A smooth rite of passage for women

Getting her period is a girl's rite of passage, yet menstrual problems can crop up for many.

A normal menstrual cycle lasts between 28 and 30 days.

If this cycle is shortened or extended by more than seven days for two consecutive months, the woman is diagnosed as having a menstrual problem, said Ms Gee Swee Sien, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner at Thomson Chinese Medicine in Katong.

Other women have cycles that are so irregular that they cannot predict the timing of their period.

A menstrual period usually lasts four to six days, depending on the woman's age.

The blood flow is usually relatively light on the first day, increases on the second and third days, and tapers down henceforth, stopping by the sixth day.

A prolonged menstrual period is one which lasts for two weeks or more, said Ms Gee. A heavy menstrual flow may cause a woman to feel dizzy and look pale, while a light flow means the period lasts for no more than three days.

Ms Gee said: "A light flow is unhealthy, as it signifies that the overall blood flow in the body is less than optimal."

She has observed that two of the most common complaints from women are menstrual pain and headaches.

Here are five syndromes underlying women's menstrual problems:

SPLEEN QI DEFICIENCY

•Causes: The spleen has the function of retaining essential fluids, such as blood, in our bodies. Spleen qi deficiency is mainly due to poor dietary habits, such as being a picky eater, eating at irregular times and not chewing one's food properly. Stress can also contribute to this deficiency.

•Symptoms: A weak spleen that fails to regulate blood flow properly can result in an irregular menstrual cycle, a prolonged period and heavy menstrual flow. Other symptoms include prolonged fatigue, loose stools, water retention and a sallow complexion.

•Food therapy: Make soup with one whole black chicken and 30g huangqi . Brew for 30 minutes.

KIDNEY QI DEFICIENCY

•Causes: The kidney is said to govern our reproductive system. Kidney qi deficiency can be due to genetic factors, the ageing process, a hectic lifestyle and an overactive sex life.

•Symptoms: A woman may have an irregular cycle, light menstrual flow and menstrual pain. Other symptoms include urinary frequency, backaches, dizziness, fatigue and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

•Food therapy: Make soup with one whole chicken, 30g wolfberries, 30g Chinese yam and 20g huangqi.

LIVER QI STAGNATION

•Causes: The liver governs the amount of blood flow in the body and is easily affected by our lifestyle. A stressful life - be it at home, in school or at the workplace - coupled with insufficient sleep, will slowly deplete the blood in the liver.

•Symptoms: An irregular cycle, menstrual pain and breast soreness before or during menstruation. The person is also depressed, easily irritated and may experience discomfort in the chest.

•Food therapy: Make tea with 3g dried roses, 3g green tea leaves and hot water.

BLOOD DEFICIENCY

•Causes: Blood deficiency can mean blood flow is insufficient in the body or that there are inadequate nutrients in the blood. This is largely due to chronic stress and poor dietary habits.

•Symptoms: A sallow complexion, pale lips, dizziness, heart palpitation, a pale tongue and weak pulse.

•Food therapy: Cook porridge with 60g white rice grains, 10 dried longans, 10 lotus seeds and 10 red dates.

BLOOD STAGNATION

•Causes: This is a condition where blood circulation is not optimal or does not flow freely due to previous injury or "coldness" in the womb.

•Symptoms: A woman will feel her womb is cold from within, and has a preference for hot beverages over cold ones. People with blood stagnation may have a dark complexion, scaly and dry skin, and a tongue that is purplish or with dark spots.

•Food therapy: Make dessert by boiling 15g dried black fungus till soft before adding in a desired amount of brown sugar.

Sakura chicken herbal soup

INGREDIENTS

• 10g cordyceps, washed

• 10g dried longans

• 4 to 6 sticks of codonopsis root, soaked in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes

• 4 to 6 pcs red dates

• 1 sakura chicken

• 1 slice ginger

• 500ml hot water

• Salt, as desired

METHOD

• Remove the chicken skin, then wash and blanch chicken in hot water. Rinse and wash the chicken again before setting it aside.

• Rinse codonopsis root with hot water.

• Brew all ingredients under medium heat for between 2 and 2½ hours.

• When soup is ready, season with salt before serving.

EFFICACY

This dish addresses spleen and kidney qi deficiency, as well as blood deficiency. Cordyceps strengthens the kidney and lungs, codonopsis root strengthens the spleen, while longans and red dates improve blood quality. This soup also aids in building up a person's strength and immunity.

Acupoint massages for women

QIHAI

• Lie down comfortably and identify the point about two fingers directly below the belly button.

• Press and release this acupoint, using your index and middle fingers, for up to five minutes daily.

• Do this massage a week before the estimated start of the menstrual period, right up to the first day of the period.

GUANYUAN

• Lie down comfortably and identify the point about four fingers directly below the belly button.

• Press and release this acupoint, using your index and middle fingers, for up to five minutes daily.

• Do this massage a week before the estimated start of the menstrual period, right up to the first day of the period.

• NOTE: Both qihai and guanyuan are located in the lower abdominal area where menstrual pain typically occurs. Massaging these two points will enhance the qi and blood circulation in this area, helping to ease menstrual pain.

ZIGONGXUE

• Lie down comfortably.

Draw an imaginary line from the belly button down to a point about five fingers away.

• From the bottom of the last finger, shift about four fingers - right or left - from this imaginary line.

• Press and release this acupoint, using your index or middle finger, for up to five minutes daily.

• Do the same on the other side of the belly. There are two zigongxue in the lower abdominal region - one on the left and the other on the right.

• Do this massage a week or two before the estimated start of the menstrual period, right up to the first day of the period.

• NOTE: This acupoint is located near the ovary. Hence, it is useful for women whose menstrual pain occurs around the ovary. Some women also experience pain when they are ovulating, so this massage can help to ease the pain.

SANYINJIAO

• Sit comfortably. This point is four fingers above the highest point of the inner ankle.

• Press and release this acupoint, using your thumb or index finger, for five minutes daily.

• NOTE: This is the intersection point of three "yin" meridians - the liver, spleen and kidney.

Applying pressure on this point will help regulate these three organs to achieve menstrual wellness.

Do not massage this point during pregnancy.

Source: Ms Gee Swee Sien, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner at Thomson Chinese Medicine (I12 Katong)


This article was first published on February 16, 2016.
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