What causes period pains?
When the flow of blood and qi (vital energy) gets blocked or obstructed during menstruation, it can lead to pain, bloating and nausea. To treat these symptoms, TCM aims to restore and stimulate proper circulation and regulate qi flow. In addition, it might be necessary to warm the spleen and stomach to dispel cold. These parts of the body work together to turn food into qi and blood. A weak spleen can cause a blood deficiency during menstruation. In addition, blood is a yin (cold) substance, so during your period, you’re more likely to experience “coldness” (a lack of yang—or warmth) in your pelvic area. This can cause your blood and qi to stagnate, leading to cramps.
Another organ to pay attention to is the kidney. According to TCM, menstrual blood is made from from blood and jing (essence) stored in the kidney. In addition to cramps, signs of a kidney deficiency include a sore back and a spotty or low-volume period flow.
Dietary suggestions for period pains
Avoid cold and raw foods
In the days before and during your period, avoid extremely cold or raw foods like ice cream, iced drinks, and sushi. These foods are overly yin in nature, slowing down blood in the uterus. Instead, try to eat and drink warm and cooked foods.
Eat grains, cereals and tubers
Foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes and yams can help strengthen the body’s production of blood and qi.
Peaches: This fruit is warming in nature and improves blood circulation and energy, which helps to get rid of the blood stagnation that leads to period cramps.
Peach seed: Peach kernel is said to promote menstrual flow, and is often prescribed for women with weak or missed periods. Powdered peach seeds can be found in Chinese herbal shops. To easiest way to take powdered peach seed is to add it to boiling water and drink it as a tea.
Ginger: Ginger is known to warm the body, nourish the spleen and dispel dampness. Some ginger tea with a dash of brown sugar is a common remedy for period pains.
Safflower: A cup of safflower tea can help to invigorate blood, ensuring a smooth and painless menses. Safflower contains anticoagulant compounds, so it should not be taken along with blood thinners.
Other tips to keep in mind during your period
Keep your belly warm
This prevents cold from invading your stomach and spleen. Also make sure to wear appropriately warm clothing during your period, and consider using a hot water bottle.
Keep your feet warm
If you have cold floors and tend to walk around barefoot at home, put on a pair of socks or slippers. The foot contains a number of points, called “meridians,” that are connected to different organs in your body. Wearing cozy socks or slippers promotes circulation and prevents yin energy from entering your body through your feet.
Stay out of the wind and rain
Keeping the wind and damp out of your body is especially important during your period. If you have to be out during windy or rainy weather, make sure to bring an umbrella and wear a warm jacket.