Chinese Medicine Perspectives on Gynecology─Part 2
Chinese Medicine Perspectives on Gynecology─Part 2
3 categories of gynecological complaints
by Chun-Kai Wang, Dr. TCM, RAc
Source: Summer 2015 Health Action Magazine
In Chinese medicine there is traditionally no specific emphasis on fibroids, endometriosis and other “modern” pathological anomalies of the reproductive systems. Instead Chinese medicine groups patients into various pathological categories called “patterns” to describe the inherent pathology behind their “disease.” In such tradition, patients with gynecological complaints largely fall into the following three categories.
1. Deficiency cold
Deficiency cold is a term used in Chinese medicine to describe patients who have lowered energy and metabolism in the body, and especially in the lower abdominal areas where all the reproductive organs are located. Frequently these patients have dampened function of the reproductive organs. Such patients often complain of coldness and chills, whether on the entire body, their back, waist, lower abdomen or a combination thereof.
This type of patient is either skinny with poor digestion and appetite or, conversely, fat, in the sense that their body is filled with excess water retention and not the real substantial tissue in healthy well-fleshed individuals. Such patients may often complain of other things like fatigue, chronic pains and soreness of the lower body, especially around the period, aggravated by drops in temperature.
Deficiency cold patients are one of the typical patients seen in North America largely due to the insensitivities towards food and their temperatures, usually in the form of not paying attention to the cold water and raw foods taken over long periods of time, often thinking such practices are healthy, when it usually isn’t the case. To me this is almost like an artificially created disease state that in the past only happens to really poor people who have problems warming their food and maintaining adequate shelter.
Deficiency cold patients need to be warmed up internally so their blood circulation improves and their cellular functions are revitalized. A combination of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is usually warranted, although Chinese medicine serves this purpose much better and faster.
2. Excess retention
Excess retention refers to patients who have a buildup of wastes and toxins in their guts and other interstitial body tissue spaces. This type of patient usually does not give the impression of disease, because their faces look quite well with brightness, lustre and rosiness. In Chinese culture these people may often be described as if there is “oil oozing from their face.”
They are almost uniformly not skinny but are instead mostly overweight to some degree. Most of the time these patients have no subjective complaints and may even believe they are perfectly healthy, save for their size. The most they would have are usually headaches, the occasional constipation and maybe some neck and shoulder pains or chronic soreness, usually aggravated around the time of their menstruation. Other problems may include pimples, rashes and various-sized boils throughout the body. They usually do not know there is even something wrong with themselves until their doctor says they have too much cholesterol in their blood, high blood pressure and maybe diabetes, or that their fallopian tube is clogged or they’ve got fibroids and endometriosis.
Excess retention patients are the type of patients who eat too well. The typical North American breakfast of eggs, bacon, cheese and syrup-laden pancake and other greasy lardy foods is the main culprit behind this. It’s essentially a result of long-term consumption of high amounts of dairy and meat (whether that’s healthy or unhealthy varieties). Hence it is similarly a disease state which is artificially created.
Technically speaking, this type of patient does not need to be treated at all, whether that be Chinese medicine or acupuncture, or anything else really. They may be given drugs for their high blood pressure and other things but such drugs are usually redundant, considering the close link to their diet.
What needs to be done is for these patients to completely, 360 degrees to be exact, change their diet. They need to follow a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet. After a few months, most of their cholesterol, blood pressure and other numbers should improve if they follow a guided non-meat and non-dairy diet regimen. The problem, of course, is whether they have the mental resolve to actually make such changes.
3. Qi stagnation
Qi stagnation refers to the difficulty of the flow of internal energy, qi, brought about mainly from stress. Together with the compromised flow, literally everything that flows in the body gets affected. Qi stagnation patients are usually the people who claim they suffer from PMS, a medical term that somehow has become a derogatory slang for uncontrollable mood swings. PMS refers to premenstrual syndrome, denoting the various uncomfortable sensations and signs that occur around the time of menstruation, with mood swings being only a part of it.
Qi stagnation patients do often suffer with higher than usual fluctuations in their mood around their period. These patients also look as if they have something they want to say but do not want to say, or look like someone who others owe money to─the sort of unfriendly, unopen and negative energy that they give off. Their entire disease state is, therefore, highly tied to their emotional state, which is easily influenced by outside factors, whether that be environmental or human-relational. What is interesting is that qi stagnation patients have no particular set of clinical presentations, because they come in multiple forms.
From my experience qi stagnation patients cannot reverse their condition even if they switch their environment or learn to be happy (even going to clinical counselling to achieve it). The reason is because qi stagnation is by itself a self-existing disease state and requires treatment to rectify. The best analogy is of a house fire caused by a cigarette bud. The fire can no longer be put out even if we take away the cigarette bud; the fire has become an independent problem of its own. In order to prevent another fire, caution needs to be taken to have the cigarette disposed of properly. So yes, learning to cope is important to prevent the qi stagnation from coming back once it is rectified.
Qi stagnation patients are a common group of people in cosmopolitan societies and rarely, if ever at all, seen in rural villages. This is all tied into reckless and stressful lifestyles. The way it is treated in Chinese medicine is to simply open up blockages inside the body so the energy regains its free flow. Patients usually regain a sense of release after a period of treatment.
Through the use of Chinese medicine, acupuncture, lifestyle and diet recommendations, most gynecological conditions are usually treatable. Patients should not believe they are very difficult problems because they are really not, at least from the Chinese medicine perspective.
Chun-Kai (Jason) Wang, Dr. TCM, RAc, practises Chinese Medicine and acupuncture in Burnaby, and is the author of the eBook, The Diet Decoder: A Simple Guide to Seeing Food through Chinese Medicine. www.drwang.ca (604) 836-3968