Women today have many pressures—from young girls studying and balancing relationships, to middle aged women juggling work, and orchestrating family life, to older women going through hormonal changes. With today’s fast paced lifestyle and easy access to fast foods, it is no wonder that the body is under stress. The saying ‘prevention is better than a cure’ is truer today than ever before.
The three primary organs governing women’s health are the Spleen, Liver and Kidney. The theory of the internal organs is often described as the core of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), because it best represents the TCM view of the body as an integrated whole. At the core, this theory represents a landscape of functional relationships, which provide total integration of bodily functions, emotions, mental activities, tissues, sense organs, and environmental influences.
In understanding these perspectives it is best to rid oneself of the western concept of internal organs. The western concept sees each organ only in its material, anatomical aspect, whereas TCM sees each organ as a complex system, encompassing its anatomical entity and the corresponding emotion, sense organ, tissues, mental faculty, and environmental factors impacting both pathogenic and anti pathogenic.
The spleen is a very important organ classification involved in the hormonal cycle. The western concept of the spleen encompasses its role in the production and destructive role of blood and immune cells. In TCM however, the spleen governs most energetic processes in the body. Since the spleen takes nutrients and Qi (energy) and uses them to produce blood, it therefore must be functioning at optimal levels for healthy menstrual cycles. The spleen is in charge of transforming the nutritious aspect of the food we eat into Qi and blood and other forms of usable energy, and transporting nutrients to the other organs.
Spleen energy manifests in the gastrointestinal system and is also markedly influenced by what we eat. Excessive sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and fatty foods clog and stagnate spleen function. When the spleen is strong we have physical energy, when the spleen is weak we feel lethargic physically, and foggy in the head.
The emotion that is associated with the spleen system is worry. Excess use of the mind in thinking, studying, concentrating and memorizing over long periods of time tends to weaken spleen function. This tends to explain why excess of the above emotions can cause digestive disturbances like stomach ulcers, diarrhoea, constipation and irritable bowel type symptoms.
The spleen is like a granary official from whom the five tastes are derived. It controls the blood, nourishes the muscles, and governs nutrient transformation and transportation.
The liver’s primary functions include the storage and filtration of blood and metabolic activities, including the metabolism of hormones. Chinese Medicine states that the liver is also responsible for the smooth flow and distribution of blood throughout the body.
The liver function of storing blood has a marked influence on menstruation. If the liver stores blood normally, menstruation will be normal. If liver blood is deficient there will be amenorrhoea, (absence of a menstrual cycle). If the blood of the liver is excess or hot there may be menorrhagia (heavy or long menstrual cycle).
The liver’s function of storing blood is very important in women’s physiology and pathology. Many gynaecological problems are due to liver blood disturbances. The emotion associated with the liver system is anger. Long periods of unresolved anger or resentment frustrate liver function leading to liver disharmonies.
The Liver is like an army’s general from whom the strategy is derived. Its main functions are to store blood, control sinews, and control the smooth flow of blood and Qi around the body.
The kidney’s primary function is the storage of essence, governing birth and growth, reproduction and development. The essence of the kidneys is a precious substance, which is inherited from the parents and also partly replenished by the Qi extracted from nutritious foods. This essence after birth controls growth, sexual maturation, fertility and development. It is also the basis of sexual life and the material foundation for sperm in men and the ova in women.
The kidney essence controls the various stages of change in life, i.e. birth, puberty, menopause, and depletion in death. All health practises such as yoga, tai chi, and healthy diet replenish essence. Over work, stress, poor diet, and excessive sexual activity are poor lifestyle choices that weaken the kidney essence.
The emotion associated with the kidney is fear and anxiety. Long standing fear and anxiety (fight or flight syndrome) weakens the adrenal complex and therefore depletes kidney essence.
The kidneys are referred to as the root of life, as they govern water, control life cycles, sexual behaviour, and fertility in both sexes. Our willpower in life is derived from the kidneys.
ACUPUNCTURE AND CHINESE HERBS
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can influence and stimulate hormonal pathway production and correct subtle imbalances. Some of the areas that Chinese Medicine can assist women are:
Premenstrual moodiness, breast tenderness, headaches, and digestives issues all respond very quickly to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, with the added benefit of no side effects. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have proven to be beneficial with correcting irregular cycles.
Most perimenopausal women suffer with hot flashes and night sweats, moodiness and insomnia. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have proven to be very beneficial with easing these symptoms.
Studies have shown that women who are struggling with fertility have similar stress levels as cancer patients. There are many pathways women may take to fall pregnant, but once the underlying imbalances are corrected then the body responds relatively quickly. The usual success rate with IVF alone is one in four. According to researchers from the University of Newcastle (Australia), studies concluded that having acupuncture on the same or next day as IVF transfer yielded best results. Almost 40% of women treated this way fell pregnant. Acupuncture sessions increased blood flow to the uterus and helped in balancing hormones that are vital for conception.
Specialised studies have shown that acupuncture alone can be beneficial with the discomforts associated with pregnancy, such as morning sickness, heartburn, lower back pain, constipation, and fatigue. Acupuncture is a safe, natural and effective therapy for common complaints of pregnancy. The American journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has reported that no adverse outcomes arise from the use of acupuncture and in some cases may be more beneficial than conventional drug treatments.
If you suffer with any of the above then Chinese medicine may be of assistance as a safe and natural alternative to conventional drug therapy. Periodic check ups are also beneficial with detecting imbalances before they manifest.