Yin and Yang of the Menstrual Cycle Part 3 – Supporting the Yang Phase

Last week, I discussed the Yin phase of the menstrual cycle. I hope it made sense. This week I’ll spend some time talking about the Yang phase and what you can do to support the second part of the menstrual cycle.

If you remember, Yang is the opposing energy to Yin. It is warming, transforming, energising and expanding, which is similar to progesterone’s function in the body.

Yang is like the power supply for your body. A reduction in this power results in food taking longer to digest, body responses slowing, metabolism slowing, embryo growth being impaired, energy transformation being impaired, fluid metabolism slowing, cognition and memory slowing.

So while estrogen and Yin help grow your lining and deliver nutrients to your eggs in the first phase, progesterone and Yang help to hold your lining in place and help a fertilised embryo to continue to grow and also help it implant and stay implanted.

Interestingly, your body temperature noticeably (if you have a healthy amount of Yang energy) increases after ovulation. And keep in mind that heat in nature always rises. So this is also a function of Yang, ‘raising’ energy to hold a pregnancy in place and to supply clear energy to your head for clear thinking.

Women who have ‘breakthrough bleeding’ or spotting (an indication that Yang is not holding blood up) just before their period may have a type of Yang deficiency. These women are usually very tired just before their periods and can have a very low sex drive – not ideal when you’re trying to fall pregnant.

They may also have difficulty losing weight and problems with fluid metabolism – bloating and swelling.

A severe Yang deficiency can also contribute to recurrent miscarriages. The body doesn’t have enough warming energy to help an embryo develop, implant and remain implanted.

I actually find many women with ‘unexplained’ fertility fall into this Yang deficiency category. There is no blood test or scan to show that an embryo fertilises but doesn’t have enough ‘warm energy’ to transform, implant and hold.

So Yang energy is very important to your health and the health of your menstrual cycle regardless of whether you are trying to fall pregnant or not.

Things you can do to help Improve Yang

1. The first thing is to improve your Yin. Check back at last week’s newsletter to some ways to do this. Yang is always born out of Yin (and vice versa)
2. Keep your feet, low back and low abdomen warm
3. Eat warm, nourishing foods
4. Avoid icy cold foods and drink – (those Acai bowls are THE worst meal for women to eat regularly)
5. Get acupuncture and moxa (of course!) – to move cold out of your pelvis and start building warmth. I love the heat lamp to help with this too.
6. Take some prescribed Chinese herbs – there are some great herbs that can push out cold and warm the pelvis, Kidney and digestion to improve Yang energy

I hope this helps. I am always happy to hear from you if you have any questions.

Yin and Yang of the Menstrual Cycle Part 2 – Supporting the Yin Phase

An account on instagram I follow – @traditionalchinesemedicine posted a pic in response to a question – ‘what does the world need now?’ and her reply was “Yin”. I really couldn’t agree more.
Yin energy is something we are lacking in individually and it is continually being depleted from from a global perspective too. We are not short of faster technology, anger, stress, heat or exhaustion but we are short on love, understanding and patience and self care. This is Yin.

Yin is also the cooling, feminine, restorative, gentle, peaceful, quiet, reflective, creative, wise and imaginative energy.

Yin energy controls the first half of a female’s menstrual cycle, from the first day of your period until ovulation. It functions very similar to estrogen, the women’s reproductive hormone.

A deficiency in Yin is the most common pattern I see in women who have been diagnosed with poor egg quality.

At this time, your follicles are needing blood and nutrients and the lining of your womb needs warm, nourishing energy to help develop a healthy egg and a healthy endometrium lining – regardless of whether you are looking to fall pregnant or not.

Signs of depleted Yin can be vaginal dryness, reduced amount of cervical mucous before ovulation, night sweats, feeling warm in the afternoon, dry mouth, tired and sore low back or short menstrual cycles. It does present in many other ways, but these are the extreme symptoms.

The quality of your Yin helps determine the quality of your Yang. Remember, the two are a happy co-dependant little pair.

So not nourishing your Yin in the first half of your menstrual cycle can cause problems in the next phase which is associated with embryo implantation and growth.

So what to do to support your Yin.

  • look into the concept of ‘hugge’ – mentioned above and find what it means to you
  • eat warm, nutrient dense foods especially water based
  • avoid spicy, pungent or strong tasting foods
  • participate in restorative exercise like yoga, tai chi, qi gong
  • avoid high stresses
  • get enough sleep
  • avoid too much caffeine and alcohol
  • do more things that bring you joy :)
Foods that nourish Yin
  • Cooling foods – but not cold foods
  • Salty, bitter, sour foods
  • Tofu
  • Barley
  • Seaweed
  • Sweet potato
  • Water chestnut – great in San Choy Bow
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Apple
  • Lemon and lime
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon
  • Pomegranate
  • Mango
  • Avocado
  • Coconut Milk
  • Sesame seeds
  • Fish – especially oyster but all seafood is great for Yin building
  • Beef, duck, pork and kidney
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Cows milk – very Yin nourishing but in small amounts
  • Honey

Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth – Course Summary

I was fortunate enough to spend last weekend with a bunch of acupuncturists learning about acupuncture in pregnancy and childbirth. The course was held by the lovely Debra Betts, an experienced nurse and acupuncturist from New Zealand who is making unreal progress with acupuncture and pregnancy in hospitals. She is an absolute wealth of information and I learned so much! Over the next few weeks, I will go further into detail on specific topics, but here are the takeaway points from the course.

  • Acupuncture has a huge role to play in pregnancy from prior to conception, first trimester, second trimester, third trimester, labour and post partum
  • Research has shown acupuncture to help prevent and manage; bleeding in pregnancy, miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pre eclampsia, caesarian section, premature or small for date babies, post natal depression
  • Medical knowledge around acupuncture is improving with continual research which means communication and collaboration with specialists is improving
  • In the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (from ovulation to conception), acupuncture can help support the first trimester, support an ‘at risk’ pregnancy, support threatened miscarriage and as a treatment for nausea and vomiting
  • Trophoblast cells are the cells responsible for implantation and are a key focus of research for identifying problems with pregnancy
  • Lack of oxygen from time of cell division to 10 weeks pregnant is important (this seems opposite to what we think about blood flow)
  • Stress has repeatedly shown to affect pregnancy outcomes and acupuncture has been consistently shown to reduce stress markers – perhaps the biggest role acupuncture can play in fertility and pregnancy
  • Sleep – really important for pregnancy outcomes and acupuncture can treat sleep concerns
  • Medical clowning post embryo transfer (laughing) improves IVF outcomes and massage prior to embryo transfer improves pregnancy outcomes
  • The so called ‘forbidden points’ have been hugely misrepresented in modern practice – “there is no evidence of harm following needling at forbidden points”
  • Acupuncture can support natural birth in missed miscarriages and stillborn pregnancies – assisting the natural process of birth
  • Recurrent miscarriage has been historically identified as a ‘slippery foetus’ – there are acupuncture treatments available to support this
  • Pregnancy stress syndrome is a thing – it can over stimulate the HPA axis causing decreased progesterone production, altered immune response and poor environment for maintaining a pregnancy, acupuncture can help
  • Women want support from medical specialists – to be taken seriously, to feel they are listened to and understood, to be asked how they’re doing and to be given relaxation tools to unwind – this is where a natural health practitioner and acupuncture specifically can be of incredible benefit
  • We have a fantastic acupuncture point – KI 9 which is known as the ‘happy baby point’ – it has historically been used to improve poor hereditary traits, improve complexion and help babies ‘sleep at night and smile during the day’. In research, this point has shown to be valuable in relaxing a contracting uterus
  • Some great acupuncture protocols for morning sickness
  • Potato soup – one of the best things for early pregnancy morning sickness, especially when unable to keep water down
  • Acupuncture is successful at treating back pain and pelvic pain in pregnancy
  • Acupressure – being taught to birthing partners is really helpful in reducing pain in labour and facilitating a difficult labour
  • Treatments for heart burn, headaches, rib pain, itchiness, swelling, emotional changes and high blood pressure have been shown helpful in late stage pregnancy
  • Research currently looking into acupuncture for pre-eclampsia and it’s looking promising
  • Treatment protocols for anemia in pregnancy – take home moxa helpful
  • Breech presentation very well treated when seen at 36 weeks pregnancy – take home moxa also helpful
  • Supporting still birth and providing acupuncture and take home acupressure to help with birthing and labour, caring support important and shows improved clinical outcomes and experience
  • Induction support – acupuncture can support a women’s natural hormone response
  • Debunking the cord around the neck myth, too often blamed for many negative birth outcomes – “multiple cord entanglement is not a contributing factor in intrapartum stillbirth, placental abruption or caesarean delivery”
  • Midwives are being educated in many hospitals around New Zealand and Australia to use acupuncture in delivery rooms. This will take time to be fully integrated but is looking really promising.
  • Acupuncture and moxa is great to use post birth for caesar scar healing, breast feeding difficulties and hormone irregularities

So much! There’s so much more detail I want to go into over the next few months so stay tuned for more information. Based on information from courses like this and what I see in clinical practice every day, I would find it really difficult NOT to recommend acupuncture for all pregnant women. Please pass this information on to any of your pregnant friends or family members, I would love to help support them through their pregnancies and prepare them for childbirth…naturally!

Paige x

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Lingering Pathogens

They are exactly as the name suggests – pathogens which linger in the body for long periods of time. They lay dormant until you go through a period of stress or poor health. Your body is unable to ‘hide’ the pathogen anymore and you can experience a variety of symptoms.

Shingles is a great example. The obvious symptoms of chicken pox disappear as a child but the virus usually moves deeper into the body. As an adult when you go through a stressful event or medical treatment like chemotherapy, you can then see shingles appear. This is the lingering pathogen that has lay dormant for years before being expressed.

You may have a lingering pathogen if you have previously suffered from chicken pox, Epstein Barr virus, glandular fever, chronic fatigue, chronic bacterial or fungal infections, allergies, food intolerances, autoimmune diseases or if you have been exposed to malaria. If the pathogen is not removed initially, you will notice recurring symptoms as in ‘echos’ of the original symptoms. These may include; shingles, recurrent tonsilitis, swollen glands, frequent cold and flu symptoms without it progressing further, chronic fever, constantly feeling hot and cold but not having a fever, frequent loss of appetite, headaches, skin rashes, abnormal swelling, abnormal sweating, fatigue.

Something I often hear from someone with a lingering pathogen is that “I haven’t felt well since…” You usually remember a time where your health changed. Often, nothing will come up in blood tests, except maybe a positive immune response to certain viruses.

What can you do about it? Firstly, you need to keep your body as healthy as possible to avoid the symptoms being expressed, however, this alone doesn’t remove the pathogen. You will need some specific herbs which work to push the pathogen out of the body. These herbs work on the liver and the stomach to move the pathogen out through your skin or your digestive system. It can take months to achieve this, but absolutely worth it! You will feel back to your normal self.

Resistance 2

Energetics of Autumn

Autumn in Chinese Medicine
Autumn seems like the left out season in the year. We all love summer for the sun and surf, winter for the hot chocolates and snow and spring for new beginnings and young love. But we don’t give too much thought to Autumn. However, it is in fact a really important time of the year for your health.

In Chinese medicine, Autumn is the lung and large intestine time of the year. These organs are strongest in energy at this time. So this is the time when you need to look after your Lung energy to prevent colds and flus in Winter. This means starting back on your bone broth (let me know if you’d like a recipe) and building your immune system with warm, nutritious foods. The other key is dressing appropriately in the changing weather. It takes us a while to realise it’s getting cooler and the cold wind is what enters the channels in your neck causing the start of a cold. Start carrying a ‘cardy’ or a scarf and keep your feet warm to prevent this from happening.

In terms of your large intestine, it’s function is to remove waste from your body, but it also has an energetic role in removing ’emotional waste’. This is the time to ‘let things go’ whether that be a relationship that isn’t working, a job this which is unfulfilling or an issue that is unresolved, like a dead leaf hanging on a tree, let it go.

Now is the best time to boost your immune system with food, herbs and acupuncture.
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Treating Headaches with Acupuncture

There aren’t many people I’ve treated who have never experienced headaches at some point in their lives. A headache is a non specific symptom, which means on it’s own, it provides little diagnostic information. The interesting thing is that you can experience them as a response to almost an change in energy in the body.

You can experience a headache if you’re dehydrated, after detoxing from coffee, when you have a fever, when you’re stressed, when you’re tired, just before ovulation, just before your period, when you eat too much bread, when you hurt your neck or you back…and many more. Why is this?

In Chinese medicine, there are two very simple explanations for why headaches are so commonly experienced;

  1. All internal organs have a direct or indirect connection to the head.

Your internal organs have energy meridians which connect to your muscles and skin (this is where acupuncture points are located). Every one of these meridians, connects to the head in some way. Therefore, any imbalance in any organ system can ultimately present as a symptom at the head, most commonly being a headache.

2. Heat rises

In the environment around us and also in our bodies. When you have internal heat, caused by digestive inflammation, stress, dehydration or pain, it rises towards and results in a headache.

The key to correctly diagnosing and treating a headache is in the detail. I need to know; the location of your headache (frontal is usually related to digestion, vertex is generally more Liver), type of pain (stabbing, aching, heavy, empty etc), associated symptoms like vomiting, tiredness, vision changes or appetite changes and what alleviates them (cold, heat, water, movement, lying down). The more specific the explanation, the better. For example, the type of headache that is described by the feeling of having a damp cloth wrapped around your head squeezing inwards is a very specific type of disharmony in the body which acupuncture treats very well.

So next time you experience a headache, be observant around what it feels like, where it is and what improves it or even aggravates it. You can then avoid these triggers in the future. It’s also of course great information for your acupuncturist to help get you targeted relief as soon as possible.