An infradian rhythm is a biological cycle that lasts longer than 24 hours. In the context of women’s health, it specifically refers to the menstrual cycle. Spanning an average of 28 days, this intricate rhythm governs a series of hormonal changes within the female body, influencing not only reproductive processes, but also various aspects of physical and mental wellbeing.
Understanding the infradian rhythm isn’t merely about tracking period dates or fertility windows. It’s about gauging the subtle shifts in hormone levels, energy, mood, and more. As ancient Chinese philosophy suggests, Yin and Yang are opposing yet complementary forces, essential for maintaining vibrant health. The infradian rhythm embodies this balance, with each phase requiring attention to Yin and Yang to different degrees.
Many women wonder, what are the lifestyle factors affecting the menstrual cycle? What are the best habits I should cultivate during my period? Aligning daily routines with the infradian rhythm can enhance overall wellbeing. Whether it’s adjusting workout intensity, modifying dietary choices, or being careful of what you wear, these small yet significant changes can lead to improved physical health, emotional balance, and cognitive performance.
tl;drtl;dr Too long; didn't read. A quick summary for those pressed for time.
- Your infradian rhythm (menstrual cycle) influences your overall wellbeing.
- Understanding Yin and Yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine is key to unlocking the secrets of your menstrual cycle.
- Adjust your exercise routine based on each phase of your menstrual cycle – go hard during the follicular phase and ovulation, take it easier during the luteal and menstrual phases.
- Nourish your body with the right foods at the right time. Warming foods during the luteal and menstrual phases, Yin and Blood building foods during the follicular phase and Qi-moving foods around ovulation.
- Keeping warm, especially your midriff and especially during the luteal and menstrual phases, is crucial for maintaining good health.
- Acupuncture can be a game-changer for regulating your infradian rhythm. Click here to sign up for our free online questionnaire. A practitioner will review it and let you know if we can help.
- Understanding Yin and Yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
- The Four Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
- Balancing Yin and Yang through Movement
- Dietary Recommendations According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
- What You Wear
- The Role of Acupuncture in Regulating the Infradian Rhythm
Understanding Yin and Yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
When diving into the fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we encounter two key concepts: Yin and Yang. These terms aren’t just abstract ideas; they play a significant role in understanding the female body and the infradian rhythm, which is a vital part of women’s health.
Yin and Yang: The Balancing Act
Yin and Yang represent opposing yet complementary forces that exist in all aspects of life and the universe. Yin is considered dark, passive, cold, and feminine, while Yang is viewed as bright, active, warm, and masculine. In the context of the female body, Yin is associated with nourishment and rest, whereas Yang is linked to activity and transformation.
A harmonious balance between Yin and Yang is crucial for maintaining good health. For instance, when Yang is plentiful we can indulge in high-energy activities such as dancing, while in parts of the cycle when the body is already using more Yang for its physiological processes, it is better to choose calming, restful activities such as meditation or gentle yoga.
The Four Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
Understanding the four phases of the menstrual cycle is central to comprehending how to maintain optimal health as a woman. Each phase plays a crucial role and is regulated by different hormones, with a direct influence on a woman’s energy levels, mood, and overall health.
Menstruation is the first part of the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. If no fertilization occurs during the preceding cycle, the thickened uterine lining sheds, resulting in menstrual bleeding. This phase marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next, with Yin energy starting to rise to prepare the body for the new cycle.
The Follicular Phase
The follicular phase starts on the first day of menstruation and ends at ovulation. During this time, the pituitary gland releases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which influences the ovaries to produce around five to 20 follicles. Each of these follicles contains an immature egg. Typically, only one follicle will mature into an egg, while the others dissolve. From a TCM perspective, this phase requires a lot of Blood and Yin, representing nourishment to grow the egg.
Ovulation is the next phase and occurs roughly in the middle of the cycle, usually around day 14 in a 28-day cycle. Triggered by a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), the dominant follicle releases a mature egg that travels down the fallopian tubes, ready to be fertilized. At this stage, the need for Yin energy has peaked and the body transitions into requiring more Yang. Qi must be flowing smoothly to promote ovulation.
The Luteal Phase
The luteal phase begins after ovulation and lasts until the start of menstruation. The ruptured follicle transforms into a structure known as the corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone to thicken the uterine lining for potential implantation of a fertilized egg. If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum degenerates, leading to a decrease in progesterone and the start of menstruation. This phase is characterized by an increased need for Yang to warm the womb to support a potential pregnancy.
In essence, the menstrual cycle is a delicate interplay of hormones and TCM energies. Understanding these phases and their corresponding energies can provide valuable insights into managing menstrual health and overall well-being more effectively.
Balancing Yin and Yang through Movement
In the dance of the infradian rhythm, movement plays a key role. Just as the rhythm varies throughout the menstrual cycle, so too should our levels of physical exertion. During the follicular and menstrual phases of the cycle, when the body requires mostly Yin, we have quite plentiful Yang relative to the latter part of the cycle and can afford to use more of it to engage in vigorous activities. Conversely, during the luteal phase, when the body requires mainly Yang to warm the uterus, we cannot afford to expend Yang unnecessarily, so rest and relaxation are more beneficial.
How to Exercise During the Menstrual Phase
During this phase you are losing blood and with it a certain amount of Qi, thus your energy levels may be flagging. However, engaging in physical activity has immense advantages when it comes to keeping your Qi and Blood flowing, and may even reduce PMS symptoms.
Go easy on yourself during this phase, choosing gentler exercise options such as walking, yoga, or tai chi. These exercises help to stimulate blood flow and reduce cramping. You may choose to engage in low-intensity cardio or a light weights workout, but it’s important to listen to your body. Do not push yourself too hard during this time.
How to Exercise During the Follicular Phase
During the follicular phase, when Yin is busy nourishing the egg, you are free to use your Yang to push yourself a bit harder physically. Engaging in more vigorous activities during this phase can help to increase blood flow to nourish the growing egg, boost energy levels, and promote overall well-being. Activities such as running, cycling, HIIT workouts, or strength training can be beneficial during this time. As always though, it’s important to listen to your body and not overexert yourself. Pay attention to any signs of fatigue or discomfort and adjust your intensity accordingly. Especially avoid pushing yourself to the point of excessive perspiration, which could deplete your Yin, leaving less available to nourish the growing egg.
How to Exercise During the Ovulation Phase
During the ovulation phase, the body transitions from needing mainly Yin to requiring more Yang. It is also crucial at this point of the cycle that Qi be flowing well so that ovulation occurs smoothly. This is the ideal time to focus on activities that promote the flow of Qi. Moderate to high-intensity exercises similar to those from the follicular phase can be beneficial during this phase.
How to Exercise During the Luteal Phase
During the luteal phase, the body requires more Yang energy to warm the uterus. This is a natural part of the cycle, regardless of whether or not you are trying to conceive. Hence to maintain good health, it’s important to conserve energy during this time and avoid excessive physical exertion. Gentle exercises that focus on stretching, flexibility, and relaxation, such as gentle yoga or swimming, are recommended during this phase. Listening to your body and prioritizing rest and self-care is crucial during the luteal phase.
Dietary Recommendations According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
TCM also has guidance for eating according to the phases of the menstrual cycle. In TCM, the menstrual cycle is seen as a reflection of the balance of Yin and Yang energies in the body, and the food you eat can either support or disrupt this balance.
During the follicular phase, foods that nourish the Blood and Yin, such as dark leafy greens, beetroot, kidney beans, and blackberries are recommended. As you transition into ovulation, foods that support the Liver Qi like lemons, limes, and plums can help with the smooth flow of energy.
In the luteal phase, it’s advisable to incorporate foods that support the spleen and stomach, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and oats, which can aid in nutrient absorption and nourish Qi. More importantly though, warming foods like ginger, cinnamon, and soups are beneficial to warm the uterus.
During the menstrual phase, a combination of Blood/Yin nourishing foods as in the follicular phase and warming foods as in the luteal phase will help replenish lost Blood and warm the body to keep Blood flowing smoothly.
During your period it is also important to avoid cold and raw foods, as they can create blood stagnation and prevent the effective shedding of the uterine lining. Some examples of foods considered cold in Chinese medicine are watermelon, cucumber, mint, seaweed, lotus root, bitter melon, mung beans and coconut. Of course, foods which are physically cold such as ice cream and chilled drinks should be avoided too.
What You Wear
In general, but especially during the luteal and menstrual phases when keeping warm is particularly important, clothing that bares your midriff should be avoided.
In TCM, the Kidneys are considered to be the “Root of Life” and are responsible for storing Jing, which is the totality of Yin and Yang. Exposing the kidney area to cold temperatures may cause the Kidney energy to contract and constrict, leading to a potential depletion of Jing. In TCM, we believe that protecting the Kidney area from cold and maintaining warmth in this region is important for preserving and nurturing Jing. This can be accomplished by wearing warm clothing, especially on the lower back and abdomen, and avoiding prolonged exposure to cold environments.
The Role of Acupuncture in Regulating the Infradian Rhythm
Acupuncture and the Infradian Rhythm
Acupuncture, a key component of TCM, can play a significant role in regulating the infradian rhythm. Acupuncture helps normalize blood flow, which is crucial for a regular and healthy menstrual cycle. Many women who experience cramping, headaches, clotting, or mood swings associated with their menstrual cycle may find relief through acupuncture treatments.
Acupuncture’s Effect on Hormonal Balance
Acupuncture doesn’t just alleviate physical symptoms; it also helps balance hormones. Acupuncture can promote ovulation by increasing blood flow to the ovaries. This increased blood circulation supports the maturation of a healthy egg. Furthermore, it may promote the surge of Luteinising Hormone (LH), which triggers the release of the egg from the dominant follicle on the ovary. Thus, acupuncture can potentially support the hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle’s various phases.
Potential Benefits for Menstrual Health
Acupuncture can also address a range of menstrual irregularities, whether concerning cycle length, bleeding volume, or accompanying symptoms like abdominal pain and mood changes. As highlighted in a paper published in the International Journal of Women’s Health, TCM provides treatment approaches for these issues. An improvement in one aspect of menstruation, such as dysmenorrhea (painful periods), will positively influence other aspects and the overall menstrual function. Incorporating acupuncture into routine healthcare could offer a holistic strategy to optimize menstrual health and fertility. Its role in TCM and its potential to enhance women’s health make it a worthy consideration for anyone seeking to understand and nurture their infradian rhythm.