The Uterus from a Chinese medicine perspective
In TCM the uterus, Bao Gong, is not seen as an isolated organ, but includes the ovaries, the fallopian tubes and the cervix. It´s also called the “palace of the child”. The extraordinary vessels Ren Mai and Chong Mai go through the uterus. They help regulate menstruation, conception and pregnancy. As a result, the uterus has several functions such as: stores and excretes the menstrual blood; stores the kidney-essence “jing”; triggers ovulation; thickens the endometrium; receives the sperm and carries and supplies the embryo until birth.
The heart is closely connected to the uterus via the uterus vessel, Bao Mai. That´s why, mental-emotional problems have such a profound impact on the uterus. The kidneys connect to the uterus via the uterus channel Bao Luo. Above all, a proper functioning liver, heart and spleen supply the uterus with blood.
Cold invading the uterus
Cold in the uterus is a very common gynaecological pathology. In other words, kidney yang is lacking, and qi (yang = heat) is no longer able to move liquids (yin = blood). As a result, the blood cannot flow and circulate optimally.
Cold in the uterus often penetrates into the body from the outside. This can happen by:
- excessive consumption of cold foods (ice cream, raw food, ice-cold drinks, etc.)
- excessive sports in winter
- swimming, sitting on cold surfaces especially during menstruation
- feeling cold due to sparse clothing on the feet and lower legs
- having sex while menstruating
- live or work in a damp and cold environment
How Chinese medicine diagnoses a cold uterus
A cold uterus in Chinese medicine is diagnosed when three different patterns and signs simultaneously appear:
- the area below belly button feels cooler to the touch than the rest of the abdomen
- kidney-yang deficiency
The kidney-yang regulates, among other things: our inner fire, ensures that we are warm, gives us enough drive, preserves vitality and willpower.
Possible signs of kidney-yang deficiency are
- difficulty concentrating
- loss of joie de vivre and vitality up to depression
- lower back pain esp. before period
- pain relieved by application of heat
- chronic cold to ice-cold feet, esp. at night
- low libido
- feeling cold and aversion to cold
- regular urinating at night or in the early morning hours
- loose, urgent stools or diarrhea, esp. when period starts
- cramps during period that improve to a heating pad
- profuse vaginal discharge
- frequent urination
- low BBT readings
Blood stasis never arises independently (like e.g. liver-qi stagnation) but is always the consequence of other conditions and patterns, usually after a long period of time. Thus, there are no aetiological factors like diet, emotions, etc. that give rise to blood-stasis by themselves.
Possible signs of blood-stasis are
- painful periods with dark blood and large-dark clots
- dark circles under the eyes
- mid-cycle pain around your ovaries
- painful, unmovable lumps in breast or thyroid
- blood clots in menstruation blood
- veins under tongue are distended and / or dark
- irregular periods
- spider veins
- menstrual cramps with a pain that is fixed, boring, or stabbing in quality
- cherry-red spots on your skin (often on the upper body)
- hesitant start of the periods
- periods starts and stops
- period starting and ending with a brownish discharge
- tongue may have purple sides
Myomas / fibroids, endometriosis and PCOS all present with signs of blood stasis.
How blood stasis affects your period
In women, the lower abdomen contains the uterus which stores blood. As a result, women are much more prone to blood stasis than men. If blood stasis occurs the menstrual blood can contain blood clots, usually dark and large ones. Blood stasis often causes pain but not always. If there is pain, then it´s an intense, stabbing and fixed one.
What happens during menstruation? The uterus contracts to help expel its lining. In conclusion, if there is blood stagnation in the uterus, the blood is not flowing freely and this often leads to painful cramping. Furthermore, the congealed blood accumulates and forms blood clots.
How does the endometrium support nidation?
The anterior and posterior walls of the uterus contract like a closed fist that holds the embryo in one place until it is safely in its endometrial bed. This gentle pressure can be created by the uterus, if it is warm and not too dry or too moist.
If there are imbalances, as may be the case with women with kidney-yang deficiency the fluid is not properly absorbed. The surface of the endometrium is sometimes too slippery or, according to TCM, too “moist/damp” to provide support for the foetus.
General tips for warming your uterus
- Eat warm, easy-digestible and nourishing foods
- Avoid tropical fruits and too much raw food
- Cut out cold drinks and foods, esp. from the refrigerator
- Avoid alcohol and coffee
- Eat an antioxidants rich diet
- Exercise moderately
- Take hot baths
- Keep your feet, lower back and legs and abdomen always warm
- Don´t sit on cold surfaces or go for a swim while menstruating
How does Chinese medicine treat a cold uterus?
Chinese medicine gives diet recommendations for easy-to-digest, warming and blood invigorating foods. In addition, herbs for strengthening kidney-yang, expelling cold in the uterus and invigorating blood are given. Furthermore, acupuncture is used to strengthen the Qi to support the movement of blood, treating the underlying imbalance and nourishing the kidneys.
Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chinese Medicine. 2nd Edition. by Giovanni Maciocia
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