A woman who is still not in pre-menopause has amenorrhea when she does not experience any menstruation at all. If a female does not undergo menstruation by the time she reaches 16 years of age, her amenorrhea is termed as primary amenorrhea. Secondary amenorrhea, on the other hand, means that the woman (if she is not breastfeeding, not in menopause or not pregnant) has not experienced any menstruation for over three months. There are several possible causes for secondary amenorrhea. They may include dysfunctional ovaries, psychological disorders or stress, eating disorders, severe weight loss, intense exercise, hypopituitarism, hypothyroidism, or elevated levels of androgens or prolactin. Typical symptoms of amenorrhea include goiters, headaches, swollen breasts, nausea, and of course, the stoppage of menses.
Since normal menstrual cycles involve communication feedback between the ovaries, pituitary gland and the hypothalamus as well as the reaction of the uterine wall to stimulation, the objective of any treatment would be to bring back this communication feedback. The process of menstruation can only occur with the involvement of several hormones. They include the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), androgen, progesterone, estrogen, prolactin, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
How Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine Address Amenorrhea
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the kidneys, spleen and liver are the most important organs for normalizing menstruation and blood. The kidneys govern egg quality as well as the process of reproduction, and conception. The liver and spleen are responsible for the smooth flow of the hormones and the amount of nutrients. Acupuncturists treat patients with amenorrhea based on the evaluation of their specific condition and customize a proper and effective plan of treatment.
Acupuncture helps to bring about hormonal balance as well as help normalize the communication between the ovaries, pituitary gland and hypothalamus by improving circulation to the brain and the reproductive organs. This therapy likewise calms the body and lowers stress levels. The last part is important because stress can impair menstruation by obstructing the flow of blood to the reproductive organs that can result in hormonal imbalance.
Chinese Herbal medicine can thicken the uterine wall and enhance the feedback between the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian axis. This restoration of balance helps the body improve its natural hormonal production that in turn results in normal menstruation. Chinese herbal medicine also helps in the nourishment of the kidney, liver and spleen systems that is important for the woman’s reproductive health.
Therapeutic massage is also one way to stimulate the body to help restore a woman’s normal menstrual cycle. Certain types of massage like the reproductive organ massage can stimulate the fascia of the pelvic cavity and enhance blood flow to the ovaries and improve the communication between the pituitary gland and the ovary. Therapeutic massage can enhance the function of the endocrine system through the enhancement of circulation to the pelvis area and by the healing of stress.
Dietary therapy is determined on the health of a woman’s spleen, liver and kidney systems. For her amenorrhea, the patient needs to eat lean meats, organic fruits and vegetables, and whole grains and consume less junk food, sugar to properly balance her hormones and bring back her normal menstrual cycle. Moreover, she needs to up her intake of essential fatty acids, B6, selenium, zinc, boron, vitamins A, D, C, K, E and calcium.
Western Medicine and Amenorrhea
The typical treatment protocol used by Western medicine for amenorrhea is the intake of birth control pills or hormone therapy to normalize the menstrual cycle. As with most cases, Western medicine can relieve the symptoms but cannot cure the condition itself.
Research and Related Materials on Amenorrhea
The Thousand Buddha Mountain Hospital located in Jinan, China conducted a study to gauge the potency of acupuncture as against certain drugs in treating amenorrhea. The study involved 95 subjects who have had amenorrhea that had lasted for half a year or more all caused by intake of birth control pills. Acupuncture therapy was given 57 of the subjects while the rest were given medications. The study involved six courses of treatments with each course consisting of 20 treatments. In between the courses, the subjects were allowed five-day breaks. The group given medicines was treated with Stilbestrol, then an injection of Progesteronum. After a month, the group given acupuncture had an effective rate (improvement, great improvement and cure) of 96.49%, while the group given medicines showed an effective rate of 97.36%. After six months, the acupuncture group dropped to 94.73%; however, the effective rate of the group given medicines plunged to 78.94%. This outcome implied that acupuncture’s benefits last more than any conventional drug therapy.
A lot of studies done in China have shown that Chinese herbal medicine, moxibustion and acupuncture have much better outcomes than conventional medicine when treating amenorrhea and other kinds of menstrual disorders.
Scott Paglia is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist in Bellingham, WA and provides master level pulse diagnosis, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in Whatcom County, WA.