The way modern medicine addresses women’s health frustrates me, both as a woman and a doctor. I think back to what little help I received from my doctors as a teenager with painful cramps and acne. Their solution was oral contraceptives to regulate my hormones. No one said anything about my food intake, exposure to toxins or stress level. Thank heavens I found Naturopathic and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)! Finally, I gained the knowledge and tools to really start helping women find ease and vitality within their whole selves. I stopped the pills, regulated my cycle, cleared up my skin and relieved myself of debilitating cramps with proper lifestyle modifications. Going through this myself gives me the experience, along with the knowledge to teach women the relationships between food, emotions, activity, seasons and their reproductive systems.
Naturopathic medicine is rooted in several philosophies that make it so effective. Treating the whole person, the cause, and stimulating the healing power of nature are three essential principles that I am constantly aware of with every person. TCM is also rooted in these aspects. Using acupuncture to stimulate the innate healing wisdom within all of us is effective, relaxing and sometimes downright amazing with all the disease it can alleviate. The needles inserted along certain pathways, or meridians, promote the smooth flow of qi, blood and lymph. Doing this indirectly supports the liver, because this organ is responsible for moving these substances. The liver is a major organ system involved in reproductive health. This is one general reason why acupuncture is so helpful for women.
In TCM, the liver is a general with more than 500 functions to complete. With our modern lifestyle, this organ is working almost every second of the day. We ask our livers to detoxify everything with which we come into contact; the food, air, water, pharmaceuticals, recreational drugs, hygiene products, cleaning products and even certain emotions like anger and frustration. The fact of the matter is that in most urban environments there is pollution, plus we eat processed food, we use standard hygiene and cleaning products, we do not exercise enough; subsequently, we do not feel well, so we have some low level of frustration because we know we should be feeling our best. This is all contributing to stress on the liver organ.
With the stress, the energy and even the actual organ tissue becomes stagnant and swollen. This leads to some general discomfort like bloating, mental depression or fluctuating moods, irritability, pain below the ribs, belching and poor appetite, and feeling the urge to sigh often. Often, a good remedy for any of these is taking a leisurely walk outdoors. Moving the physical body helps the liver move the stuck substances. Being outdoors is naturally soothing to mental tension.
Women’s bodies have a lot of internal movement within the uterus, ovaries and Fallopian tubes. This is all governed by the liver. It sends the blood to the uterus for the thickening of the lining, helps the egg release and move down the tube, and also promotes the complete discharge of the uterine lining if there is no implantation. Again, if the liver is stressed for any reason, we begin to feel those general symptoms plus some specific liver and menstrual symptoms. This typically looks like irregular and painful periods with clots. There is premenstrual moodiness, diarrhea and constipation, breast swelling and tenderness and acne. Often, heat applied to the abdomen greatly alleviates the pain, because warm things tend to move more easily. We can even do acupuncture points to open the menstrual gate and promote the period, especially when the premenstrual symptoms are very intense. Experiencing this both as the patient and doctor has solidified my perspective that within three months, periods are no longer dreaded and we move through them much quicker.
This has laid out the intricate relationships of the liver and the uterus. It may seem as though our livers are stressed every way we turn. There is plenty to be optimistic about, though; mainly regarding everyone’s favorite fact: liver tissue regenerates. Along with that, there are truly rewarding treatments for the liver. I specifically mentioned acupuncture, gentle walking and heat as being easy and rewarding activities for the body and mind that anyone can do today. There are other great treatments, but they should be customized to everyone’s unique needs. This is why working with a trusted and experienced practitioner is essential to get the safest, most effective and lasting results. QCBN
By Katie Borchert, NMD
Dr. Katie Borchert has office hours daily at Partners in Health Care Naturally in downtown Prescott, 343 S. Montezuma St. She is also available for home visits, a great way to help the whole family. She can be reached at 928-445-2900 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The clinic webpage is www.prescottnaturopathicdoctors.com and Dr. Katie has Facebook and Instagram accounts featuring naturopathic living.