UNDERSTANDING YOUR MONTHLY FLOW
Your period is your monthly health report card. It’s important to be aware of what’s “normal” and “not normal” to know when to seek help. It’s not something that is just a given, that our bleed will show up on time either. Our body considers ovulation / fertility and as such, a regular monthly as a luxury. So when we are under acute/chronic stress, our body acts to work for us by prioritising essential bodily functions rather than keeping tabs on our sex organs.
But what is normal? What is out of whack and why? It’s time to tune in and listen to your monthly health report card for those keys and clues.
In Eastern Medicine, we define our monthly flow in four distinct phases – a view that is guided by nature, the lunar cycle and the theory of Yin and Yang. By being mindful of how your cycle mirrors the ebb and flow of nature and your external environment, you can achieve a deeper, more intuitive understanding of your body. This is one way you can tune in and listen.
Like something a little more tangible? Another way is to gain an insight into your hormonal health and fertility is by tracking your Basel Body Temperature (BBT). Or by monitoring cervical position/cervical secretions. Download our short guide on how to get started with monitoring your BBT below.
If you have serious and on-going problems with your period or they have stopped entirely, you should see your GP for a more thorough investigation.
4 Phases of your cycle
Phase 1 | Menstruation (day 1 -5)
Day 1 is the considered the first day of the 28-day cycle. If an egg hasn’t been fertilised, the endometrium sheds from the body, and the pituitary begins making FSH and LH hormones. This stimulates the ovaries to grow new follicles. This is our monthly health card and is a really important reflection of our current internal health. What does your phase 1 say about you? Has it changed in regularity, flow, consistency or pain?
Acupuncture during Phase 1 | Move Qi & Blood, Smooth the Liver
In Chinese Medicine, the focus is on invigorating the flow of Qi and Blood to ensure the lining can shed fully by stimulating blood flow to the pelvic cavity. This may also help to reduce cramping, which is considered to be a sign of blood stasis or Liver Qi Stagnation.
Phase 2 | Follicular (day 6 - 12)
A time when one of your follicles becomes dominant and begins to produce more and more oestrogen, thanks to the progressive increase of FSH. This causes the uterine lining to thicken and cervical fluid to increase.
Acupuncture during Phase 2 | Nourish Kindey Yin and Heart Qi (Bao Mai).
In phase 2, the focus of your acupuncture treatment is on nourishing Yin, which corresponds to the blood and tissue in the uterine lining. However, the growth of the dominant follicle is considered to be a Yang process. This is our most feminine, Yin time of our cycle working with the Bao Mai (Heart – Uterus – Kidney axis).
Phase 3 | Ovulation (day 13 - 15)
This is your fertile window, a time to turn up the heat when trying to conceive and typically lasts between 2-3 days. That single, dominant follicle will release an egg after a spike of lutenising hormone (LH) which reflects in your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) chart as a key indication that ovulation has occurred in this cycle.
Acupuncture during Phase 3 | Transition from Yin to Yang.
This is when our peak of Yin begins its transformation into Yang, just after ovulation. A time when we will feel naturally more playful in the bedroom as our internal HEAT increases! Our aim? A smooth and symptom free ovulation without pain or spotting by nurturing our inner fire.
Phase 4 | Luteal (day 16 - 29)
After ovulation, the ruptured follicle (corpus luteum) begins to decay and secrete progesterone, further thickening your endometrial lining in the uterus providing a safe and comfortable home for implantation to occur. The egg then travels down the fallopian tube ready to be fertilised within 24 hours post ovulation.
If fertilisation does occur, your corpus luteum will begin to produce the pregnancy hormone, HCG. If fertilisation hasn’t occurred, the decaying will continue and the endometrium will break down and shed as a new menstrual cycle begins.
Acupuncture during Phase 4 | Smooth Liver Qi, Support Yang.
Preconception care is about preparing the fertile soil for you and baby to thrive, in pregnacy and beyond. But this begins with an understanding of your body and your monthly health report card. Find your flow by reading more about the intricacies of your cycle on our “Perfect Period” page.
Diet + Lifestyle for Fertility
At Life + Lemons, we always encourage you to see our resident nutritional therapist, Clare Shepherd, to help you create a fertility diet plan and highlight those nutritional nuggets that form the internal fertile soil for you and baby to thrive.
Delve into some simple lifestyle considerations that may be beneficial below, as you consciously create your preconception plan.
There is lots of advice out there but in Eastern and Chinese medicine, we take a different view point on diet and nutrition when approaching health and fertility. You are unique so there is no one size diet that fits all!
Cold Foods | Avoid eating cold and raw foods prior to or during your period.
Our diet should consist of warm foods. Drinking too much liquid and especially cold liquids with meals can cause stagnant Qi .
There are also certain foods which should be eaten in great moderation.
Sugar | Weakens the spleen and therefore the healthy creation of qi and blood. Honey, molasses and maple syrup create dampness and hinder spleen function. People with liver depression and Qi stagnation tend to crave the sweet flavor.
Other foods that can create dampness are nuts, oils, and fats, chocolate, beef and pork, dairy products, fruits, eggs, and citrus fruits, pineapples, apples and pears.
Alcohol | Is also dampening.
Coffee | Women who experience any kind of menstrual, reproductive tract or breast disorders should avoid coffee. Coffee disperses stagnant Qi but wastes the blood and yin – both regular and decaf. Coffee gives a sense of energy by freeing up stuck Qi .
It is not caffeine alone that is the offending substance. There are many volatile oils in the coffee bean, which as a whole cause the problem. Placing a drop of White Flower Oil on the tip of the tongue when the coffee craving strikes can help alleviate this dependency.
Chinese medicine believes that a certain amount of physical exercise is necessary to maintain one’s health and prevent disease. Exercise speeds up a sluggish metabolism and increases production of Qi and Blood.
Aerobic exercise from twenty to thirty minutes every other day increases circulation and body temperature, and aids digestion, appetite, mood, energy and sleep.
Exercise greatly reduces the severity of any endometriosis symptoms or symptoms associated with stagnant Qi and Blood stasis. Chinese medicine places great importance on diet, especially on cooked as opposed to raw food. Cooking makes the nutrients in foods more easily assimilable, resulting in a greater net gain.
Many studies confirm that lifestyle factors, which are largely preventable, are the cause of debilitating disorders.
Deep relaxation, aerobic exercise and dietary modification and moderation are the keys to preventing dysmenorrhea and endometriosis. And Chinese medicine is an ideal therapy for women with these and other reproductive disorders, especially for the management of any endometriosis symptoms.
Natural remedies for menstrual disorders suggest avoiding fear, anger and excessive emotions in general. Maintaining an even, free flow of moderate emotions is the same as maintaining an even, free flow of qi and blood. Just prior and during menstruation women should not allow themselves to become fatigued. Not dwell on negative thoughts or frustrations.
Stress reduction, changing jobs, seeking counseling for relationship problems, changing residence, taking more time off, relinquishing unrealistic goals and expectations, and just in general adopting a slower, more open attitude no matter what we are doing can help us with balance. We need to teach ourselves consciously and deliberately to relax. Done daily, at least twenty continuous minutes, can benefit our overall health.
Supporting women in all forms
We love that modern families come in varying and unique forms, so whether you’re journeying into fertility solo or with a partner, we encourage you to reach out to find a preconception plan that is right for you.