Amenorrhea and Traditional Chinese Medicine
By Audrey Cortez
What is Amenorrhea?
Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation — one or more missed menstrual periods. Women who have missed at least three menstrual periods in a row have amenorrhea, as do girls who haven’t begun menstruation by age 15. There are many causes or reasons why women do not have their period, such as late entering of puberty , due to stress or higher level hormonal changes. Depending on the cause, the amenorrhea condition can fall under categories:
- Primary Amenorrhea is when there is no period by the time a teenage girl is 16 years and does not display other sexual characteristics such as breast development whereas;
- Secondary amenorrhea is where there have been periods and then it would stop for more than a few cycles. Most women fall under Secondary amenorrhoea.
Testing of amenorrhea usually involves blood testing for hormone levels. The hormone levels which are investigated are Prolactin, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), +/– serum Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), Luteinizing hormone (LH), Oestrogen and Progesterone. Other tests conducted to rule out other conditions include MRI imagining and ultrasound in the case of a structural problem.
So how this is relevant to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
It is relevant because the very nature of TCM is to bring the body back to balance. In the case of amenorrhea, the body is internally imbalanced. This imbalance is either excessive or deficient of the fundamental substances Yin / Yang , Blood or Qi. There are suggestions that the cause could be from overwork, stress, constitutional, emotions or could be a symptom of conditions for example Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) . When this imbalance occurs there are channels which are affected are the Spleen, Heart, Liver and of course the Kidneys as well as two extraordinary channels, the Ren Mai (or Conception vessel) and the Chong Mai (or Thoroughfare vessel). Some of the syndromes which amenorrhea falls under are:
- Qi and Blood Deficiency
- Stagnation of Qi and Blood
- Kidney Qi Deficiency
- Phlegm and dampness obstruction
Acupuncture may assist with the treatment of the amenorrhea signs and symptoms such as weight gain or weight loss, unusual breast secretion, acne, excessive facial and body hair and dry skin. Acupuncture can address the imbalances of the body by directing the energy to where it needs to. Additionally, using moxibustion may be used during treatment and at home to aid the nourishment of the body and to also warm the Yang of the body .
Chinese herbal pharmacopoeia can definitely assist with amenorrhea, by introducing herbs with therapeutic actions to specifically target the imbalances. This is done via clear up any stagnation of Qi or Blood and by nourishing the deficiency of Qi Blood of specific Zang Fu Organs. There are hundreds of benifical herbs which could be used which may assist with amenorrhea including : Man Jing Zi (Vitex), Dang Gui, Shu Di Huang, Shan Yao and Chai Hu to name a few. In addition we utilize herbal formulas like Ba Zhen Tang (as a qi tonic), Xiao Yao San (to help with stagnation within the Liver channel and nourish the Spleen channel) and Zuo Gui Wan (to nourish Kidney channel).
What about Diet and Lifestyle?
Diet and lifestyle modification can be important for dealing with the condition. One can follow the following : Eating plentiful amounts of iron rich foods, either derived from animal or plant, increase your vitamin C and B substances, fibre from green vegetables and good essential fatty acids (e.g. almonds, salmon even flaxseed oil). Other factors to consider is to include moderate exercise and improve stress levels with meditation, yoga or tai chi. Overall we can use acupuncture and herbs to enable the body to mend itself.
Written By Audrey Cortez
The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.
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Rodd Sanchez Sydney Acupuncture and Chinese medicine