PCircadian rhythm regulates the hormones and our hormones affect more than our reproductive system.
Sleep is not given enough of a priority these days. It’s not just sleep, but what time we go to sleep that matters..
Many of us spend too long on the computer at night and don't get to bed til 11 or 12. Both short and long term lack of sleep, and disruption to our circadian rhythm is incredibly detrimental, and it affects every system of the body.
Circadian Rhythm, is essentially the term given to our natural biological clock. Animals and plants have one too. We are all tied in to the rhythm of nature, the rising and going down of the sun. In TCM, you should go to bed with the sun and get up with the sun, in order to help live a healthy balanced life. Western thinking and science also recognizes this and has analyzed why this is so.
Light has an effect on the body, and diminishing light, as the sun goes down, is a signal to the body, and it releases melatonin, the sleep hormone. Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. This is the yin, and serotonin is the yang. It helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body's circadian rhythm. When it is dark, your body produces more melatonin; when it is light, the production of melatonin drops. Being exposed to bright lights in the evening or too little light during the day can disrupt the normal feedback mechanism of the endocrine system and the melatonin/serotonin levels. This is why jet lag and shift work disrupt the endocrine system..
Basically, Circadian Rhythm regulates everything in the body. It is our innate mechanism for balancing our yin and yang and it is driven by light and dark.
If our hormones are out of whack, a whole range of illnesses can occur; insomnia, depression, bi-polar disorders, psychological problems, mood swings, cardiac arrhythmia, blood pressure problems, menstrual irregularities, hearing and sight problems, constipation, digestive problems, weight gain/loss, poor immunity... etc.
Sleep is vital and it is best to try to get off the computer and get into bed before the sun goes down. Here's a great link to explain more...
*Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash (thank you!)
So Channel your inner Nona!
If you are trying to conceive, or not, you need to eat up during your menstrual and follicular phase of your cycle. If its winter or you live in a cold climate, focus on warm, slow-cooked meals in this phase (not spicy though.. in these two phases, we are primarily nourishing yin). If the climate is warm, some quick stir-fry meals are great... fresh veg, ginger and garlic and some fish, chicken or beef. If you are vegan or vegetarian, increase things like beetroot, leafy greens, mild curries with root veg. Ginger helps 'move blood', so it can help during the menstrual phase, but ease up on the ginger if you think you have conceived and are in the early stages of pregnancy. Also, its yang in nature, so eat it mostly in the morning.
So much more to come on this, stay tuned because I'll update this post this week with some general dietary guidelines.
Here's a couple of recipes to look at. Congee is good for the spleen and stomach and helps build qi and blood, which is great if you have been ill, run down, or you're recovering from childbirth.
We're also developing a preconception dietary program, with recipes and lifestyle tips. We might do this as a webinar series and actually get in the kitchen with a chef!
Day one of your menstrual cycle begins on the first day of menstruation, the first day you bleed.
In a healthy, regular Menstrual cycle, there are four main phases, which should fall on these days:
1) Menstrual phase (From day 1 to 5)
2) Follicular phase (From day 1 to 13)
3) Ovulation phase (Day 14)
4) Luteal phase (From day 15 to 28)
In TCM terms, the cycle can be generally divided into yin phase ( menstrual and follicular) or yang phase (ovulation and luteal).
great link/reference: https://menstrupedia.com/articles/physiology/cycle-phases
Not many women these days have a regular cycle or a regular flow. This can be for many reasons and the treatment principle, (or approach) for the practitioner, depends on the individual diagnosis for each patient.
Some women may present with the primary issue of pain through the menstrual phase. This could be from cold in the uterus, liver qi stagnation, blood deficiency, kidney deficiency, or a combination of all of these.
For others, they may have a 'short cycle', get moody around day 21, and bleed day 24. This is usually due to kidney yang deficiency, often bought on by stress, overwork, improper diet or lifestyle. These women may also notice more weight-gain around the middle and their belly and buttocks are cold to the touch, compared to the upper body, (cold below, heat above).
Or you may get moody around ovulation, because the yang energy is too weak to rise and initiate the release of the egg. Everyone's cycle is different, with different issues.
TCM practitioners 'treat what they see', so treatment principles for each patient are slightly different when it comes to regulating the cycle. If you are trying to conceive (TTC), we start with regulating the timing and flow of the cycle, removing stagnation and strengthening where there is deficiency.
We usually allow 3 months of acupuncture and herbs to regulate the cycle. We tend to see women mostly in the first part of the cycle, during the menstrual and follicular phase, then once again at ovulation (day 11-13) and at day 21.
This is the same for those TTC with natural conception or prior to an IVF stim cycle or frozen transfer.
We do not herbs during an IVF stim cycle because of possible interactions. We tend to stick to acupuncture and dietary therapy during IVF stim cyles.
Treatment Principles during phases:
1) menstual phase: Nourish and move blood, clear heat
2) Follicular phase: Nourish kidney yin, blood (and yang)
3) Ovulation phase: Move qi and blood, warm and strengthen yang
4) Luteal phase: Strengthen yang
The dietary therapy focus changes throughout the cycle, as do your herbal formulas. e.g. More nourishing foods when you are loosing blood and more warming spices in the yang phase. This can further be broken down into time of the day... more warming pungent foods for breakfast when yang energy is rising, moving outward and cooler foods at night when the energy is descending and moving inward.
Your herbs at the follicular phase are quite different to those in the luteal phase because the Treatment Principle is different.
Lifestyle advice is generally around circadian rhythm and living more in balance... early to bed, no social media after 7pm, go to bed with the sun, get up with the sun.
Dr Jacqui Stocks