Chi-Rific: Acupuncture for Hormonal Imbalances
Reproductive health issues are an all too common occurrence. They range from frustrating, too painful, to downright heartbreaking. PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, difficulty conceiving, and painful menopausal symptoms are all prevalent in the world of reproductive healthcare.
With such commanility, you would think there would be a reliable course of treatment. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, leaving many people looking for alternative care.
What is TCM?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of the oldest systems of medicine out there. With the growing intrigue in holistic healthcare, more and more people are turning to Acupuncture and other modalities. With good reason. It’s incredibly effective.
For someone who is new or unfamiliar to acupuncture, it can seem a little hard to believe that sticking a bunch of tiny needles in you could make that much of a difference. This intelligent system has been used in China for at least 2500 years. So how does it work?
Chinese medicine treats the body as a whole. If you’re used to conventional doctors, you may be shocked at the thoroughness of your acupuncturist when it comes to new client intake. Expect them to ask about your sleep, digestion, bowel movements, menstruation, and many other areas that are often overlooked.
They use assessment techniques like examining the film on your tongue, and their highly developed form of pulse diagnosis. Asking about menstruation is used as a diagnostic measure, and gives the practitioner a window into what’s going on with their client’s reproductive health.
The Energetic Pathways
The Meridian network, are pathways that run through the body, allowing Chi, or Qi to run through them. Qi is the life force energy that runs through these channels. Along these meridian lines are acupuncture points. By inserting small needles into these points, stagnant Qi is able to be stimulated, and provide relief for everything from depression to sciatica.
Through the use of acupuncture and other tools used by TCM practitioners, they are able to get to the root of the issue, instead of just masking problems.
Chinese medicine is inextricably tied to nature. When observing the phases of the moon, as it waxes it grows larger to fullness and wanes back into the new moon. This cycle reflects the inner patterns of the female body, as Chi moves blood throughout the body, regulating the menstrual cycle.
Although it may not seem obvious to the untrained eye, Chinese medicine works on the belief that these meridian lines link organs and different systems of the body, that are regulated through stimulating acupuncture points. PMS and other menstrual problems, is often a result of liver Qi congestion, and is treated by addressing the source.
Beta endorphins are a naturally occurring hormone produced in the central and parasympathetic nervous system that bind to opioid receptors, providing pain relief and relaxation. Research shows that Acupuncture affects b-endorphin levels as well as promoting an anti-inflammatory response in the body- positively impacting hormone levels to promote menstruation and fertility.
Acupuncture makes you feel amazing. If you’ve ever experienced an “acu-coma” the deep state of relaxation induced by treatment, you know the incredible stress-relieving effects it has. It promotes healthy levels of the stress hormones cortisol and prolactin. Common sense and research show that the less stressed someone is, the better their overall health. Stress is one of the main culprits in many issues related to reproductive health, which is why acupuncture is often used in conjunction with or in lieu of IVF.
A common belief in TCM, is that true “infertility” is rare. Instead, fertility ranges on a spectrum, that oscillates through someone’s life, and directly reflects their internal health. TCM practitioner Yu Jin found that chronic anovulation, a possible reason for infertility, could be reversed in about 50% of cases through the use of acupuncture.
Acupuncture is only one component of Chinese medicine, some other modalities your practitioner may use include:
- Moxibustion: Utilizes a dried herb called moxa, a form of mugwort, which is burned near points related to conception. The heat encourages Chi to activate and move. Much like acupuncture, moxibustion helps regulate the endocrine system- the master of our hormones.
- Cupping: Involves using a glass cup that is heated with a flame to create a vacuum, and is suctioned onto the patient’s back. This draws blood and stagnation to the surface.
- Gua Sha: Practitioners use a flat stone tool to scrape the surface of the skin. It relieves muscle tension and promotes lymph movement; the drainage system of the body.
- Auriculotherapy: Tiny seeds attached to stickers are placed on particular acupuncture points on the ears. The patient can leave the seeds on for a couple days at a time, and press on them to provide relief and promote circulation.
- Acupressure: A form of massage in Chinese medicine that presses on the same acupuncture points along the meridian lines to regulate Chi, without the use of needles.
- Herbs: TCM practitioners have extensive training in herbal medicine. They may use a combination of them in conjunction with acupuncture and other treatments to support their patients in their healing journeys.
- Diet: Your practitioner may suggest some tweaks to your diet, especially if it is high in sugar, stimulants, and processed foods.
By treating the body as a holistic system, one that when balanced, operates harmoniously- acupuncture and Chinese medicine address the root cause of any issues related to reproductive health. Through the activation and stimulation of Chi (Qi), patients are able to find long term relief from PMS, PCOS, “infertility”, and more- while feeling a whole lot healthier overall.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.