What can we learn from the colour of our period?
If you’ve had a treatment with me I’ve asked you extensively about the length, colour and consistency of your period. And that’s because it can provide a wealth of information about your hormones and the health of your body as a whole.
From a Chinese medicine perspective it can indicate an imbalance of yin and yang in the body which if left untreated can potentially lead to a pathological conditions.
First of all…What’s Normal/Healthy?
A ‘normal’/healthy menstrual cycle comes ideally every 28 days (or can range from 26 to 35 days), no spotting beforehand, no cramps, no clots, is crimson red in colour with a smooth consistent flow, usually lasting from 3 to 5 days. You mostly will need to change your pad or tampon every 3-4 hours. The menstrual flow shouldn’t start and then stop and start again.
A healthy period is free from strong cramps, PMS symptoms such as headaches, bloating and breast tenderness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms they are usually an indication of stagnation or deficiency within your body.
What does the colour of your period mean?
Light or pink blood indicates Spleen qi, blood or yang deficiency in Chinese medicine. This colour can be a type of spotting before your period (indicating less than optimal progesterone levels) or the colour of your entire period. It tends to be a light watery consistency. The spleen is responsible for the transformation and transportation of food into energy (qi) and blood. If it is weak then it is unable to produce enough blood. Other symptoms may include a feeling of heaviness, fatigue, bloating, loose bowel movements and legs cramps around your period. I often see this in patients with luteal phase defect, iron deficiency or extremely low levels of oestrogen.
Bright red blood is a sign of heat in the body. This can be due to yin deficiency. I commonly see this with my perimenopausal patients and those with a shorter menstrual cycle (less than 24 days). Acupuncture and herbs are wonderful for cases like this. However, it may indicate a serious infection if accompanied by other symptoms such as severe pelvic pain, fever, foul-smelling discharge, mucous-like blood (thick consistency). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to see your doctor immediately.
Dark red blood with clots usually indicates liver qi stagnation. In Chinese medicine, when there is blockage of Qi(energy) and blood, we look to the liver as the culprit. The liver is in charge of moving Qi and blood throughout the body. When there is a lack of free flow, this shows that you have some degree of liver congestion and you may also be experiencing cramps, headaches, breast pain and emotional fluctuations. The liver is easily affected by stress and changes to your period may be more evident during stressful months. Techniques to improve blood flow to the uterus (acupuncture, herbs, massage) are helpful in this case along with lifestyle changes to reduce stress.
Dark blood with a purple tone and large clots tells us there is blood stasis in the uterus. Sometimes there is dark spotting before and after a cycle (indicating blood flow to the uterus is less than ideal). Liver congestion leads to blood stasis over time if left untreated. You may experience other symptoms including heavy flow and very intense sharp, stabbing cramps. This can include conditions like endometriosis and fibroids and it’s important to speak with a health care practitioner to address your symptoms. My favourite tools are acupuncture, herbs and lifestyle medicine of course.
If you experience any of these symptoms, Chinese medicine can be especially effective at providing relief.
Treatment includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in addition to supporting you in implementing diet and lifestyle changes. These allow for simple powerful tweaks to shift the body back into balance. To be conservative, usually about 3 to 6 months of treatment is needed. However, some women have noticed the changes to their flow immediately. The simplest changes in your diet and lifestyle can greatly benefit your menstrual cycle and overall health.
So whether you are deficient in blood, have too much heat in the blood or have blocked stuck blood, there’s plenty that you can do about it! See an acupuncturist for a full evaluation of your menstrual health and how Chinese medicine can help.