As a fertility acupuncturist, and as an adolescent who suffered from painful periods as I can tell you that they don’t have to be painful, all consuming or something to dread. Periods can be just a time of the month. Really! Isn’t that so exciting??

I for one, have been working towards helping my clients reach this life changing experience. Our bodies are amazing and the pattern of hormones, changes in our physiology can with little adjustments can be more comfortable. Of course, reducing pain and discomfort is important but really, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The real magic happens when we look at the whole body and start to heal so that the body can transition from having a period, releasing a follicle to building up the lining again without stagnation or blockages.

Okay so here is the first BIG one: avoid cold (temperature or raw) foods or drinks about a week before your period!!! What I mean is, let your lunch warm up on the counter or put some warm protein on your salad or have a cup of soup with the salad. It doesn’t have to be 100% warm all the time. However, the warmer the better.

This alone can seriously make such a big difference. When I learned this from my own acupuncturist when I was a teen, I went from staying home from school to being able to get through the day without Advil. It was such a turning point.

You may be asking yourself why? Well, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), cold is very difficult for the digestion to process. When you are starting or about to start your period, you are in a tender state so your body has to work extra hard to warm everything up again. In doing so, use more resources that the digestion suffers and we feel bloated, have gas or worse..diarrhea. Does that make sense?

The main digestive organ in TCM is the Spleen (Stomach too but it’s partnered always with Spleen) does the digestion of the food and then transforms it into energy and sends that energy to the rest of the body. During this time the spleen also separates waste and nutrients and provides building blocks for new blood formation. The byproduct of an unhappy Spleen is dampness. Dampness can be congestion, sluggish bowels, bloating etc. So here is an organ who is really working hard normally and now is asked to work even harder. Let’s give our Spleens a little love, ladies!

Over time every imbalance also affects the Kidneys (endocrine, reproduction, brain, bones-the powerhouse of the whole body) which have the function of in this case helping to keep the fire burning internally. So, if it’s cooled down by cold things over time, the cold has to go somewhere and that is often the uterus. And then we have a person who has severe cramps and back pain who prefers warm and likes pressure and heat on the belly.

Each organ in TCM has specific foods that support and nourish them and the Spleen likes warm cooked foods that have the earthy colors like autumn. The most important thing to remember is cooked, warm foods that are yellow, orange and brown are best. Here is a list: sweet potato, yams, carrots, parsnips, pumpkin and spices like nutmeg, cardamom and cloves. Think of slow cooked soups, stews and one pot meals. Grains such as oats, brown rice and quinoa are good too. Also, add in cruciferous veggies (support the metabolism of excess estrogen) and leafy greens- support the body too!

The next 2 suggestions will also make a whole lot of sense now that I have gone over the kidneys and spleen.

Suggestion two: wear socks above your ankles about 3 to 5 inches up there is a super important group of acupuncture points we want to keep warm during this time of the month too. So find big warm fluffy socks and keep them on-especially during the winter.
Now, if like me you tend to get cold, especially before your period this next tip is for you!

Get ready to stay toasty warm all winter!

Hot water with wine foot soak for about 20 min a night for a 5 to 7 days prior to your period. Please note*** those ladies trying to conceive or are currently pregnant—this tip is not for you! It’s just too strong. Stick with warm layers, socks and warm, cooked foods to nourish yourself and your sesame seed. Next week we will cover more tips. Stay tuned.

Supplies: large bucket of comfortably warm water, bare feet with pant legs above your knees, towel under bucket and/or basin and wine or vinegar about a cup. Place your feet in the bucket and soak them and your lower legs and then dry immediately and place your socks on. It feels great and the points we are warming are Kidney 3 the source point of the kidney and Spleen 6 which is the connection of kidney, spleen and liver.

Next up exercise! It’s so important to our physical health as well as our mental health. The main organ in the body who helps us with tension and the release of that is the Liver. The liver can get cranky, if we don't move often enough and keep our stress level in check. One way to improve your periods is to keep moving throughout your cycle but on days 1 and 2 of your period (or longer if your bleeding longer) is to avoid very strenuous (too hard, excess heat, excess sweating) exercise during this time. Your body is in a natural detox state and vigorous exercise causes the uterus to contract more- you end up bleeding more which can make you feel more drained or exhausted. Stick to yoga, walking or stretching on these days. Then resume your normal routine once your over the heaviest days.

Last tip-take time out to nurture yourself each and every day. Even if it’s 10 to 15 minutes of relaxation before bed, an uplifting podcast, listening to your favorite music, dancing or prayer and meditation. Connect to yourself and just have time alone. Life gets stressful for sure and we are often leading very busy lives. Our bodies, minds and souls need time to reset and just be.

Here is a little restorative balance I love for patients to try and I love it too. Grab a spot on the bed or floor with your yoga mat, pillows or a chair invert your legs and feet up and place them on a chair/pillows. Your legs should make a 90-degree angle and your back should be flat. Take slow, deep belly breaths with your hands feeling the expansion of your stomach. Exhale slowly and repeat for 10 to 15 minutes or more. This position can be done when you need a little pick me up or at the end of the day too. This circular breathing supports the kidneys and adrenals. It allows for a gentle tune up you can do at home. Add in pelvic tilts with breath-work and you are also resetting your sacroiliac joints and pelvis.

These tips are a great way to take your period from being an uncomfortable part of life to hopefully a more pleasant experience. If you are experiencing pain and continuing to do so please seek medical help. There are many women who think that the pain is a part of life. It doesn’t need to be. There are alternatives to taking medication as well.

Firstly, find out what is causing your pain and if there is an underlying condition, treatment is available. Acupuncture and herbal medicine have a long history of supporting healthy, comfortable periods and with hormone changes throughout the month, we need support. So see your primary care provider and identify what is going on and then seek the best treatment for yourself. Let’s have a happier period. We all deserve that!

Click here for your downloadable sheet for tips on pain free periods!

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