Premenstrual Syndrome and Traditional Chinese Medicine, Part 2

Thanks for staying tuned to the second part of this blog! Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has some fantastic tools for soothing premenstrual syndrome. There can be many different underlying causes but one is most common, so I will focus on it here.

It is called Liver Qi Stagnation. What is that?

In TCM, the Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi in the body. When the movement of Qi is optimal we are able handle our daily interactions with ease, sleep well, digest well and go with the flow, in a sense. When Liver Qi does not flow freely and it becomes stagnant, many signs and symptoms can show up premenstrual for women. The most common ones include:

  • Abdominal and breast distention
  • Irritability, feeling short tempered and impatient
  • Headaches
  • Alternating changes in bowel habits, constipation before period and diarrhea with onset
  • Everything becomes worse with STRESS

Sound familiar to anyone? If you read the first part of this blog you know that I was a long time sufferer of PMS and when things get stressful in my life it can show up again. I remember sitting in class in acupuncture school during a lecture in TCM Differentiation of Disease class. When the professor got to Liver Qi stagnation I wanted to raise my hand for everyone in the class to interview me, feel my pulses and look at my tongue because I was the poster child for Liver Qi Stagnation.

Thankfully, TCM treats this quite well. I see it in my clinic with my patients ALL the time. In addition to getting acupuncture (which is extremely effective) there are many simple things women can do outside of treatments to help alleviate the discomfort.

Lifestyle recommendation:

  1. GET MOVING!! All forms of exercise are fantastic to move Liver Qi, especially aerobic. I encourage my patients to find some form of exercise they ENJOY and commit to regular exercise (4-6 x/week), especially in the second half of the menstrual cycle. This alone works wonders!
  2. Watch a comedy, have a girl’s night out or take a relaxing bath before bed.
  3. Meditate, tai chi, yoga. Some form of spiritual practice that incorporates connecting to your breath, even if it’s only for 5 minutes a day.
  4. Get acupuncture. Needles magically work to increase the free flow of Qi in the body and address other accompanying symptoms, such as insomnia, digestive troubles, headaches, and irritability.

Dietary recommendations:

Food to support the liver:

Lots of fresh veggies (raw, lightly steamed or sauteed) and moderate amounts of fruits:

  • Dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, beets, carrots, chives, blueberries, grapefruit, strawberries

Bitter foods stimulate digestion and clear excess heat that can build up with stagnation.

  • The more bitter the better! All dark leafy greens, dandelion greens, milk thistle, turmeric

Sour foods stimulate the liver & can help remove heaviness and stagnation, in small amounts

  • Grapefruit, lemon, lime, and fermented food like saurkraut, kefir, and yogurt. Even just a squeeze of lemon in your glass of water is helpful.

Relax and enjoy your meals. Don’t skip meals, eat too quickly, overeat, eat late at night, or eat when upset.

Avoid and eliminate foods that congest the liver.

  • Deep fried or greasy foods
  • Hot, spicy foods and seasoning
  • Rich fatty meat and sauces

Hope this information was helpful. I’d love to hear from you about your experiences. Do comment, drop me a line or schedule an appointment for a tailor made approach to tackling premenstrual syndrome.

Cheers to smooth Liver Qi,