I’m so excited that the Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine who I have been seeing for several health issues, Dr. Lisa Lundy, agreed to write a guest article for you, my lovely readers. I thought she could put into words much better than I how Traditional Chinese Medicine can benefit women. We are very lucky to have her here the Comox Valley. Her specialties are too many too list, so check out her website for more details. She also maintains a practise in Victoria, BC if you happen to live in that area.
Chinese Medicine for Women
I fell in love with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) during my training when I realized that more than forty percent of our class time was focused purely on women’s health and gynecology. As a medical approach to health and healing that has stood the test of time (thousands of years), Chinese Medicine recognizes how intricately our state of well-being influences our health, which in turn, influences our mood and mind. When the physical body is out of balance, one’s state of mind also becomes unbalanced. TCM has the power to rebalance the body beautifully.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on the theory of balance within our individual body, as well as between our body and the environment surrounding it. Yin and Yang are the two opposing forces in nature that are opposite to each other, yet cannot exist without the other – much like day and night, hot and cold, or light and dark. TCM also identifies Five Elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Each of these elements includes organ and meridian systems, time of year, time of day, taste, smell, colour and emotion – to name just a few. The system of TCM recognizes a very detailed and intricate relationship between all of these elements and through the use of acupuncture, herbs, diet and exercise, helps to maintain equilibrium between them so that our body, mind and spirit can function in good form and navigate changes or transitions with strength and ease.
Hormones and TCM
Women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance often feel unhinged emotionally and that can leave them feeling pretty grim. Although many of the harshest symptoms of hormonal imbalance impact mood, sleep, and emotional function, TCM has a very graceful and supportive approach to these issues that can often correct quite quickly. For example, PMS is diagnosed as a severe imbalance between Liver, Spleen and Kidney systems. Often the result of prolonged stress, the different organ systems can become depleted, diet can worsen the depletion and then the body is left with what is referred to as a “Blood or Qi” disharmony. TCM recognizes the blood as nourishment to the muscles, tendons and the Shen (spirit).
When the body’s ability to generate and circulate the Blood is compromised, pain and emotional symptoms including depression, anxiety and insomnia rise to the surface easily. It is believed that stress is one of the most significant influences on these organs, which weakens them further and consequently creates even more stress- and so the cycle worsens.
Acupuncture for Women
Many studies have documented acupuncture’s calming effect on our body’s stress hormones such as cortisol, and the positive impact that acupuncture has on regulation of stress hormones and support of relaxation. Though many people are often nervous about having needles placed in them, acupuncture needles are extremely fine and most times barely felt. To offer some perspective- approximately 25 acupuncture needles can fit into one standard hypodermic needle! Typically, people relax and fall asleep during the treatment, which is in part due to the endorphins, opiates and other neurochemicals that are released and balanced through the treatment. It is like receiving a massage for your nervous system.
The body and mind are intricately connected- when we are in pain or struggling, shifting one state will also allow the other to follow. Through the immediate relief and relaxation felt from acupuncture, the mind can often relax and reduce tension and anxiety stemming from hormone imbalance, which then reduces further organ stress and imbalance, and so the positive cycle begins.
In more severe cases of hormone imbalance, specific dietary recommendations and herbs are prescribed. While symptoms of PMS may seem similar between women, each has their own set of circumstances and imbalances that once identified, can be corrected through these customized modalities.
An example of this is Liver and Spleen disharmony causing mood and digestive disorders commonly experienced in PMS. When the body is strained, the Liver energy becomes “ stagnant” and this interferes with the smooth circulation of Qi and Blood in the body. When the Liver system is stagnant, it places extra pressure on the Spleen system, which is responsible for generating Blood, absorbing food and transforming food and fluid into energy or for waste. The Spleen is also very sensitive to Cold. So, a stressed woman, eating a lot of raw food or cold drinks in Winter can create a massive imbalance which can cause extreme digestive disturbance, exhaustion (due to poor absorption), blood disorders which can manifest as menstrual pain, irregular or excessive bleeding, and mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, rage or insomnia. With the use of acupuncture, correct food choices, and herbal remedies to strengthen the Spleen and circulate the Liver energy, balance is restored and the majority of symptoms are relieved. When the body is in a greater state of harmony, one is then free to move from crisis management to growth and energy.