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Premenstrual syndrome can be very mild or quite disruptive, and most women have experienced some form of it at some time in their life to some degree.
Hormonal changes in the body appear to have a strong influence on PMS. So, even though it may strike at any age, PMS symptoms can be especially difficult during early years of the menstrual cycle.
But it can also strike following pregnancy or later in life during peri-menopause.
PMS is more than just a “period.” If you experience painful cramps before and after a period, feel terribly moody or depressed, and lack energy and concentration, I want to talk to you about some of the natural ways you can conquer these symptoms and get back to living your life. What I’m going to show you comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Because TCM uses metaphors and names that are not used – not even recognized, for that matter – in Western medicine, even when referring to the same illness—I’d like to first give you a broader view of TCM theories and practices. And then discuss TCM theories about how the quality, flow and temperature of blood contributes to PMS, and how you can heal your symptoms using TCM.
There are many signs and symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome. So let’s start by looking at the causes and treatments of two areas associated with PMS—dysmenorrhea and emotional mood changes—and how TCM approaches and can help you overcome them.
TCM and Dysmenorrhea
Dysmenorrhea refers to painful abdominal cramps before, during and/or after menstruation that affects one’s ability to work and carry out daily activities without distress.
The most common clinical manifestations are lower abdominal pain and low back pain. According to TCM theory, the primary causes of dysmenorrhea are Liver Qi Stagnation, slow blood flow due to the Qi Stagnation or to accumulation of cold during the cycle, and deficiency of blood and Qi of the liver and kidneys.
Depending on the cause of your dysmenorrhea, various signs and symptoms may present themselves. Here are some examples.
Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis
- Distending pain in the lower abdomen
- Scanty, unsmooth menstrual blood with purplish and blackish clots
- Distension in the chest, hypochondria and breast
- Purplish tongue color
Attack by Cold-Damp during Menstruation
- Cold pain in the lower abdomen
- Rejection of pressure
- Preference for warmth
- Scanty, unsmooth menstrual blood with purplish and blackish clots
- Cold body and limbs
- Aching joints
- Tongue with whitish greasy coat
Deficiency of Liver and Kidney
- Vague pain in lower abdomen after menstruation
- Irregular menstruation
- Profuse or scanty menstrual blood with light-red color and no blood clot
- Aching and weakness of loins and knees
- Restless sleep
- Dizziness and tinnitus
- Reddish tongue with scanty coat
TCM and Premenstrual Tension Syndrome
Premenstrual tension syndrome encompasses the emotional, mood changes that often occur before the monthly menstruation cycle. Clinical signs and symptoms include short temper, depression, moodiness, sorrow, restlessness and insomnia.
The primary causes of PTS are (again according to TCM) Liver Qi Stagnation, wherein the Liver Qi attacks the Spleen. This causes the Spleen to be deficient in its job of producing blood to nourish the heart/mind/spirit. Additionally, the mental depression is transformed into what metaphorically is termed Fire. This fire heats body fluids, transforming them into Phlegm and this phlegm in turn disturbs the mind.
Depending on the cause of emotional turbulenceduring this time, various signs and symptoms may present themselves. Here are some examples.
Liver Qi Stagnation Attacking the Spleen
- Mental depression and irritability
- Oppression and distension in the chest
- No appetite
- Thin and greasy tongue coat
Phlegm-Fire Attacking the Head
- Flushed complexion and red eyes
- Oppression in the chest and dysphoria
- Reddish or deep red tongue
- Yellow thick or greasy tongue coat
TCM Diet Therapy for PMS
The three essential things that provide our bodies with the Qi to sustain life are oxygen, water and food. As two of these are related to dietary intake, it is no wonder the Chinese developed the medicated diet.
Medicated diet should not be confused with weight-loss diet, although obesity is one of the things it treats. Chinese medicated diet is concerned with balancing patterns of imbalance in the body through greater intake of certain foods and removal of certain foods from the diet, during the time of treatment.
Where PMS Issues are concerned, here are some foods and herbs that should be included in the daily diet.
- Black Soya Beans
- Brown Sugar
- Chinese Dates
- Hawthorn Fruit
- Sunflower Seeds
- Rice Wine
TCM Herbs for PMS Issues
One of the main features of TCM is differentiating between syndrome type. The general concept is this: “One disease, many causes; One cause, many diseases.”
What this means is that 20 women can all be diagnosed with PMS but the underlying pattern of disharmony within their body causing their signs and symptoms can all be different. What’s more, 10 women can present with the same pattern of imbalance, yet be diagnosed with completely different diseases.
Depending on your specific signs and symptoms and tongue and pulse presentation, the TCM practitioner will decide which patented herbal formula(s) will work best for you, in addition to dietary changes and acupuncture.
And as you can see, there are several Chinese patented herbal formulas useful in the treatment of issues relating to PMS:
Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan — For persons with stagnant blood and hard lumps in lower abdomen. Useful in the treatment of endometriosis, hysteromyoma, ovarian cyst, dysmenorrhea, infertility, post-partum bleeding, irregular menstruation, itchy or dry skin, cold pain in the joints, epigastrium, numbness in the extremities, postpartum colds and fevers, morning sickness, neuralgia.
Tao Hong Si Wu Wan — For persons with both Blood Deficiency and mild Blood Stagnation. Useful in a wide variety of disorders characterized by Blood Deficiency and mild Blood Stagnation, including circulatory, cardiovascular and hepatic disorders (varicose veins, spider veins, chronic phlebitis), purplish discoloration of the limbs, numbness or tingling of the extremities, mild angina, liver and spleen swelling and anemia. Also good for post traumatic stress syndrome and chronic depression.
Tong Jing Wan: For persons with blood stagnation and severe pain associated with dysmenorrhea. Useful in the treatment of dysmenorrhea, lower abdominal pain and distension, palpable masses, spider nevi, amenorrhea, endometriosis, post-surgical blood stagnation or pain.
Shao Fu Zhu Yu Wan: For persons with poor blood circulation, blood stasis, and pain in the channels. Useful in the treatment of dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, irregular menstruation, uterine bleeding, prostatic or testicular swelling, fibroids, ovarian cysts, infertility, bladder pain.
Nu Ke Ba Zhen Wan: For persons with deficiency of both qi and blood. Useful in the treatment of anemia, irregular menstruation, scanty menstrual periods, uterine bleeding, habitual miscarraige, insufficient lactation, chronic absesses, chronic hepatitis, fatigue and exhaustion, eye floaters and visual weakness.
Chai Hu Shu Gan Wan: Moves liver qi, regulates qi and blood, harmonizes liver and spleen, alleviates pain. Useful in the treatment of stress headache, migraine headache, PMS headache, tension and spasm in the neck, costal pain, distention in the chest, depression, mood swings, heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux, alternating diarrhea and diarrhea, ovarian cysts.
Xiao Yao Wan: This is the most popular herbal patent formula in China and especially for PMS. For persons with imbalance between the liver and spleen, liver qi stagnation and blood deficiency. Useful in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome, breast tenderness, dysmenorrhea, chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, headache, chronic hepatitis, irregular menstruation, uterine bleeding, leukorrhea, depression, chronic hepatitis, and chronic neck and upper back pain.
Indeed, TCM is complex and based on many factors, not just the simple Western way of “for PMS take Motrin”. It is important, therefore, if you think you’d like to try TCM for PMS that you first locate a trained practitioner and receive a formal diagnosis of syndrome type for your PMS.