Most of us don’t realize what an abnormal amount of bleeding might be. A heavy period is determined if you bleed through a tampon or pad every hour, pass large clots, have signs of anemia or your bleeding lasts more than 8 days. A light period is one that lasts one or two days and requires very few tampon or pad changes.
A woman with heavy periods must visit her doctor in order to rule out fibroids, endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease. These three conditions can be easily treated with medicine or surgery. Women without these culprits who experience very heavy periods may be suffering from hormonal imbalance that may or may not be related to lack of ovulation. During the first part of our menstrual cycle our body produces estrogen which works to thicken the endometrial lining. Once ovulation occurs, progesterone production begins which balances the estrogen and causes the lining to become richer and stickier but not necessarily much thicker. If ovulation does not occur, we are exposed to unopposed estrogen throughout the cycle which can lead to a thicker than normal endometrial lining. Even if ovulation does occur as it should, progesterone levels may be lower than normal or estrogen levels may be abnormally high. At any rate, high estrogen is usually to blame for heavy periods. Thus the key to treatment is resolving the high estrogen issue. In western medicine birth control pills, other stronger medications or even surgery can be used to treat abnormally heavy periods. In Chinese medicine, we seek to restore hormonal balance naturally with acupuncture, diet and sometimes herbal medicine.
A woman with a light period is not gaining much thickness in her endometrial lining during the early part of the menstrual cycle. This is usually an indication that estrogen levels are lower than normal. If estrogen levels are low, progesterone levels are likely to also be low and a woman may or may not ovulate with her cycles. It is important to look at factors that may be contributing to this such as excessive exercise, a strict diet or unhealthy management of vegetarianism, high stress or low body fat. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help strengthen the body and encourage proper hormone production and balance.
How can Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture help Heavy or Light periods?
Chinese medicine and acupuncture seeks to bring balance to reproductive hormone levels. As we have discussed, too much or too little estrogen can be the root cause of heavy or light periods. In either case, an experienced acupuncturist can use acupuncture and herbal medicine to regulate your body’s hormonal needs.
How many treatments will I need?
A normal course of treatment will be 3 months. Depending on your specific pattern of symptoms, your acupuncturist will decide if you need to come once a week or less frequently. In some cases more than one course of treatment will be necessary to fully resolve the condition. What other tools am I given to make sure my treatments are effective? Diet modification is an important component to estrogen balance. Certain foods can increase the levels of estrogen such as soy. A diet without fiber can cause the body to hold on to extra estrogen instead of secreting it. A completely fat-free diet will render the body unable to produce estrogen at all. Your acupuncturist will take a close look at your diet and make suggestions accordingly.