The Internal Seasons

I’ve had this blog idea on my “to-do” list for ages, but I’ve not been inspired to write it until today. Do you ever have that? Where something is there to be done but you’re just not inspired to do it until one day, ping! the inspiration comes.

This blog is about outlining the menstrual cycle from a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) point of view, and how are cycles are similar to the seasons. By becoming more aware of our internal cycles we can really look after ourselves in understanding when times of rest, nourishment and calm are needed (Winter) and when times of high energy can bring us productivity and rejuvenation (Spring and Summer). And those times of preparation (Autumn). A bringing together of the physical and the mental/emotional.

However I feel that there is more to this blog than I originally thought. This is because it is becoming more and more apparent to me that we are not just similar to the seasons, we ARE the seasons. We don’t just live here on this planet, we ARE part of the fabric of creation itself. There is no coincidence that our cycles move in time with the moon; that the tides are pushed and pulled by the forces of the lunar cycle, that so many animals, sea creatures and insects follow the phases of the moon for their own reproduction. Everything in nature includes us. There is no separation. When we talk about “connecting with nature” I think what we are actually doing is “reconnecting with who we are”. We are nature. We don’t walk in nature, or spend time in nature; we ARE nature. This is why these times make us feel so good, because there is a sense of coming home, of becoming one, of belonging, of lessening the grips of the idea that we are seperate from the world and from each other. I find I have more and more of these moments of inner knowing, connectedness and understanding of life, and this is the first time I have been able to grab it and get it down into words.

When we discuss the theory of TCM we often mention the seasons and the weather when we talk about particular energies and meridians. TCM philosophy really harnesses the idea of connectedness with our environment and with nature. I really appreciate this concept in my own understandings of life and of health and wellbeing. I also like the idea of likening the menstrual cycle to the ebb and flow of the tides; the tides of Yin and Yang. Understanding these tides and the transitional points between the two can offer huge benefits of understanding to support one’s own monthly cycles:

Phase 1 (days 1-5) is about Blood as we menstruate, it is a restful Yin phase focusing on nourishing ourselves and taking care of ourselves. Honour this time and avoid sexual intercourse and strenuous exercise. The external pathogenic factor of Cold can penetrate particularly at this time so take note of this in the activities you pursue. Remember that Blood is flowing downwards so sanitary items such as tampons obstruct this downward movement. Better to use pads or a menstrual cup.

Phase 2 (days 6-13) is focusing on Yin as increased amounts of oestrogen cause the lining of the uterus to thicken. Eating protein and mineral-rich foods in this phase will help to replenish Blood and Yin. This phase is building towards Yang.

Day 14 is when ovulation happens, and some cramping or spotting can occur as the body prepares to move from Yin to Yang. Get to know your cycles and allow your body and mind space to transition.

Phase 3 (days 15-21) is very Yang focussed; the body is building and nourishing the uterus ready for implantation if fertilization occurs, or shedding the lining if it doesn’t. This segment of the cycle is very energetic. Remember to support yourself during this energetic time with nutrient dense foods and adequate hydration.

Phase 4 (days 22-28) focusses on Qi. As oestrogen levels drop, serotonin levels can also drop and this can affect our mood and emotions. PMS can occur, tears, frustration, anger, as well as physical symptoms such as bloating or breast tenderness. All of these symptoms are based on the lack of free flowing Qi and result in Qi stagnation. So this segment of the cycle it is important to eat clean, take gentle exercise and avoid stimulants in order to support the Liver energy to keep Qi gently flowing freely. It might be a time where you might want to reach for those sugary snacks, so try to substitute those with better choices. We can also choose to eat warming foods because Qi needs heat to keep the fluids moving. Avoiding cold foods and drinks, and exposure to cold weather, swimming and sitting on cold surfaces can all help to support this phase of the cycle.

Acupuncture for Infertility

Acupuncture is a tried and tested system of traditional medicine, which has been used in China and other eastern cultures for thousands of years to restore, promote and maintain good health.

Research has found that acupuncture treatments can have a positive effect on those trying for a baby and can actually aid the conception process.

Fertility focused acupuncture treatments can help to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, balance hormonal levels, regulate the menstrual cycle and help improve the lining of the uterus and quality of eggs released. Additionally, conditions such as polycystic ovaries and endometriosis have also been shown to improve with acupuncture.

Benefits to male fertility have also been helped by acupuncture with positive effects on sperm count, sperm morphology and mobility.

Some of the positive effects of acupuncture in fertility treatments are thought to include:

  • regulates the menstrual cycle and promotes regular ovulation
  • regulates the hormones to produce larger numbers of follicles
  • improves the functions of ovaries to produce better quality eggs
  • enhances the vitality of sperm
  • relieves the side effects of drugs used in IVF
  • increases the thickness of the uterine lining so to encourage successful implantation
  • reduces the chance of miscarriage

It is known that stress has an adverse effect on the fertility hormones. Acupuncture can be used to support the process, thus enabling couples to cope with any stress and anxieties they may experience during this time. The acupuncture treatment can help promote a calm, positive and relaxed frame of mind which can bring a more successful outcome for conception.

Information for this blog has been taken from British Acupuncture Council

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and clinical acupuncturist, working from Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, nr. Preston.