Girl, 10, shows signs of painful periods

Q: My daughter started menstruating in the middle of last year, when she was 10 years old.

When I was younger, I used to have very bad cramps during my menstruation and would take medical leave or annual leave to rest at home.

I see the same symptoms affecting my daughter now. When she is menstruating, she has stomach cramps and gets tired very easily.

What can I do to help her improve her health?

A: In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), dysmenorrhoea, or cyclical abdominal pain experienced during or before menstruation, is likely due to a deficiency in the functions of the liver and kidneys.

The kidneys, which govern human reproduction and manufacturing of blood, can greatly influence menstruation. If they are weak - due to a weak constitution or excessive sexual activities, among other factors - it will affect the blood supply.

The liver is responsible for storing blood and ensuring the smooth flow of qi (energy) in the body, which is required for good health. Emotional distress, stress and tiredness can weaken the circulation of qi and blood in the liver.

If the kidneys and liver are all weak, this can trigger dull abdominal pain during and after menstruation with symptoms of lower back pain, dizziness, ringing in the ears and hot flashes.

Insufficient qi and blood - due to a weak constitution, a weak spleen and stomach and chronic diseases - can weaken the blood supply in the womb and trigger dull pain in the lower abdomen during or after menstruation and tiredness.

In both cases, the flow of menstrual fluid will be light and the fluid will be pale in colour.

If the flow of qi and blood slows down and stagnates in the womb, it can create blood stasis and trigger lower abdominal pain one to two days before or during menstruation. This can be accompanied by swollen breasts, irregular menstruation, nausea and vomiting.

If a girl or woman does not take good care of herself during menstruation - for instance, if she is exposed to cold temperatures or sits on cold and wet floors - pathogenic (disease-causing) factors such as "cold" and "dampness" can invade the body. This can cause blood flow in the womb to slow down and stagnate, triggering abdominal pain with coldness before and during menstruation, delay in menstruation, cold limbs and body aches.

If a woman smokes, drinks alcohol or eats spicy or oily food, "heat" and "dampness" can invade the womb.

It can trigger lower abdominal pain before and during menstruation, accompanied by a low-grade fever, yellow and sticky vaginal discharge and genital itchiness. The menstrual flow will be heavy and prolonged. The fluid will be sticky and dark red in colour, and will contain blood clots.

Chinese medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping and tuina (TCM massage) can help improve your daughter's condition by strengthening her organs and dispelling the pathogenic factors.

Moxibustion involves burning a small herb above acupuncture points to help healing. Cupping involves using fire and cups to create a vacuum on the skin to enhance blood and qi circulation.

Processed rehmannia root, Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit, barbary wolfberry fruit, glossy privet fruit, dodder seed and yerbadetajo herb strengthen the liver and kidneys.

Sichuan chinaberry fruit, orange fruit, white peony root, liquorice root, combined spicebush root and nutgrass galingale rhizome strengthen the liver and enhance qi circulation.

Cattail pollen, safflower, peach seed and tree peony bark enhance blood circulation.

Medicinal changium root, heterophylly falsestarwort root, milkvetch root, largehead atractylodes rhizome, Sichuan lovage rhizome, Chinese angelica, Chinese date and fresh ginger increase the amounts of qi and blood in the body.

Medicinal evodia fruit, cassia twig, argy wormwood leaf, fennel and dried ginger dispel the "cold".

Dandelion, Tokyo violet herb, baical skullcap root, plantain seed, coix seed and virgate wormwood herb dispel "heat" and "dampness".

Your daughter should abstain from spicy, oily and cold food and drinks, and from using cold water to bathe or wash her legs during her menstruation.

She should also avoid swimming and vigourous exercise.

She should keep warm and maintain good hygiene in the genital area.

Having sufficient hours of sleep, ideally from 10pm to 6am, and regular light exercise will help greatly to enhance her qi and blood circulation.

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