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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Sep 13 2017 08:00AM

Acupuncturist Philippa Summers looks at periods in the context of wider health and shares the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to helping support your menstrual cycle, including how acupuncture can help.

Cramps, heavy bleeding, sore breasts, back pain, poor sleep and mood swings - periods can be a time of dread and misery for many women. Do you pop a pill and struggle on? Does it interfere with what you are able to do? Do you collapse on the sofa with a hot water bottle and work your way through a month’s supply of chocolate? You don’t have to just get through it, you can change the nature of your periods. I have many clients who have had dramatic long lasting improvements in their cycles. Read on to find out how acupuncture can help.

Our menstrual cycles often display patterns that reflect our wider health and from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective they provide a very useful insight. Rectifying underlying patterns can help to adjust your period as well as helping with other symptoms that may seem unrelated. Even women whose periods are not disruptive, may gain insights into their wider health by looking at their cycles – for example short, light scanty periods may be a sign that you could benefit from more nourishment and may coincide with other symptoms like tiredness, poor concentration and dull headaches.

It is easy to believe that what we experience each month is normal because it becomes what we are used to, even when it verges on the extreme, especially if it has crept up over time. One client in her forties, had been having severe cramps since she was a teenager. They were so bad that she was on several occasions given morphine to deal with the pain. She had a course of acupuncture spread over 3 months and now comes once every 6 weeks or so. Most of her periods are now completely pain free, for the odd one she has mild pain that is easily managed. Unusual periods can also in themselves lead onto other issues, for example heavy blood loss every month can over time lead to anaemia. So don’t just put up with things.

To understand what is influencing the period we take a close look at just about every aspect of the whole cycle and especially the period – length of cycle, length of bleed, blood flow, consistency of the blood and whether or not there are clots, the size of the clots, any pain, the nature and location of the pain and when in the cycle you feel it, likewise with moods throughout the whole cycle. These details are put together with other aspects of your health – your digestion, sleep, energy levels and any other symptoms, for example headaches. Taking your pulse and looking at your tongue also give vital clues.

These finding are then put together to identify patterns of disharmony that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) relate to Qi, blood and the balance of yin and yang. In biomedical terms these loosely correlate with hormonal levels, adrenal function and a host of other factors that influence our physiology. It can help to pin point issues that may need to be further investigated and diagnosed by your GP. Any bleeding outside your normal period should always be checked promptly with your GP and I would encourage women with any unusual symptoms to consult their GP if they have not already done so. Treatment is focused on you as a whole so it is not just your period symptoms that benefit. A look at lifestyle helps to identify small steps you can take to support treatment – often dietary and exercise adjustments – based on your TCM diagnosis and what you feel is manageable.

Acupuncture is gentle and relaxing – the needles, as fine as a hair, are gently inserted and you just lay back and relax for 20 minutes or so while they work their magic. Well, actually, far from being magic the mechanisms by which acupuncture works are increasingly well understood. Acupuncture stimulates the fascia which triggers a cascade of hormonal and neurological effects that reduce inflammation, affect blood flow and influence the body’s homeostatic self regulating ability to heal itself.

Your period is a wonderful embodiment of your fertility, don’t put up with discomfort or distressing symptoms. Help them feel like a blessing and not a curse.

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Aug 23 2017 08:00AM

Our nutritional therapist Audra Chukukere shares some background information on gut health and why this is a good place to start when working with a range of symptoms.

As a nutritional therapist with a special interest in hormones, it might strike you as odd that I place so much importance on gut health. Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring the link between the gut and the health status of the body.

‘All disease begins in the gut’

is a quote attributed to Hippocrates, the godfather of modern medicine.

When I first read this, I struggled to see how certain ailments had anything to do with the gut. However, with more experience supporting people on their journey to optimum health, I have come to the realisation that there might be some truth to this after all.

Any talk about gut health, is not complete without a giant nod to our microbiome – the collection of microorganisms that live in and on us. We have more bacteria cells than human cells and most of them live in our gut. So are we just a host for bacteria?

There are about 500 different species of bacteria in the gut but 99% of the bacteria comes from only 40 different species.

The relationship between us and our gut microbiota is complex – some bacteria are free-loaders that don’t cause any disease, pathogenic ones that cause disease, pathogenic ones that don’t, fungi, parasites, and bacteria stiil to be identified. The beneficial ones are called probiotics.

What have good bacteria done for us lately?

For starters, they:

• Breakdown food to help us absorb nutrients better

• Produce vitamins like k2 useful for clotting

• Keep pathogenic bacteria under control

• Support our natural defences – over 70% of our immune system lives in the gut

• Metabolise and help excrete oestrogen

• Produce neurotransmitters – 80% of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter)

• Regulate metabolism

The Microbiome and Hormones

A special class of microbiome is responsible for metabolising oestrogen. When oestrogen is made by the ovaries (primarily) it gets inactivated in the liver, passes through the intestines and is then eliminated in stools. When a certain class of bacteria is present however, it produces an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase which mucks up this process. It reactivates oestrogen which gets reabsorbed causing an imbalance. Ostrogen dominance is implicated in all female hormone irregularities including, acne, low libido, PMS, heavy bleeding, mood swings, migraines (before periods), uterine fibroids and any cancers that are oestrogen-dominant.

Oestrogen is also produced, in small amounts, by our fatty tissue (adipose) so weight gain can be a cause and an effect of hormonal imbalance. An interesting piece of research showed that obese germ-free mice (unfortunately still used in experiments) were given the gut bacteria from lean but not germ-free bacteria. The obese mice lost weight. And guess what? It worked the other way too. Obviously not conclusive evidence as we are not mice but enough to support the theory that gut bacteria play a role in weight management.

So how do you know your gut microbiome is in need of some TLC?

Some of the signs that you might have an unhappy gut microbiome include:

• Bloating

• Wind/burping

• Flatulence

• Constipation and Diarrhoea

• Menstrual Irregularities

• Fatigue

• Brain Fog

My consulations

One of my core beliefs is to work with the whole person not a collection of symptoms. So our initial consultation is thorough and in depth to allow you to talk about your health concerns, feelings and thoughts, and be listened to without judgement.

As your naturopathic nutritional therapist, I will work with you to help you attain your health goals.

Here’s to your gut health.



Stoller-Conrad J. Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in Gut

Stentz R. et al A Bacterial Homolog of a Eukaryotic Inositol Phosphate Signaling Enzyme Mediates Cross-kingdom Dialog in the Mammalian Gut

Briden, L How your gut affects your hormones

Abraham, S Study finds specialized bacterial cells found in the gut produce steroid hormones

Brown, M and Hazen, S. The Gut Microbial Endocrine Organ: Bacterially-Derived Signals Driving Cardiometabolic Diseases

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Apr 21 2016 09:00AM

Our skincare and facial expert, Veronica Massa, offers facial reflexology at West Norwood Therapies. Find out more about what facial reflexology is and how it can be used to help combat some of the symptoms of menopause.

Read the article:

Book a facial reflexology treatment:

Veronica is at West Norwood Therapies on Mondays, Wednesday and weekends

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