Monday, August 26, 2013

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)-- East meets West

The bane of many women's existence: PMS. Life seems to be going along fine and then "Aunt Flow" comes to visit and brings with her all sorts of physical, mental and emotional discomfort. Over the next few months I will be posting about different aspects of PMS, or Premenstrual Syndrome, but I will not be posting alone. I am joining forces with Naturopathic Doctor Joshua Lloyd, from Groton Wellness, to provide you with the most information possible: an Eastern and Western Holistic point of view. The discussion will be broken down into 3-4 parts so that the information will be easier to digest, and hopefully will leave you with some tools and understanding to help manage any symptoms you or a loved one might be suffering.

Let's start with what a balanced menstrual cycle looks like from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective.

From the start of menstruation, the Liver Qi moves the Blood out of the Uterus (Bao Gong) and the  Sea of Blood (Chong Mai) empties. The blood flows smoothly, tapers off and stops over the course of 3-7 days. The blood is bright red without clots. There should be no pain or discomfort and it should not drain your energy; basically life should go on relatively normally, aside from the fact that you are bleeding. Once the bleeding stops, the body begins to rebuild Blood and Yin so that you are not left at a deficit. Approximately 7 days later ovulation happens from the swell of Kidney Yin becoming full and shifting into Yang. The next two weeks are ruled by Qi and Yang, which must stay full and keep moving. Then the Heart sends the Blood down the Bao Mai (Vessel) to the Uterus (Bao Gong-- Palace), which is then moved out by the Liver Qi, and declining Yang becoming Yin, causing menstruation. The cycle is complete.

Notice that there is no mention of cramps, irritability, breast tenderness, fatigue, bloating, insomnia, etc. These symptoms are not part of a "normal" menstrual cycle, they are an indication that the body is out of balance. Bleeding should start, go on for a few days then end, all without any other symptoms.

That being said, most women in this day and age do not experience this version of the menstrual cycle. Most women experience some symptoms at various times during the month, both physical and emotional, which are caused by the above process not going as it should. If Qi, Blood, Yin or Yang are insufficient or excess, there will be problems, ranging from irregular menstruation, periods that are too heavy or too light (or non-existent), infertility as well as numerous other issues. One of the most common problems, with regard to the menstrual cycle, is Liver Qi stagnation, which presents itself most frequently between ovulation and menstruation. The next few posts will explore this issue in greater detail, focusing on physical, mental and emotional issues that often arise during this time. Every woman is different and can present differently during this premenstrual time. There are symptoms that are directly related to hormonal shifts and also symptoms that might seem unrelated but are really part of the same pattern. Any imbalance that exists during the rest of the month will become more pronounced premenstrually, and depending on the severity of the imbalance,  can really (thankfully temporarily) upset a woman's life.

My goal for the next few posts is to help you understand this premenstrual time a little better, from both an Eastern and Western point of view, to help you cope with your symptoms and to eventually guide you to improve your overall health. If you have any specific questions that you would like to have answered in these posts by either myself or Dr. Lloyd, please email me at or Dr. Lloyd at

Dr. Lloyd is a naturopathic doctor who graduated with his degree in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA.  Bastyr is one of only four nationally-accredited naturopathic medical schools.  Before medical school, he graduated with high honors from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science.  He has an extensive research background that he uses to stay on the cutting edge of natural therapeutics and natural remedies.

Dr. Lloyd treats patients of all ages with a wide variety of health concerns, including Lyme disease, chronic inflammatory complaints, cardiovascular problems, thyroid and adrenal troubles, sleep problems, digestive complaints, and mental health concerns. He utilizes a comprehensive approach to help alleviate symptoms while investigating and correcting the causes of declining health.

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