Qi, Blood, Yin, Yang and winter warming in menstrual health and fertility.
The Chinese medicine concepts of Qi blood, yin and yang are really helpful to understanding hormones, menstrual cycles and for identifying the root of fertility issues. Ideally your menstrual cycle should be 28-30 days in length with good mid cycle fertile mucus, very little pain or discomfort or mood changes and four days of menstrual flow changing a pad approx. 4 hourly – no clotting, no spotting. When there are deficiencies of Qi, Blood, Yin or Yang or any stagnation (stuckness) in the body things go out of balance.
Qi is essentially just energy, it's ATP, the basic cellular energy your body needs to generate heat, move, repair and thrive. Most people can relate to Qi especially if you think of it as generally feeling energetic (or not). We all have a finite amount of energy (Qi) which we need to both build on and conserve for optimizing fertility. When we over tax our Qi, things go pear shaped often effecting the menstrual cycle as reproduction requires an abundance of energy.
Blood is similar. There is a Chinese saying that you need to be blood rich in order to be fertile. Blood is essentially a measure of the circulating nutrition available to our body. When food is broken down, the nutrients need to be distributed to muscles and organs and this happens through the blood. This means that it's not just what you eat, but what you can digest, that matters. Warm, cooked food especially in winter is easier on the digestive system and helps to build blood.
Yin and yang play a role in the balancing of hormones for general health and fertility. Oestrogen and fertile mucus are representations of yin (cool)energy and progesterone and raised FSH are yang (warm). If you look at the energetic effects of any hormone or drug, it is possible to place them in yin or yang categories. Temperature charting throughout the menstrual cycle is the quintessential way to pinpoint imbalances in Yin, Yang, Qi and blood and provides a template for what needs to be strengthened.
In cooler winter weather it is a time to accumulate and deeply nourish (verses detoxing and cleansing in the spring and summer), especially if you are someone who tends to feel the cold or not be very energetic. Incorporating soups, bone broths, baked vegetables, brown rice, adzuki and black beans, slow cooked meat meals and warming spices such as cinnamon and ginger can be really helpful at this time of year. Also avoiding cool foods such as raw salads, to much fruit, cold yogurt and cold drinks (especially in the week before your period). Keeping your feet and lower back warm is also helpful for healthy hormones. Hopefully, this is a starting point to adding some winter warmth into your body especially for those that really feel the cold ( Yang deficient types). For extra support the addition of herbs and acupuncture are a great way to balance your hormones this winter.