A woman’s body experiences many different hormonal changes beginning at puberty, through menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and beyond. This ever-changing hormonal environment is sensitively associated with our emotions, nutrition, home & work life balance, relationships, genetics and stress levels, which can all impact women in different ways not only throughout these natural cycles, but during other seasons of a woman’s life too. Hormonal changes are happening all the time but they are often more strongly felt at these times.
Increasingly women are turning to Chinese Medicine to find symptomatic and long-term relief of the symptoms associated with this dynamic hormonal landscape. Acupuncture, along with diet and exercise are able to restore hormonal and emotional balance and vitality during all of these stages. It does this by influencing the body's hormonal/nervous system self-regulating mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. A broad body of research confirms acupuncture’s ability to regulate these bodily systems.
Here are five ways that acupuncture can help women find greater balance, vitality and reproductive health:-
Acupuncture’s powerful regulating influence can help to restore a regular rhythm and flow to women’s cycles helping to reduce cramping, heavy bleeding and menstrual irregularity. It’s ability to calm the nervous system can provide a much welcome settling effect on the mood changes that many women struggle with during this time. Studies to prove acupuncture's efficacy for cramping and pain are being published all the time, and my own experience in practice show me daily just how well acupuncture can help women who are suffering from menstrual pain.
Chinese Medicine can be offer a natural hormone-stabilising alternative to HRT at this stage in a women’s life. Falling oestrogen levels, changing nutrient and metabolic demands, and the influence of stress can create uncomfortable symptoms, at least until we adjust to the internal changes of menopause. An acupuncturist is able to help the body run more harmoniously and bring stability to the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause. The process is similar to a musician being able to hear where there may be dissonance within a piece of music. They are able to recognise how well a single note, or combination of notes, will balance and bring harmony to the whole. Similarly, the insertion of carefully chosen fine needles re-tunes the hormonal and nervous systems (2), which help to reduce the frequency/intensity of hot flushes (1), night sweats, insomnia and anxiety.
In Chinese Medicine, menopause is created by a decline of ‘yin’, which is the cooling, calming and moistening mechanism within the body. As we get older our body is not as efficient at balancing our natural rhythms of cooling and calming leaving us feeling anxious, hot, irritable, emotionally unsettled and unable to sleep as deeply.
3) Pregnancy and post-natal support
Acupuncture can relieve the lower back discomfort and other aches and pains associated with pregnancy, as well as morning sickness, heartburn, anxiety and tiredness. After delivery, many women find acupuncture treatments essential for rebuilding their energy and blood, increasing milk supply (3), and dealing with post-natal depression and tiredness.
4) Conception support
For women trying to get pregnant, acupuncture can assist conception by increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs. It also balances reproductive hormones, such as oestrogen, progesterone and FSH. Fertility clinics are increasingly recommending acupuncture for their patients to help lower overall stress levels, because stress hormones can lower fertility hormones, and improve IVF success rates (4).
"Acupuncture is thought to shift the body into a repair mode where it's better able to heal itself, as well as calming the nervous system,". Stress causes the sympathetic nervous system to be over stimulated causing blood flow to be diverted away from the ovaries and uterus. This can contribute to a potential inability to become pregnant. Acupuncture activates the para-sympathetic nervous system, which helps us to relax and de-stress, increasing the likelihood of pregnancy.
5) Anxiety and depression
Emotional sensitivity to hormonal changes can vary greatly between women. Some women experience relatively mild and minimal symptoms, whilst others go through a really rough time struggling with anxiety, depression, insecurity and fear, irritability and a lack of confidence....symptoms can be severe enough to dramatically impact on quality of life. The way that each individual experiences menstruation or menopause depends to a lesser or greater extent on their gynaecological history, influence of stress and relationships, psychological problems and changing levels of nutrients/hormones within the body. As a holistic medicine, acupuncture is able to get down to the root issues, considering all of the different aspects of a person’s health in order to bring the body back into balance.
5 ways to bring the body back into balance
1. Eat plenty of essential fatty acids as they are essential to the reproductive system, such as fish, fish oil, flaxseed oil, eggs, soy products, raw nuts and seeds, and dark green and winter vegetables like broccoli, beets, carrots, kale cabbage, cauliflower etc. Omega 3 found in deep-sea fish oil has been found to reduce clotting and encourage blood flow to the uterus.
2. To give your body a chance to be at its strongest and healthiest do what you can to breathe deeply and relax. Yoga is a great way of restoring energy and promoting relaxation, as it to softens tense muscles, encouraging greater blood flow throughout the body. Under stress, the reproductive and endocrine systems will not get the blood flow they need to function effectively. This is particularly important if you’re trying to get pregnant.
3. Get adequate physical exercise. Honour your limits....too much exercise can sometimes deplete our energy and blood reserves. Always adapt the intensity and frequency of the exercise according to how you're feeling.
4. Eat foods that nourish the blood and ‘yin’, particularly if iron levels are low, or you’re going through the menopause, such as kidney beans, organic organ meats, black beans, beets, black sesame seeds, legumes, spirulina, asparagus, aubergine, eggs.
5. Take time each day for rest and relaxation.
For more information on women’s health and acupuncture, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 07583-291616 for a free 15-minute consultation.