Author: Dr. Maryam Mahanian, DTCM, RAc
Audio Broadcast of the article is available below:
If you’ve ever seen a practitioner of Chinese medicine, you’ve most likely been questioned extensively on your menstrual cycle… not only the regularity of it but also the color and consistency of your flow.
In my clinical practice, it’s one of the most important questions I ask a woman as it tells me so much about your body and leads me to distinguish what particular Chinese medical pattern you are.
First of all…What’s Normal?
A “normal” menstrual cycle comes ideally every 28 days (or can range from 26 to 32 days), no spotting beforehand, no cramps, no clots, is bright-red like a cranberry color with a smooth flow usually lasting from 3 to 5 days.
You mostly will need to change your pad or tampon about 4 to 6 times in a day.
The menstrual flow shouldn’t start and then stop and start again.
There should also be minimal PMS symptoms like breast tenderness, bloating, moodiness and headaches.
Dark red/purplish/almost black flow
Dark blood is quite commonly seen. It usually has a thick consistency and may or may not clots within it.
Dark blood indicates blockage. In Chinese medicine, when there is blockage of Qi(energy) and blood, we look to the liver as the culprit. The liver is in charge of moving Qi and blood throughout the body. When there is a lack of free flow, this shows that you have some degree of liver congestion. Liver congestion leads to blood stasis over time.
Dark blood can also mean a lack of warmth in the uterus. Not enough warmth to move the blood. We call this “cold in the uterus“
Dark blood means that there is old stagnant blood in the uterus which then doesn’t allow fresh new blood to be generated. Fresh new blood is key to the health of your next menstrual cycle.
With liver congestion, there’s also quite severe PMS symptoms such as headaches, breast distension and irritability.
Dark blood tends to happen in women with emotional stress.
Here are some tips to improve liver congestion, blood stasis and a cold uterus:
Get moderate exercise and avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Swimming, walking, hiking and yoga are great choices.
Drink hot water with lemon first thing in the morning
Have plenty of leafy greens
Avoid processed foods
Consider using castor oil packs on your lower abdomen for 20 minutes per day during the first half of your cycle (Follicular phase) as this will warm up your uterus
Eat warming cooked foods and avoid raw cold foods as much as you can (75% cooked versus 25% raw is a good rule of thumb)
Do things which bring you joy and help to relieve stress.
Pale-red (pinkish) blood is also often watery in consistency.
Pale blood can be very heavy or very light.
Pale blood can be a sign of a weak spleen. In Chinese medicine, the spleen is in charge of our digestion. The spleen processes the food we eat in order to produce blood and Qi (energy). If the spleen is weak then the blood produced will be insufficient. You may notice some other signs such as digestive complaints like bloating, poor appetite, soft stools which are common spleen deficiency signs.
Pale blood which is also scanty can indicate a thin uterine lining.
To benefit your spleen and produce more blood, try these recommendations:
Eat warm cooked foods, soups, broths, congee, herbal teas and stay away from cold raw foods such as ice cream, smoothies, and sushi. Also stay away from greasy deep fried foods and too much sugar.
Eat blood nourishing foods such as red meat, eggs, liver, dark leafy greens
Consider taking a Chinese herbal formula to build more blood in the body
Get more rest
THICK Crimson-Red Blood
Crimson-red blood is a deep-red color and is thick in consistency. This can be accompanied by early periods (earlier than 24 days) and very heavy periods.
This indicates too much heat in the body…you can think of excess heat as inflammation.
Sometimes can indicate an infection.
Other than early heavy periods, you can experience insomnia, agitation, restlessness and acne breakouts.
To clear excess heat in the body, here are some tips:
Make sure to drink tons of water. A general rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 120 lbs, then you should try to drink 60 oz of water (approximately 7 cups). Avoid drinking iced water and have room temperature or warm water instead.
Avoid spicy foods, deep fried foods and alcohol
Eat plenty of watermelon, pears, cucumbers and dark bitter greens like dandelion
Avoid hot baths, saunas and hot yoga
The Power of Diet & Lifestyle
The above recommendations may seem simple but let me be the first to tell you that they can be so effective. Don’t underestimate what simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can do to benefit the health of your menstrual blood and get you pregnant.
What Chinese medicine can do for the health of your menstrual flow
Chinese medicine practitioners use acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in addition to counselling you on your diet and lifestyle. These allow for simple powerful tweaks to shift the body back into balance. To be conservative, usually about 3 to 6 months of treatment is needed. But some women have noticed the changes to their flow immediately.
Benefiting the color and quality of the menstrual blood has profound positive side effects on your overall health and well being. Better health means better fertility if you’re trying to conceive. Blood nourishes the reproductive organs not to mention all of the systems in the body. So whether you are deficient in blood, have too much heat in the blood or have blocked stuck blood, there’s plenty that you can do about it!
Wishing you the best in health,
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