Decoding Your Period through the Lens of Chinese Medicine, Part 1: Color
In Chinese medicine observing the patterns, fluctuations and shifts in your monthly cycle has long been regarded as a reliable indicator of overall health. The color and consistency of your flow, cycle length and regularity, discomforts associated with your bleed and even premenstrual symptoms provide insight into the complex and ever changing nature of your internal landscape. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about what the color and consistency of your flow might be telling you.
Let's start by defining a "normal" cycle from the Chinese medical perspective. Average cycle length falls between 26-32 days with 3-5 days of bleeding. The flow shouldn't be too heavy, so as to be difficult to manage, nor should it be too light; on average it should fill a regular sized tampon or pad every 2-6 hours during the heaviest days. Discomforts such as cramping, back pain, bloating and breast tenderness during or prior to your period are considered pathological and imply that there is likely some stagnation in the body.
Now that you know the basics, let's get back to color...
Fresh, red blood
Fresh red blood with a steady, even flow is considered normal. Think of the blood that you see if you get a paper cut, it should look like that.
Pale red/pink blood
Pale red/pink blood with a watery consistency is indicative of deficient Spleen Qi and/or blood deficiency.
In Chinese medicine the Spleen is associated with the digestive system and is responsible for turning nutrients from food into Qi and blood. A spleen that is deficient is unable to properly produce an abundant amount of blood which is needed to support a proper period. Some other symptoms associated with Spleen Qi deficiency may include fatigue, bloating, poor appetite and soft stools.
While, blood deficiency can be the result of a deficient Spleen, diet and eating habits, overexercise, excessive work, strong emotions and blood loss due to heavy menstruation or childbirth are also common catalysts. Along with pale, watery periods, some other symptoms of blood deficiency can include pale lips, pale nail beds, dizziness, hair loss, dry skin, inability to focus and poor memory.
Bright, crimson red blood
Bright crimson red blood with a viscous texture can be a sign of too much heat in the body. If your basal body temperature is too high in the first half of your cycle, often the blood will reflect that by showing a vivid red hue. Keep an eye out for an elevated temperature, excess thirst, yellow vaginal discharge or pelvic pain which are all signs that you should see a medical doctor.
Dark red blood
Dark red blood, sometimes with small clots, can be an indication of Liver Qi stagnation. When the Liver is stagnant, the smooth flow of Qi is obstructed which can lead to slow blood circulation in the uterus and contraction of the smooth muscle leading to cramping. Other signs of Liver Qi stagnation include breast tenderness, irritability or moodiness, headaches and irregular periods.
Dark reddish-purple blood
Dark reddish-purple blood with clots and/or a gelatinous texture points to blood stasis in the uterus. Often this type of flow is accompanied by sharp, stabbing pain (sometimes relieved after passing a clot) and is frequently seen in those with endometriosis or fibroids. Large clots imply that the stasis has been present for a long period of time.
The color of your period is just one sign that can be used to learn about what may be going on inside your body. Each of our bodies has a story and our history, constitution and lifestyles have the power to shape and redirect that story. If you are struggling with difficult periods or are simply wondering what your period is saying about your overall health, an acupuncturist can help guide you towards a deeper connection to your cycle and yourself.