I asked Women’s health, fertility and Chinese Medicine practitioner Lauren Curtain to share her incredible knowledge with us around all things Chinese medicine and acupuncture and how they can play a powerful role in supporting menstrual symptoms and overall hormone health. I met Lauren via instagram, and her passion and generosity in the amount of info she shares is invaluable, I recommend the follow @laurencurtain. So let’s get into it…
What is Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine is one of the oldest licensed healing traditions in the world (with its origins dating back around 5000 years ago!). Chinese medicine is a big umbrella term that encompasses many modalities such as acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese therapeutic massage, Chinese abdominal massage, moxibustion, cupping, Qi Gong and dietary and lifestyle therapy.
One of the strengths of Chinese medicine is the ability to tailor treatments specifically to a patients needs. Every person’s body and health history is different and as such, requires a customised approach. We tailor the acupuncture treatments, herbal formulas and diet and lifestyle recommendations specifically to the person and what their body needs at that time.
In Chinese medicine, we see the body as a whole, with all of the beautiful complex systems of the body working together in order to achieve harmony and thriving health. There is no compartmentalisation in Chinese medicine as we can often see in conventional medicine. Everything is connected. From a Chinese medicine perspective, when all the systems of the body are in flow and everything is in balance, there is no illness or signs and symptoms that express. When symptoms do arise, it is a sign from the body that something is out of balance internally. The focus in Chinese medicine is always to restore the body back to its homeostatic balance, so we can live full lives – symptom free!
Chinese medicine practitioners are super nosey. We want to know everything about you! We want to know all about your period and your menstrual cycle, what your experience with contraception has been like, your diet and how you are (or aren’t) nourishing yourself, your digestion, bowel movements, your sleep, movement, stress levels, your job, if you enjoy your job, what kind of skin care and bathroom products you use, what your living environment is like, what your family is like, what your childhood was like, previous medical history – everything!
The more information we can gather, the more accurately we can create a clear picture of your current state of health and understand where any imbalances may be arising from and how we can best support you.
One of the pillars in Chinese medicine is treating the root cause of someone’s problem. We always come back to something called the ‘Root and Branch Theory’. This theory is that any illness or subpar state of health has a root (the cause) and a branch (the symptoms). If we just focus on cutting down the branches, new ones will just pop up in its place, in order to fix a problem, we must get to the root.
Often we see in women’s health that only the branches (symptoms) are focused on, and the root (the cause), is being ignored. An example of this is a woman having long menstrual cycles around every 6-8 weeks. Often in situations like this the pill will be prescribed and viola! A bleed is coming every month, giving the illusion of the menstrual cycle being regular. Now as you girls know being apart of the MoonBox community, the pill is masking what is going on underneath. The root cause of why her cycle was long, why there was a delay to ovulation wasn’t uncovered and treated. This is not only doing her health a disservice, it is also very likely that once she stops the pill, her cycle will be in a similar pattern it was pre pill, and a new onset of other symptoms may arise (as those branches keep on growing!).
Many Chinese medicine practitioners also combine and utilise the strengths of western medicine such as analysing blood tests, checking hormonal levels and vitamin and mineral status, gene markers and also support their patients through deeper investigations such as ultrasounds and surgery when needed (such as a laparoscopy to diagnose endometriosis). Chinese medicine can be there every step of the way supporting you.
Chinese medicine places so much emphasis on the menstrual cycle and the state of a woman’s reproductive health. There is a saying that if you treat the menstrual cycle, you treat the whole person as our periods give us so much vital information into what is going on deep in our bodies and any imbalances within the body will no doubt show up in the menstrual cycle.
How can Chinese medicine help your hormones?
Once a Chinese medicine diagnosis has been made, we focus on the underlying organ systems that are out of balance. For example, very often for menstrual symptoms like period pain, the Liver organ system is stuck or stagnated. We would work with this system looking at why it is out of balance in the first place, and then take the steps to allow the energy to flow freely again to relieve the period pain. This may be done via a combination of the different modalities listed above such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, diet and lifestyle support.
Benefits of Acupuncture
- Anytime we do acupuncture, it is putting the body into the parasympathetic nervous system function – our rest, digest and calm state. This helps the body to find it’s homeostasis and balance. In this state we can regulate our hormones and blood and energy is diverted to the reproductive system.
- Reduces stress and anxiety and lowers stress related hormones. Our bodies naturally decrease our hormonal balance (and fertility) when we feel stressed or our bodies perceive threat.
- Helps to increase blood and energy flow to the uterine lining to support hormonal balance, reduce congestion for healthy, happy periods.
- Can help to stimulate follicular development for ovulation and hormonal production.
- Regulates oestrogen/progesterone balance.
- Regulates reproductive hormones via the HPO axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis.
- Clears stagnation. From a Chinese medicine perspective, Qi or Blood stagnation of some form is often at the root of hormonal irregularities like long cycles/delayed ovulation, period pain, acne and PMS symptoms.
- Supports production of cervical fluid prior to ovulation to assist in recognising your fertile signs as well as improving fertility if trying to conceive.
- Reduces inflammation which is a common driver for period pain, acne, endometriosis and PCOS. Inflammation in the uterine lining can also impact fertility. Acupuncture can help to keep your inflammation in check.
- Your practitioner will help you to understand your body, your cycle, hormones, fertility, what is normal from abnormal and how to maintain optimum menstrual health.
What can we help with?
For Chinese medicine practitioners that have a strong clinical focus on women’s health, it is very common for us to see women seeking support with conditions like:
- Painful periods
- PMS symptoms
- Irregular cycles
- Post pill (or any type of hormonal contraception) support
- Ovarian cysts
- Fertility support
- And also just women wanting to understand more about their bodies and their menstrual cycle and how they can have a greater experience with their menstrual health.