By nature, women are lunar. It's no coincidence that the length of our menstrual cycles are synced up with the waxing and waning of the moon, occurring around every 28 days.
If we are synced up with the moon's cycle, we will menstruate around the new moon and ovulate around the full moon. And while your body may not already be in harmony with the moon, there are particular things to keep in mind, and practices to do, that can help regulate your cycle. When your body and the moon are synced up, your cycle won't feel like a pain-in-the-butt, but an opportunity to "go with the flow."
Here are some ways to regulate your cycle according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), to help you "go with the flow."
1. Look inward during the new moon.
If a woman's hormonal cycle is in sync with the moon, the time between the new moon and the full moon is when estrogen increases, ultimately culminating in ovulation at the full moon. For this woman, the new moon is the time of menstruation.
Thus, the new moon is a great time for women to look inward, honor their bodies and assess their lives. What is working and what isn't working? It is a time to set intentions and to cleanse the body and mind of stale energy and stagnation.
At the center of TCM is the concept of Qi, vital energy which moves the blood throughout the body. It is essential that Qi flows so that blood can flow properly; when it is stagnated, the body experiences various forms of pain and irregularity. So, menstruation is a time for things to simply flow. For this reason, TCM does not advise sexual intercourse during a woman's period. Energetically speaking, blood should flow downward and out; pushing the blood the wrong way during sex can disrupt the proper flow of energy.
2. Express yourself during the full moon.
The full moon is a time for full expression of who we are. In order to tap into the energy of the moon (with the goal to sync up your cycle and regulate it), many cultures — including TCM — advise is taking "a moon bath." In other words, go outside for at least fifteen minutes and soak in the beautiful moon. It's known that Native American women would separate themselves from their tribe during menstruation, and join together with other women in a "moon lodge" to collectively tap into their feminine energy, as well as the lunar energy, during the new moon.
So if joining together with other women in this ritualistic way appeals to you, it can be done during the full moon as well. Use this time to express your feminine energy alongside other women. Try a women's circle, take a dance class with your girl friends or do whatever other ritual works for you. Let the energy flow!
3. Ask a lot of questions about the color, quality, quantity and cycle length of your flow.
Paying attention to these questions can also give us clues to imbalances and remedies to fix them.
Let's start with one of the most basic and essential questions: what is a normal flow? A normal healthy cycle should consist of red blood with little clots. Though situations arise that change this. Brown blood is referred to in TCM as "old blood" because it lacks oxygenation. Thus, it can be normal to start and end the flow with a little brown blood, though it is a sign of stagnation to see brown blood throughout your flow. We need to shed the "old blood" for three-to-five days to make way for the new lining.
Now, let's look at a few signs of a less-than-healthy cycle according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, along with some potential remedies to help work on them:
1. Clotted Flow
Lots of blood clots in one's menstrual flow can mean that there is blood stagnation. In TCM, "stagnation" refers to the fact that things are not flowing in the body as they should.
A possible remedy? Make changes in your diet or take supplements that will naturally help thin the blood. Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon or fish oils are good for blood thinning. Enzymes such as serrapeptase are also valuable for breaking up clots in your menses.
As many women know, our menstrual cycles are highly sensitive to stress. But why?
Our hormones change in response to stress, and can often become out of balance if we are feeling out of balance emotionally. So look at areas of your life that may be congested where there is no flow. What can you do to get the energy moving?
2. Light Flow
In order for menstruation, the endometrial lining has to thicken. This process is regulated by hormones secreted by the pituitary and hypothalamus in the brain that signal the reproductive organs.
This deficiency could be due to malnourishment, lack of sleep, excessive stress or other physically-stressful things happening in life. A good way to build blood is through changes in diet and lifestyle.
According to TCM, blood-building foods include iron-rich vegetables like leafy greens, but also protein-rich foods like grass-fed organic meat. There are also many Chinese herbs that can nourish blood, such as Dang Gui and He Shou Wu. Of course, it is always advisable to get evaluated by a gynecologist if your cycle or flow feels particularly irregular.
3. Heavy Flow
In TCM, a super heavy flow can mean there is too much heat (excessive Qi) in the body. When I see a woman bleed excessively every month, I often encourage her to visit a doctor to assess whether she has fibroids or polyps in her uterus. This can be a cause of excessive bleeding.
Many of us have heard of yin and yang. According to TCM, women tend to embody yin energy. We are fluid, receptive, and intuitive while men embody all that is yang. Yang, by contrast, is associated with being action-oriented, goal-driven and forceful. Of course, we all have aspects of both yin and yang qualities, whether female or male. As women, we must honor our yin nature in order to "go with the flow" — in body, mind and spirit.