Heavy Periods

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27 04, 2012

Menorrhagia / Heavy Periods

 

Menorrhagia is the medical term for menstrual periods in which bleeding is abnormally heavy or prolonged. Officially, the flow of more than 80 ml per menstrual period is considered menorrhagia, however a flow of 45-60 ml per period can also be considered menorrhagia as well, based on statistical norms. Menorrhagia can also include a very long period of a week or longer, and passing large blood clots. Anemia is common in women with menorrhagia and there may be symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue or shortness of breath.

Causes of Menorrhagia

The cause for menorrhagia is not clear. Most women with menorrhagia report regular periods and have been shown to have normal estrogen and progesterone levels. However, menorrhagia is most common in teens and in perimenopause, times in the lifecycle when estrogen levels tend to be higher and progesterone levels to be lower.

Another possible factor is ovulation. Even with regular periods, it is common for women to have menstrual cycles without ovulation. In a normal cycle, the release of an egg from the ovaries stimulates the body's production of progesterone, the female hormone most responsible for keeping periods regular. When no egg is released, insufficient progesterone can cause heavy menstrual bleeding.

This suggests that menorrhagia may be related to increased estrogen action before flow. Very rarely is menorrhagia caused by a primary bleeding disorder. Fibroids are commonly associated with menorrhagia but rarely a reason for it.

Treatment that is effective for very heavy flow includes ibuprofen, drinking extra salty fluids during heavy flow (to treat low blood volume), increasing dietary or supplemental iron and cyclic progesterone therapy. Additional therapies include tranexamic acid (which encourages blood clotting) and the use of a progestin-releasing IUD.

An Alternative Approach to Menstrual Health

In Chinese medicine, any irregularities in a woman’s reproductive cycle whether they be PMS, painful periods, irregular periods, or heavy periods, are a sign of a health imbalance that requires addressing. Menorrhagia is considered a type of abnormal bleeding and may be caused by heat (which interferes with the body’s function of storing blood and controlling blood flow), empty qi-energy (which may be caused by damage to the spleen so that it is unable to perform its function of restraining the blood), or blood stasis.  The most common causes for these imbalances are emotional stress, especially depression and excessive emotions, excessive worry and anxiety, poor diet, particularly too much hot, spicy, or greasing foods or consuming alcohol, or lack of exercise. Imbalances can also arise due to excessive fatigue or due to a deficiency of kidney yin energy.

A Path to Better Health

The good news is that acupuncture and Chinese medicine treat menorrhagia quite effectively and regardless of the causes, it responds positively to treatment. An acupuncturist will first work on treating the immediate symptoms, we call this treating the branch. Once the heavy bleeding is under control, we focus treatment on the root cause, whether it is heat, empty qi-energy, or blood stasis, and address this imbalance in order to prevent menorrhagia in the future and to break the pattern of a chronic condition. As the body becomes healthier, we can expect other symptoms to lessen or resolve as well, such as problems sleeping, period cramps or lower back pain, fatigue, and physical and emotional symptoms that relate to the cycle. Ideally, in a woman in perfect health, there should be no cycle-related symptoms and the resolution of these symptoms are a sign of improving health.

Healthy Habits for a Healthy Body

Chinese medicine also has valuable lifestyle principles to prevent menstrual disorders. These include eating and drinking a moderate and balanced diet, maintaining a regular sleep-wake routine, managing stress and emotions, and not dwelling on negative thoughts and frustrations. Also, it is wise to overdo it prior and during menstruation, which may mean cutting back on long work hours, avoiding stress, and doing lighter exercise during this time. While these may seem like common sense habits, they can have real and measurable effects on our health and wellbeing. Chinese medicine teaches us that all of these factors play an important role in our overall wellbeing and can have important consequences to our health.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com. 

 

3 01, 2011

Menstrual Cramps / Dysmenorrhea

Most women have experienced menstrual cramps, or "dysmenorrhea," at one time or another.  Menstrual cramps are dull, throbbing or cramping pains in the lower abdomen and are often experienced just before and during a period. For some women, it is merely an annoying discomfort but for others, it can be severe enough to interfere with everyday activities for a few days every month. Dysmenorrhea can be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, loose stools, sweating, and dizziness.

In many situations, there is no identifiable cause of dysmenorrhea. Many experts believe that constricted blood vessels during the period cause menstrual cramps, much in the way that angina occurs when blocked coronary arteries starve portions of the heart of food and oxygen. Most of the time painful menstruation is not considered a cause for concern and western medical treatment usually involves non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or hormonal birth control to manage the symptoms of dysmenorrhea.

In Chinese medicine, dysmenorrhea or painful periods are not considered a normal part of a woman's life but rather a sign of an imbalance, which can be treated effectively in order to resolve the symptoms. As with western medical theory, Chinese medicine sees a lack of flow of blood and qi-energy as the cause for menstrual cramps. Whereas western medicine sees menstrual cramps as all belonging to the same class of problem, Chinese medicine breaks it down into six different types, depending on the internal imbalance causing the symptoms. Factors that can contribute to dysmenorrhea include emotional strain, prolonged exposure to cold and dampness, overwork or chronic illness, and childbirth.

A feeling of cold and pain in the lower abdomen that is aggravated by pressure and relieved by heat points toward an internal accumulation of cold and damp. Distention and pain in the lower abdomen that is aggravated by pressure and accompanied by pain in the rib flanks, chest, and breasts indicates an internal imbalance involving the liver energy. Lower abdominal pain that is aggravated by pressure and accompanied by a burning or distending pain in the lower back and sacrum indicates an internal damp heat accumulation. A feeling of cold and pain in the lower abdomen that is relieved by pressure or heat indicates internal cold and a deficiency of yang energy. A general lower abdominal pain that is somewhat relieved by pressure and is accompanied by fatigue, dizziness, and aching of the lower back and spine indicates a deficiency of liver and kidney energy. A general lower abdominal pain with a down-bearing sensation in the lower abdomen accompanied by fatigue and pale complexion indicates a deficiency of blood and qi-energy.

Acupuncture can be quite successful in the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Treatments can help to relieve symptoms very quickly, however it typically takes at least 3 cycles to get the body back into balance and fully resolve the problem. A real positive of acupuncture is that it is working to promote health while also managing and resolving the symptom. It’s very common to see other areas of health improve, such as energy levels, sleep, moods and stress levels, and pre-menstrual symptoms. Indeed, acupuncture is an excellent option for treating and resolving menstrual cramps.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

10 03, 2009

Anemia

Anemia is a condition where there are not enough red blood cells in the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues. There are many different kinds of anemia, each with its own symptoms. The main symptoms of anemia are tiredness and fatigue. Further symptoms include weakness, pale skin, headaches, numbness or coldness in the arms and legs, problems thinking, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness.

Our blood is made of fluid called plasma and cells floating within the plasma. One type of cell in our blood is red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to the other tissues in the body. Red blood cells do this with hemoglobin, a red protein that gives blood its red color. Hemoglobin not only helps the red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues, it also helps to take carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs to be expelled. Anemia is a condition in which either the number of red blood cells is too low, or the number of hemoglobin within the blood cells is to low.

There are different kinds of anemia such as iron deficiency anemia, the most common one, when there is not enough iron for the bone marrow to produce enough hemoglobin, or vitamin-deficiency anemia, for example because of a lack of vitamin B12. Anemia can also be caused by certain chronic diseases like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, medications, or have genetic causes.

A poor diet, intestinal disorders, menstruation, pregnancy and family history are all factors that increase the chance of developing anemia. Western medical treatment depends on the cause and may involve making diet changes, taking supplements, changing medications, and treating the underlying disease.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) anemia is called blood deficiency. There are several causes that can lead to a blood deficiency such as a situation where there is excessive blood loss and the body is unable to replace it, an insufficiency of the building blocks required to create blood due the spleen and stomach not functioning properly, or blood stasis, which means that the body is unable to generate new blood because of an inability to get rid of old blood which is stuck or sluggish.

Blood deficiency syndromes can also involve one or more of the major organs, adding certain symptoms, specific to each organ:

  • Heart blood deficiency will show symptoms of restlessness, disturbing dreams, insomnia, heart palpitations, forgetfulness, and the lips are likely to be pale.
  • Heart and spleen blood deficiency will show symptoms of difficulty falling asleep, poor memory, feeling tired, palpitations, poor appetite, anxiety, and anorexia.
  • Liver blood deficiency has symptoms of numbness in the extremities, tics, tremors, dizziness, blurred vision, floaters, and dry and withering nails.

With acupuncture we invigorate energy and help the body nourish the blood by stimulating points for the spleen and stomach as well as any other organ that is functioning poorly or is contributing to a blood deficiency. Acupuncture can help to bring back the energy levels, improve memory and concentration, relieve anxiety and stress, and strengthen the body so that it is better able to produce the blood it requires. Of course lifestyle, stress reduction and a good diet are also very important factors for success!

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.


24 11, 2008

PMS

Pre-menstrual syndrome or PMS, as it is often called, is the term used to describe the various emotional and physical symptoms occurring before the period. Symptoms can include depression and sadness, irritability, anxiety, lethargy, lack of concentration, aggressiveness, changes in libido, changes in bowel habits, skin eruptions, food cravings, crying, outbursts of anger, clumsiness, abdominal and breast distension, pain, water retention, weight gain, and insomnia. Symptoms vary in intensity, from mild to extremely serious, and duration, from one day to two weeks. Surveys estimate that 30-90% of women have experienced PMS at some point in their lives.

There is no clear treatment for PMS in the Western repertoire, as there is no universally-accepted definition of what PMS is or what causes it. Common theories include progesterone deficiency, vitamin B6 deficiency, elevated prolactin levels, prostaglandins, and excessive aldosterone levels. Treatment may include diuretics, anti-depressents, anti-inflammatories, progesterone, oral contraceptives, medications to influence the production of prostaglandins, and vitamin B6 supplements. However, most women experience some degree of PMS regularly and do not seek help for it, believing it to be a ‘natural’ or at least inevitable part of life. Many use their own tried-and-true methods of treatment that may include painkillers, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, supplements, exercise, diet, stress reduction, and rest.

PMS is approached from a different perspective in Chinese medicine, and can be treated effectively with acupuncture. Chinese Medicine looks at one’s state of health according to the body’s internal balances; when there is imbalance, symptoms will occur. An imblalance of the liver is often at the root of many PMS symptoms because it plays a very important role in a woman’s menstrual cycle. The liver has a strong influence on the regulation and balance of emotions, it regulates the blood and supplies the blood for the uterus, and its overall regulation of energy and blood is relied upon for the functioning of all other organs. Symptoms of PMS can commonly be due to liver imbalances but may also relate to spleen and kidney imbalances, all of which may be caused by lifestyle factors such as emotional strain, poor diet, or overwork. Depending on the cause or causes, the specific symptoms experienced will vary.

Chinese medicine treatment begins with a proper diagnosis of the root causes of the symptoms. Once the causes of PMS are determined, acupuncture along with diet and lifestyle changes may be used to resolve the problem. Acupuncture is used to harmonize the body’s overall flow of energy, improve liver functioning, and regulate hormone functioning. Diet and lifestyle changes are encouraged to avoid aggravating the condition and to promote healing. Examples can include avoiding greasy, heavy or spicy foods, limiting caffeine, managing stress and removing stressors where possible, exercise, and improving the balance of work, family, and recreational time.

At Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, we have often seen clients for the treatment of PMS. With acupuncture treatments, many women experience less severe pre-menstrual symptoms, calmer and more easily regulated moods, increased energy, improved digestion and organ functioning, improved complexion, better sleeping patterns, and the reduction and eventual resolution of pain, bloating and other PMS symptoms. As the body is strengthened and rebalanced, symptoms will be alleviated, demonstrating that there are indeed effective methods for resolving health issues through natural, safe, drug- and hormone-free techniques.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St in Kelowna, BC.