By Jiang Liu, Diplomate of Oriental Medicine
AR Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist
Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Clinic
2024 Arkansas Valley Dr., Suite 402
Little Rock, AR 72212
Normal menstruation has a regular cycle (26-32 days) with bleeding that lasts 4-6 days and a consistent flow pattern without clots. An irregular period is any type of bleeding that is abnormal when compared to usual menstrual cycle. This can include an early period, a late period or bleeding between periods. It can also appear as particularly heavy bleeding (menorrhagia) or scanty bleeding. Many women also experience irregular periods in the form of a missed period, continuous periods, or periods that occur twice in one cycle.
Normal period is regulated by woman hormones and irregular menstruation generally related to disruptions in the balance of hormones. A wide variety of factors can be responsible for irregular periods, among them:
- Significant weight gain or loss
- Poor nutrition (or a diet too high in carbohydrates)
- Drug use
- Excessive alcohol use
- Eating disorders
- Increased stress
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome/estrogen dominance
- Uterine abnormalities (fibroids/cysts/polyps/endometriosis)
- Hormonal imbalance related to perimenopause
- Medications such as hormonal birth control methods
- Radiation therapy
- Recent childbirth, miscarriage, or Diltion and Curettage (D&C)
Hormonal contraceptives are often used to help regulate menstrual cycles. These contraceptives combine estrogen and progesterone and they are available by prescription and come in oral, patch, ring, and injectable forms. If you have a specific hormone problem, such as overproduction of testosterone, hormonal supplements may be able to help regulate your periods. Carbohydrate metabolism abnormalities are often treated with a combination of diet and medications.
Chinese medicine has a long history in the management of irregular period. It a natural approaches to encourage your body to re-establish regular ovulation and to get your hormones back in balance. Although its primary basis rests on empirical evidence, more and more basic researches and clinical trials support its therapeutic modalities in many fields including gynecology. Researches show that acupuncture:
- Reduce stress hormones responsible for irregular periods
- Impact on blood levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinzing hormone (LH), estradiol (E2), and progesterone (P)
- Accelerate the release of brain and pituitary ß-EP, which inhibits the over-production of GnRH and LH
- Normalize the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, a key process of normal menstruation
- Promote the function of hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) leading to increase in the synthesis and secretion of adrenal steroid hormones, which resets the negative feedback of estrogen to HPOA
In a clinical study, four hundred and five patients with irregular menstruation were enrolled and treated with Chinese herbal formulae Tiaojing Zhixue (n=304) or Fuxuening (n=101). 78.3% and 97.4% of the patients in the two treatment groups restored regular menstruation. Over 80% of patients showed improved clinical symptoms, including reductions in weakness, insomnia and pain. No harmful effects, toxicity or side effects were noticed (Ma K, et al. 2003). Chinese herbal medicine (Xiaoyan Zhixue Capsule) was further reported to treat abnormal uterine bleeding caused by intrauterine devices (IUD) with a 90.3% effectiveness rate, significantly higher than the rate (43.5%) in a control group (Ren JF, et al 2004).
Etiology & clinical manifestations
There are multiple factors causing period irregulation and the following are the common causes of irregular period:
- Hot in the blood – Red face, hot body, red/dry lips, dry mouth, irritability, easily angered, headache, dizziness, constipation and brighter colored blood
- qi deficiency – Pale, shiny face, tired spirit, palpitations, lighter colored blood
- Congealed blood – Hemorrhage, purplish blood with clots, heavy and/or irregular menstruation, lack of smooth blood flow, abdominal distention, abdominal masses and bloating.
- Blood deficiency – Patient may be thin and/or weak, sallow complexion, dry skin, palpitations, insomnia, pale blood and scanty menstruation.
- Cold & deficient – Shiny, pale face, aversion to cold, tired spirit, blood is thin & watery.
- qi constraint – Depression, premenstrual emotional issues (moodiness, etc.), chest/subcostal tension, breast tenderness, abdominal distention prior to menstruation and purplish menstrual blood.
Chaotic Menstruation (sometimes early and sometimes late)
- Spleen deficiency – Fatigue, sallow complexion and poor appetite
- exhausted liver & kidney- Pale or dark complexion, dizziness, weakness in the lower body, pale colored menstrual blood
- Constrained qi– Dizziness, chest oppression, abdominal distention prior to menstruation, abdominal pain, purple or dark blood with uneven menstrual flow.
Principle of treatment:
- Hot in blood: Cool the blood and disperse liver fire
- qi deficiency: Tonify qi and spleen
- Congealed blood: Dissolve blood stagnation and restore the smooth flow of blood and qi
- Blood deficiency: Tonify the spleen, blood and yuan qi
- Cold & deficient: Tonify the blood and the yang
- qi constraint: Calm the spirit and resolve qi stagnation
- Spleen deficiency: Tonify spleen and blood
- Exhausted liver & kidney: Tonify liver and kidney
- Constrained qi: Smooth qi flow
Acupuncture or herbal medicine can be used alone or combined with each other. The treatment course is depended on individual situation such as original causes, severity, responses to acupuncture or herbal medicine.