Menstruation occurs in women on a cyclical basis. It is the clearing out of the inner lining of the uterus following a cycle where fertilization of an egg and pregnancy did not occur. The menstrual bleed, commonly known as a period, lasts from one to seven days, the average being a heavier flow of menstrual discharge on days 1-3 with a reduction in the amount thereafter.
The Eastern philosophies believe in a central energy that the Chinese call the vessel of conception . The energy connection between the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, pancreas and uterus has been well known for over 5,000 years and an imbalance in this energy can cause problems in any of these organs and is very often the underlying reason for irregularity in the menstrual cycle. Any stimulants that affect thyroid production, deficiencies, excess refined sugars or nerve-affecting drugs may alter the cycle.
Amenorrhoea is the absence of periods. This can be primary – periods never started – or secondary – usually associated with hormone imbalances caused by stress, anorexia/bulimia and other causes of sudden weight loss. Amenorrhoea may also occur following childbirth, coming off contraception such as the coil or the pill and after diseases affecting other glandular (hormone producing) organs or severe illness leading to malnutrition.
The inner lining of the uterus builds up prior to ovulation and if pregnancy is not an occurrence then this lining is shed. The Eastern medical philosophies include an energy line, the vessel of conception, that travels from the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus) up through the uterus, pancreas, thyroid and pituitary gland. This axis if deficient, can cause ‘misbehaviour’ in any of these organs, including amenorrhoea. RECOMMENDATIONS
Remember that the most common cause of amenorrhoea is pregnancy. Obtain a pregnancy kit if you have had intercourse, protected or unprotected, up to one month prior to missing a period.
Review any weight loss or appetite changes. If any are present, then speak to a complementary medical practitioner.
If no obvious reason is apparent from those mentioned above, consult a medical practitioner and your complementary therapist when you have missed three periods. Premature menopause and tumours of the pituitary gland are easy to diagnose and potentially treatable if caught early.
Increase the protein in the diet. Ensure that iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid levels are normal .
Homeopathic remedies can be most beneficial: Aconite and Arnica if the periods are associated with a shock; Natrum muriaticum or Ignatia if associated with grief or fear; and Sepia if emotionally indifferent or tearful. Yoga, Shiatsu and acupuncture can all remove the energy blocks that can lead to amenorrhoea and they should be considered.
Stress is a principal cause of amenorrhoea and if this is abundant or there is any evidence of anorexia or obsessive dieting, consider discussing matters with a counsellor.
Delayed, late or infrequent periods
The first two years of menstruation, which can start at any age from 11 years, may be irregular and a delayed or infrequent period should only be considered as abnormal if this is a new pattern differing from previously regular periods. A delayed or late period may have many causes and pregnancy must first be ruled out. The hormones that control the cycle are produced by the pituitary gland, which is a small walnut-sized piece of tissue that sits in the middle of the brain. This gland is very susceptible to changes in the neurotransmitters or brain chemicals and therefore the cycle can easily be thrown by emotional disturbances. Problems with boyfriends, parents or impending exams may all trigger a suppression of the pituitary gland’s production of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, both of which are necessary for ovulation to take place and therefore for the period.
Once ovulation has taken place, a period generally follows 14 days later and most delays or long cycles are caused by an increase in the first part of the cycle known as the proliferative or follicular phase . The second part of the cycle is known as the secretory or luteal phase and this is followed, if pregnancy is not an occurrence, by the menstrual phase.
Delayed or late periods may result from overex-ercising or undereating. There is no firm scientific foundation for this occurrence but I suspect that it is to do with chemical suppression by exercise-induced hormones such as Cortisol or endorphins. These are released when muscles are exercised or because of a lack of nutrients necessary to build up the inner lining of the uterus through the proliferative phase.
Whatever the biochemical reason, energy is taken from, or not provided to, the uterus.
Certain metabolic conditions such as hypothyroidism and polycystic ovaries may be the cause of delayed or absent periods and this may need to be checked out.
One or two late or delayed periods are generally not a problem . A missed period may represent a pregnancy and this needs to be tested for.
Ensure that the diet is regular and nutritious. Any alteration in the cycle in association with dieting suggests a deficiency and an incorrect dietetic plan. Remove excess sugars from the diet.
Review psychological stresses and discuss the matter with a counsellor if no obvious cause is apparent.
Avoid medication unless prescribed by a complementary medical practitioner experienced in this matter, because alteration of a body’s normal cycle, delayed or otherwise, may be injurious.
Persistently late periods that are not altered after discussions with a nutritionist, counsellor or complementary practitioner should be viewed by a gynaecologist to rule out any underlying metabolic disorder.
Avoid the use of the oral contraceptive pill as a technique of controlling the cycle except as a last resort.
Consult with a homeopath who will consider the symptoms in light of the individual as a whole and work from a constitutional standpoint.
Specific deficiencies in vitamins and trace elements may also cause a problem in the formation of the endometrium. Take a protein supplement, Vitamin B6, Evening Primrose Oil and zinc at twice the recommended dose for one month.
Dysmenorrhoea (painful periods) Dysmenorrhoea is the medical term for painful menstruation. The start of menstruation, the menarche, occurs between the ages of 11 and 16 years in females. There is often a hereditary pattern and the start of a girl’s periods may occur at the same age as her mother and grandmother. A textbook menstrual cycle is 28 days long with the bleed lasting 2-7 days (on average around 5 days). The first half of the cycle is under the control of oestrogens, which prepare the ovary to release an egg, and the second part of the cycle still has some oestrogen effect but is predominantly controlled by progesterone, which causes the build-up of the inner lining of the uterus in preparation for the implantation of a fertilized egg.
In the first part of the cycle the amount of oestrogen is controlled by the pituitary gland, which sits in the middle of the brain. In the second half of the cycle the progesterone and oestrogen production is produced by the corpus luteum, which is the ‘shell’ of the egg or ovum that has been released from the ovary.
If an egg or ovum is not fertilized, then the corpus luteum dies off and the progesterone and oestrogen levels diminish. These lower levels are a trigger to the pituitary gland to start the cycle all over again but before it does the unused inner lining of the uterus needs to be shed. This is done through menstruation (or a period). The process of removing this inner lining or endometrium is aided by mild contractions of the uterus. These contractions are painful and the amount of pain depends on:
The force of the contraction.
The amount of inner uterine lining.
The pain perception of the individual.
From an Eastern perspective, the amount of energy flowing through and supplying the uterus and female hormonal system. All Eastern philosophies believe in a mid-line energy flow which, interestingly, corresponds to the hormonal system. The top of the energy line is through or around the pituitary gland, which provides hormonal control for the thyroid and uterus in females. This energy line, called the vessel of conception in Chinese medicine, actually travels down through the thyroid and the pancreas on its way to the uterus. The pancreas is not directly under the control of the pituitary gland but insulin levels from the pancreas are related to sugar levels, which in turn are controlled, to a great extent, by the levels of adrenaline, growth hormone, thyroxine and natural body steroids, all of which are controlled by the pituitary gland.
It needs to be understood, therefore, that dysmen-orrhoea, or painful periods, is not only to do with the uterus. It is important to establish an underlying cause, which may fall into any of the above categories.
Discuss the matter with your gynaecologist or GP and rule out any of the rare underlying conditions that may cause painful periods by having ultrasound, blood tests for hormonal imbalances and a full clinical check-up, including a cervical smear and internal examination.
Before commencing any orthodox treatment discuss the matter with a complementary medical practitioner.
Strength of contraction is dependent upon the body’s levels of calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. It is also extremely important to be well hydrated and many cases of dysmenorrhoea are alleviated by taking a mineral supplement and ensuring an intake of 4-6 pints of water per day.
The amount of endometrium (inner lining of the uterus) is associated with the uterine response to progesterone. Excess progesterone may be counteracted by the natural phyto-oestrogens found in soya milk and its products, celery, fennel, rhubarb and hops. An increase in these foods leading up to and during a period may be relieving. Conversely, stimulating the body’s own progesterone production with the use of herbs such as Agnus castus or homeopathic derivatives at potency 200 or using natural progesterone through transcutaneous Mexican yam extracts may be of benefit. The amounts of these supplements and remedies should be decided in consultation with a complementary medical practitioner who has knowledge in these areas.
The perception of pain is exacerbated by stress. Good relaxation techniques and an evaluation of life’s problems may be curative. Neurolinguistic programming and hypnotherapy, meditation, yoga and Qi Gong are all successful in helping to deal with painful periods.
Acupuncture, chiropractic and osteopathy are all useful techniques and probably work on the strengthening of the underlying energy weaknesses or tensions that build up in the lower pelvis.
The following supplements may be useful in divided doses: Evening Primrose oil (Ig per foot of height) and Vitamin B6 (lOmg per foot of height) during the day and zinc (5mg per foot of height) at night.
Homeopathic remedies must be chosen on the type of pain, duration and associated factors, such as amount of bleeding and the presence of clots. Remedies that could be reviewed include: Magnesia phosphorica, Arnica, Belladonna, Calcarea carbonica and Cinchona officinalis. All should be taken at potency 6 every hour.
Chinese/Tibetan herbal medicine have much documented evidence of efficacy and a popular compound is Dong Quai (angelica), which, like most herbs, is best prescribed by a specialist.
If alternative techniques fail or the underlying cause is not amenable to change then the use of the oral contraceptive pill can be considered but, as always with any drug, weigh the potential risks with the benefits. • Provided that there are no contra-indications, do not hesitate to use ordinary painkillers such as paracetemol. If this is not working well, mefanamic acid is prescribable by your GP and is a most popular pain reliever. Taken over the more painful couple of days, you are unlikely to do yourself any harm whilst you find the underlying cause.
Early periods (short cycle) A short cycle may be considered as the arrival of an early period but is not a problem if this is the general pattern. A cycle of 20 days is not usually a disease process unless it is a departure from a longer cyclical pattern.
As for delayed periods, psychological matters can have a profound effect by the chemical influence of neurotransmitters from the pituitary gland.
An early menstrual phase is usually due to a shortened proliferative phase and is therefore commonly associated with a much lighter and shorter period.
A short cycle is only a problem if it is a variation from a previously longer pattern.
Psychological stresses and anxieties play a major role and a consultation with a counsellor may start the process of resurrecting the cycle.
Consultation with a complementary medical practitioner, preferably a homeopath, will isolate potential homeopathic treatments.
Early and therefore more frequent periods may lead to anaemia secondary to blood loss and any tiredness, malaise or mild depression may be associated with anaemia .
Heavy periods – see Menorrhagia
Menorrhagia (heavy periods)
Menorrhagia is the medical term for an excessive menstrual flow. Many of the principles discussed in the section on dysmenorrhoea are relevant to menorrhagia.
The amount of endometrial tissue discharged is proportionate to the amount that is laid down through the second part of the cycle. This is dependent upon the effects of progesterone on the endometrial growth, however this is not the only influence.
The uterus provides the female with another avenue to eliminate toxins from the body. Each month new tissue is laid down and provided with a rich blood supply. Toxins in the bloodstream will, therefore, automatically find themselves in abundance in this endometrial tissue. Toxins such as lead, from car exhaust fumes, are laid down and shed on a cyclical basis. Whether the body is actually intent on doing this is uncertain and one may argue that the body would protect against allowing toxins to settle in a part of the body where reproduction takes place, but the body is a phenomenally complex system. Assuming that toxins settle there with or without the body’s blessing, menorrhagia may be a toxic excretion technique.
Dysmenorrhoea) may be responsible for the overgrowth of endometrial tissue.
Energy must flow smoothly between all the chakras and an excess in any particular point will cause deficiency above or below. Therefore a block in the abdominal or solar plexus chakra may lead to an excess in the lower chakras which in turn can cause the overgrowth found in menorrhagia.
Certain deficiencies such as vitamin A, iron or hypothyroidism may all cause menorrhagia.
Menhorrhagia is rarely a symptom of a more serious condition. Fibroids, endometrial polyps and salpingitis may present initially as menorrhagia, as may endometrial cancer.
A full gynaecological examination including ultrasound and hormonal blood tests is a starting point. Having ruled out a serious condition, consider complementary techniques before orthodox ones.
Examine lifestyle and habits and eliminate any obvious toxins. Food intolerance testing through blood tests, Vega, bioresonance or applied kinesiology techniques are all recommended.
Furthermore do not underestimate the toxic effects of caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and other recreational drugs.
Assess the potential for stress because the pituitary gland, which indirectly controls the levels of progesterone, is centred towards the middle of the brain and is very much under the influence of the psyche. Techniques of relaxation and stress management should be embraced.
The need to establish free energy flow through the chakras or vessel of conception requires consideration. Emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical causes may be at work and a review with an Eastern-thinking complementary practitioner is recommended. Yoga, Shiatsu and acupuncture may all be curative.
Menorrhagia may lead to deficiencies, particularly in iron and proteins, and supplements of amino acids and a multimineral including iron (which should always be associated with zinc and vitamin C) should be considered. A daily recommended dose of a natural food-state supplement should be taken until the problem is resolved and this level should be doubled throughout the actual bleeding period. Paradoxically, iron deficiency may cause menorrhagia.
Homeopathic remedies are, again, chosen on the symptom picture of the individual as a whole but those remedies mentioned in the section on dysmenorrhoea may be applicable. If anaemia is diagnosed or the individual is particularly pale then please consider the remedies Ferrum phosphoricum and Borax at potency 30 taken four times a day.
Supplement the diet with beta-carotene, 2mgs per foot of height in divided doses with meals through the day.
Menorrhalgia (pain in pelvis) This is the medical term for excessive pain in the pelvic area associated with menstruation but different from the individual’s usual period pain.
All the suggestions and recommendations for dysmenorrhoea should be adhered to but your gynaecologist and complementary practitioner should consider the possibility of endometriosis .