trained herbalist, as should all herbs, to ensure safety and efficacy.

 

I hope this was a fun look at something I work with and that really helps many of my patients!  Feel free to email me your comments and questions!

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Lifestyle Hacks to Reduce Stress

In my previous blog, I highlighted how acupuncture is so powerful to reduce effects of stress on the mind-body.  Here I want to give you even more guidelines for crafting your healthy lifestyle and fortify yourself against the barrage of the outer world and all the stress it throws at us.

Which of these have you adopted, and which are new to you?  Can you identify little tweaks in your daily routine to increase wellbeing?

 

Dietary Hacks

  • Eat protein at breakfast and fat and /or protein with a higher carb meal.
  • Avoid excess sugar especially refined sugar.  This can upset your body’s blood sugar regulation.  According to Dr Datis Karazian – Managing low blood sugar balance is foundational to improving your brain and hormone health.
  • Caffeine can often cause blood sugar dysregulation.
  • If you know a certain food causes symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, constipation, hives, or agitation, these create inflammatory responses that tax the body.  Do your best to avoid them, even if small quantities don’t cause the symptom, they’re still creating inflammation.
  • Everything you consume is a part of your diet – so turn off the news!  Stop hanging around negative people.

Mindfulness Practice

There’s so much talk and research around mindfulness – many companies are incorporating offerings for their employees and there’s a number of apps full of meditation timers and guided meditations.  The methods vary, from simply paying very close attention to the present moment in every day activities, to listening to a guided meditation, to sitting in close-eyed silent meditation.   I recommend reading Bliss More by Light Watkins to learn more about what mediation does for you that’s easy to understand.

Physical Activity that’s Enjoyable

If you like running – power to you.  It is very stress-relieving for many people.  Maybe for you it’s tennis, or weight lifting, or dancing.  Other powerful stress relieving movement therapies include qi gong, tai chi, and yoga.  The key: move that body to release tension and deepen breathing.

community is a human need

We are social creatures.  Don’t isolate to the point of loneliness.  We need each other.  Find people you can relate to and figure out how to connect.

Nature Soothes the nerves

Please please make time to be with green things outside!!! There’s tons of research about this, and such a thing as Nature Deficit Disorder. It’s real folks.  Aim for at least 1 hour outdoors every day.

What Does having balanced hormones feel like?

The ultimate goal of pursuing health is to become more adaptable.  When we adapt we thrive!

 

Additional resources:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S138994571730093X

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5981243/

 

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The gist – how acupuncture and herbal medicine works for you

 

Understanding the Benefits of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine [your practical simple guide]

 

I hear it all the time: What does acupuncture do? How does it work? What are the benefits of acupuncture and herbal medicine. Keep reading and I will explain.

 

Really, it’s simple: acupuncture removes energetic blockages that prevent the free flow of our blood and nervous system signals.

When we have energetic blockages, signals can’t get through, oxygen and other nutrients can’t reach every cell, waste products can’t be properly eliminated, complex hormonal messages get bungled, and then eventually we get symptoms of pain, brain fog, fatigue, etc.

 

Acupuncture works to free up the flow of energy in the channels of the body, which are like blood vessels and nerves, a complex system of highways, roads, streams, creeks, rivers, bridges, that connect every part of us with every other part.

 

Herbal medicine works on the deeper organ level.  It corrects the functioning of our liver system, our cardiovascular system, our lymph system, our genitourinary system, our cognition, and emotions, etc.

 

Together, it’s a complete system of healthcare and does not compartmentalize each body part or each organ.  A lot of my patients like this because in conventional medicine there is a different doctor for every body part, but no one is looking at the whole.  Chinese Medicine has principles based on natural law, so the whole is accounted for.

 

Learn more about acupuncture and how it works here. Also, check out my other post about Positive Side Effects of Acupuncture.

 

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram to ask me anything you want to know about the benefits of acupuncture and herbal medicine! I am happy to help.

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Stressed Out Hormones and Acupuncture

Our world is in a state of heightened fear, anger, hurt, and uncertainty.  Our values are being challenged and brought front and center. Rightfully so.  What the world needs now is leaders, and we all have it in us to lead in our own lives by example for others.

But that’s harder when your body is struggling to maintain proper functioning.  Stress is the looter inside us. Be diligent to counteract it where you can.

Where do we start? We can actually take a look at our stress level – perceived, and also actual demands on you that are “normal”.   Here is more about stress and the way it impacts your hormones and thus your total health and resilience!

 

What are hormones?

 

Hormone functions can be broadly grouped into several categories: reproduction and sexual differentiation; development and growth; maintenance of the internal environment; and regulation of metabolism and nutrient supply. A single hormone may affect more than one of these functions and each function may be controlled by several hormones.

In short, hormones are chemical messengers telling the body how to react to stimuli.

 

Stress 101

 

You may have heard of the adrenal glands and how they produce cortisol which is a “fight or flight” hormone.  The HPA axis – hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis – is the relay system that activates our “fight or flight” response.  This process occurs whether we acknowledge that we’re stressed or not.  Much happens without our cognitive awareness – after all it was designed so that we can react instantly to danger, no thinking needed.  Unfortunately, most of us are in a state of chronic low grade stress.  And this leads to many chronic ailments.  Overproduction of stress hormones creates chaos for blood sugar which contributes to inflammation.  It’s a cascade effect.

Stress–>Fight or Flight Response via the HPA Axis –>Insulin resistance, insomnia, fatigue –>Dysregulation of metabolic hormones and mood neurotransmitters

Stress Adrenal Fatigue HPA Axis

 

Chronic stress means excess stress hormones like cortisol, which works to shut down digestion, increase heart rate, and keep us alert (aka anti-sleep).  Chronic stress also causes or contributes to:

  • hypertension
  • weight gain/obesity
  • anxiety
  • infertility
  • insomnia
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • IBS

And the list goes on.

 

To reduce stress, lifestyle changes are really important. Here’s my blog about how to organize your lifestyle around reducing stress.

But there’s other ways you can really promote wellness, be proactive against the hidden damage caused by stress, and prevent chronic illness.

One of the best ways is regular acupuncture treatments.

 

How Acupuncture Reduces Stress

 

Acupuncture works very similarly to meditation in that it reduces the active beta brain waves, increases the relaxed alpha brain waves, and also produces your happy hormones including endorphins which are natural pain killers, and neurotransmitters seratonin and dopamine known to affect mood.  While stress creates the fight or flight response, acupuncture induces the rest and digest response, which allows the body to heal itself.  In addition, acupuncture can really help you achieve better sleep as well.  Insomnia is a major barrier for hormonal health, and acupuncture through the mechanisms mentioned, helps you restore your natural circadian rhythms.

 

Stress creates inflammation, and acupuncture reduces the inflammatory response and promotes circulation of blood, lymph, and nerve signals.

 

When working on resolving a health issue, acupuncture is prescribed in a series of treatments, at first close together, then spreading further apart, until you are feeling good, the problem is resolved, and then you continue with a maintenance plan to keep the body functioning properly.

 

 

 

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