I was listening to other podcasts as I often do, and one happened to be about the basics of TCM diagnosis. It dawned on me that I have yet to demystify this system of medicine that I love so much. Today’s podcast is my attempt to explain some basic diagnostic terms in TCM, especially how they relate to your menstrual cycle and your fertility.
I believe that symptoms are God’s gift when it comes to figuring out what exactly is going on in your body. This reigns especially true when it comes to trying to figure out what exactly is happening internally when it comes to your fertility. If you’ve noticed subtle changes in your menstrual cycle in regards to timing, length or amount of bleeding and have wondered if this effects your fertility or how to rebalance it, this episode is for you. If you’ve ever had acupuncture and wondered what the heck your practitioner was referring to when they mentioned you had Kidney Yin Deficiency or Liver Qi stagnation, this episode is also for you. If you have considered getting acupuncture, but never really understood how it could help your fertility, this episode is for you. If you just want to know what your BBT or AVA charts mean through a lease of TCM and what to do about it, this episode is definitely for you.
The Eight Principles (辩证) are:
1. Yin: Yin, along with Yang, is the most general classification for pattern diagnosis and it describes the relationship between the other three pairs of the Principles. Generally speaking, Yin is Cold and the fluids of the body.
2. Yang: Yang, along with Yin is used to describe the relationship between the other three pairs of the Principles. For example, Heat is Yang or the energy / Qi of the body.
3. Interior: Interior describes diseases that manifest themselves in the Zang-fu organs or deep inside the body, such as Qi, blood, and bone marrow. In menstrual terms, this may mean scanty menses, late menarche, or erratic cycles in general.
4. Exterior: Exterior describes diseases that manifest themselves on surface of the body, such hair, skin, nails, and meridians. In menstrual terms, this may mean the symptoms of external pathogen that has invaded the body, like an STD that presents with a rash.
5. Heat: Heat describes the absence of an aversion to Cold. In menstrual terms, it can mean BBTs above 98.2, high temps above 97.2 in the follicular phase that provoke early ovulation, or cramps that do not respond to a heating pad.
6. Cold: Cold describes an aversion to Cold. In menstrual terms, we see it as low BBT temps, dark blood with pain, or menstrual cramping that responds to a heating pad.
7. Deficiency: Deficiency is used to describe a vacuity in Qi, blood (Xue) or body fluids (Jinye). In menstrual health we see it as cramping that gets worse as the period goes on, low temps on a BBT, short luteal cycles meaning Kidney Yang Deficiency or short follicular cycles meaning Kidney Yin Deficiency.
8. Excess: Excess is generally classified as any disease that can't be identified as a Deficiency pattern. Usually, it means that one of the Six Excesses is present. In menstrual health we may see it is as STD, yeast infections, bacterial infections, growths (like fibroids), certain types of PCOS that involve the concept of phlegm and dampness, or even in certain presentations of endometriosis.
It’s important to decipher if an imbalance is truly excess or deficiency because it will often mean completely different herbal preparations to balance the body.
After a basic diagnosis of the diseases is given via the Eight Principles, the diagnostic continues and focuses on more specific conditions. After evaluating the present symptoms, a person’s condition is further evaluated as to how the specific entities (Qi, meridians, Zang-fu, etc.) are affected. This where we start to get into concepts like stagnation. You may hear about blood stasis or Liver Qi stagnation, where flow is disrupted. We still have to use the above pillars to decide if it stagnated due to deficiency or excess, but knowing what organ it is affecting by asking questions helps us to target the herbal formula to a greater degree and ensure the system is balanced.
Causes of Imbalances
Traditional Chinese Medicine does not strongly differentiate between the cause and effect of a disease. However, there are three major categories that are considered to give rise to disease. The three major categories of disease causes are:
1. External: Disease caused by the Six Excesses. These have to do with the environment in which we live, too much cold, too hot of environment, too damp of an environment, too dry of environment. For example; I reside in South Florida and it’s currently August at the time of this taping. It isn’t just hot out, it’s downright slimy. For a male that has worked outside all day, he might be exposing himself to super high temperatures all day long and that could drastically affect his quality and count of sperm.
2. Internal: Disease caused the by Seven Emotions or Seven Affects: Anger, Fear, Anxiety, Fright, Grief, Pensiveness, and Joy. These are said to affect the Zang-fuorgans. Constant high stress without a constant relaxation response have been shown to negatively impact sperm and egg health as well as ovulation.
3. Other Irregularities: Disease caused by something that is neither external nor internal, such as having unbalanced diet, damage done by parasites or in this day & age- toxins. In modern day you could think of this as the quality of the food we eat, and what toxins we are exposed to including those we slather on our skin in our beauty products. This is often the one cause of imbalance that we have the most control over.
Timing Matters and How Do You Time a Cycle Anyways?
Ideally a menstrual cycle (from the start of one period to the next) is 28 days, the same as a lunar cycle. It's not uncommon for cycles to shift in accordance to new moons, full moons, changing time zones with travel, or with extreme stress or changes in diet, but when it comes to your fertility, the length can have a huge impact, in some cases it can decrease your chances of conceiving by up to 50%.
Length of your cycle as well as how long you bleed for equally matter but for different reasons.
Three main consequences of shorter cycles include lower egg quality, inability to sustain a pregnancy, and early ovulation.
Most couples are shocked when they have a miscarriage. They are often even more shocked when they find out the chances of having one for any healthy couple is 30%. The good news is, that by simply tracking your basal body temperatures and waiting to conceive the following cycle after a "healthy" one is detected you can drop your chances of miscarriage to less than 5%.
* healthy cycle means having an average of 97.2 BBT in the follicular stage of the cycle and an average of 98.2 BBT in the luteal cycle, with a mid-cycle ovulation and a luteal phase lasting at least 10 days.
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Links to take you further
Episode about Cervical Mucus
You must not rely on the information in this podcast as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website or in this podcast.