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How To Balance Your Cycle According to Traditional Chinese Medicine

WTHN Team/24.04.23

How To Balance Your Cycle According to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Note: For the purpose of this article, we will use woman/women to reference those of us that are menstruators, but we acknowledge and respect that not all menstruators identify as women. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are historical and philosophical differences between females and males that we hope to bring to light. 

Oftentimes, when we think of women’s health, we automatically think of the menstrual cycle. While this may seem reductive — it’s for a good reason. The menstrual cycle is an imperative part of a woman's body and is a major biological difference from men. Each phase brings hormonal changes that have a huge effect on your emotional, mental, and physical health. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the menstrual cycle is understood through yin,yang, and qi —central principles in TCM — and is divided into four phases. These phases are: menstruation (period), the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine In The Menstruating Body

Before we dive into the four phases, let’s get a brief understanding of how TCM views the body, particularly in relation to the menstrual cycle. TCM sees the body as being made up of:

  • Qi, the overarching lifeforce that includes all the others
  • Blood, which is similar to our western understanding of blood
  • Yin, a cool dense energy with a physical form and is associated with fluids and the feminine
  • Yang, warmer and associated with activity and energy, and the masculine

The Phases

Since each of the four phases of the menstrual cycle comes with hormonal fluctuations that contribute to different mental-emotional states, energy levels, and physical changes, we’ll offer advice on how you can support your cycle through lifestyle and nutrition, including Traditional Chinese herbs — a powerful tool in recovery from your cycle. 

Phase 1: Blood Phase ~ Menstruation

In TCM, the first phase of your cycle is menstruation when your uterus sheds its uterine lining. This phase is dominated by an abundant movement of blood and qi.

Energy + Lifestyle: The first few days of your cycle will bring down your energy. This is a time to turn inward and focus on rest and self-care practices such as taking a bath and napping. After a few days, your estrogen levels will begin to rise along with your energy levels.

Nutrition + Herbs: Nourish your body with herbs to build blood that is lost in menstruation, such as Dang Gui, Goji berries, and Jujube. Eat foods high in omega-3s, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories to reduce symptoms, as well as foods high in iron to help your body rebuild.

Phase 2: Yin Phase ~ Follicular/Postmenstrual Phase

In the follicular phase, estrogen rises to support the thickening of the uterine lining and a new follicle in the ovaries. This phase of growth focuses on rebuilding blood and yin — substance and nourishment — to support the regrowth of the uterine lining, follicles, and fluids.

Energy + Lifestyle: As estrogen peaks, so does your mental and physical energy levels. Lean into expansion, creativity, and productivity (studies show improved verbal working memory during this phase). Here, you can ramp up your exercise routine with high-intensity and endurance workouts.

Nutrition + Herbs: Consume herbs that support estrogen such as Rehmanniae, Cornelian Cherry, and Peony root. Eat foods high in vitamin D and A, as well as zinc and selenium, to help the uterine lining thicken and prepare for ovulation. 

Phase 3: Yang Phase ~ Ovulation

Rising estrogen triggers a surge of hormones (LH & FSH) which causes the release of an egg from the follicle. There is also a short spike in testosterone at this time. At ovulation, yin reaches its peak and the cycle transitions to yang.

Energy + Lifestyle: Ovulation lasts just 12 to 24 hours, but with a continuation of the follicular phase’s high energy and pop of testosterone, you’ll be feeling more energetic and potentially in the mood. Listen to your body.

Nutrition + Herbs: Consume herbs that move energy, such as Chinese Wild Yam, Ginseng, Schisandra, and Cinnamon.

Phase 4: Luteal Phase ~ Ovulation

Progesterone rises and becomes the dominant hormone, which proliferates the uterine lining to support potential pregnancy if the egg were to be fertilized. All resources (qi, yin, yang, and blood) are utilized to prepare the body for potential pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone fades, and triggers the menstrual phase into beginning a new cycle. Qi is the conductor of this cycle, and needs to be plentiful and flowing in order for the cycle to run smoothly. Dysregulation of Qi can result in PMS and painful periods.

Energy + Lifestyle: A dip in estrogen and rise of progesterone, which is more of a sedating hormone, will cause energy levels to slump. The upside is progesterone's happy, calming effect. This is a time to preserve energy and practice breathwork, yoga, or journal.

Nutrition + Herbs: Indulge in progesterone-supporting herbs such as Vitex berry, Astragalus, and Chuanxiong and foods high in B vitamins. Avoid inflammatory foods that are high in refined sugar, highly processed, greasy, as well as alcohol which can make incoming period symptoms worse.

Taking Daily Women’s Multiherbal For Cycle Regulation + Recovery

Like sleep is vital for energy recovery after each day, recovery from each phase of your cycle helps to have smoother, healthier cycles moving forward. Follow your energy levels at each phase the best you can, but also know that life gets in the way and the demands of our day-to-day may dictate a different reality where we need to go to work, school, care for children, or hit a deadline. 

It’s here when acupuncture and herbal remedies can help replenish the additional qi, blood, yin and/or yang that we’ve expended — that we can’t make up for through diet and lifestyle on our own.

At WTHN, we’re excited to have created an all-organic herb called Daily Women’s Multiherbal. Based on the time-tested formula Ba Zhen Tang (Eight Treasures), this traditional blend of herbs helps replenish the vital nutrients lost during the phases of the menstrual cycle and balance hormones. In addition to helping all aspects of recovery and support for menstruators, its formula is gentle enough to add into any routine, like a multivitamin. It will also help reduce inflammation, supply antioxidants for overall vitality, and nourish the blood to support hair, skin, and nails.

Learn more about this herb or book an acupuncture appointment to speak with a Healer in-studio. We hope we can help bring you balance in every phase of your cycle.
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