Amy Malone RN LAc DiplOM
Balance your Cycle This Spring
Spring is a great time to check in with your menstrual health - well if you ask me, anytime is a good time to check in with your menstrual cycle, but spring is special, and here's why. In TCM spring is ruled by the Liver, do you know what else is ruled by the Liver? Your menstrual cycle! What does it mean to say that your period is "ruled" by the Liver?
To understand the role of the liver in the menstrual cycle, let's first look at the roles of the liver overall. Understanding the TCM role of the liver as an organ and energetic system of influence can help queue you in when there is an imbalance or disharmony in this system. In general, the liver is regulating, harmonizes, and balances. TCM theory tells us these things: The liver stores the blood, the liver is in charge of the smooth flow of qi throughout the body, and the liver houses the ethereal soul.
The liver stores the blood - this means that it regulates the volume of the blood in the whole body at any point. It has an influence on the volume of blood in the uterus and the flow of blood into and out of the uterus. It helps dictate where the volume of blood is directed. If liver blood is deficient, periods may be scanty or absent. If liver blood is excessive or carrying heat from inflammation, periods may be heavy, and if the blood of the liver is stagnant, there may be pain associated with the period or they may be late. This function of regulating the volume of blood directly correlates to sleepfulness and energy levels too. Misdirection of liver blood can cause restless sleep or daytime fatigue.
The liver ensures the smooth flow of qi or energy throughout the body - This is one of the most important roles of the liver in TCM. If the qi of the liver becomes stagnant, the smooth flow of other organ systems can be impeded. This may result in not only painful periods but increased symptoms of PMS such as breast tenderness, facial acne, irritability, or anger. This also affects digestion, which in turn can cause premenstrual or menstrual digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea as well as impact the regulation of your reproductive hormones. For example, in TCM, the smooth flow of bile, regulated by the liver, is essential for the digestion of fats needed for the production and regulation of hormones. If the qi of the liver is depressed, the menstrual cycle make come at irregular intervals.
The liver houses the ethereal soul - In TCM the liver is connected to anger and irritability. This is partly related to its role of ensuring the smooth flow of qi but also to its housing of the ethereal soul. The ethereal soul influences how we plan our life or find a sense of direction. If liver blood is deficient, the ethereal soul cannot root into the body and there may be insomnia. This can be exacerbated during your period due to blood lost. It is important to support the body in regenerating the blood lost during the period to help ensure stability in sleep patterns and your sense of direction in life.
So what should you do to regulate your liver as it relates to your menstrual cycle? First and foremost, getting acupuncture and discussing this with your provider so they can key you into any specific liver patterns you may be presenting with and give you a personalized treatment plan. But here are some options for helping with menstrual cycle regulation and liver support.
Meditation - or other forms of stress relief. When we are under stress, the liver gets unhappy, angry, and stagnant. Finding ways to moderate stress helps to reduce stagnation in the liver, and supports smooth and free flow which in turn supports the smooth and free flow of your period. If meditation feels intimidating, try closing your eyes and breathing in for a count of 4, holding for a count of 7, and out for a count of 8 for 5 minutes a day.
Sour foods - Sour is the flavor associated with the liver and can be helpful in supporting healthy liver detoxification pathways. Sour foods also stimulate the release of digestive enzymes and bile so that fats can be properly digested, which helps support the liver and the production of hormones.
Adequate sleep - Go to bed so that you're asleep between 1-3 - this is the peak time for the body to make fresh blood and for the liver to clean the blood. If you are waking during these hours, it could be a sign of liver stagnation from stress.
Stretching and yoga - since the liver controls the sinews and liver blood is responsible for moisturizing them, stretching and gentle movement can help relieve tension in connective tissue and promote smooth liver qi and blood flow.
Acupressure - Firm circular pressure on Liver 3 and Spleen 6 helps to harmonize and support the liver. They are also both great points to use for relieving menstrual cycle pain. Apply acupressure to these points for 1-2 minutes a few times per day.
Spleen 6 is located on the inside of the ankle, about the width of three fingers up from the ankle bone.
Liver 3 is on the top of the foot between the first and
There are many reasons why you have menstrual cycle irregularities, but the liver can play a big role in them. Take some time this spring to check in with yourself and your period health.