Defined as the absence of menses in pre-menopausal women, amenorrhea can be divided into two categories: primary amenorrhea and secondary amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea occurs when a woman has still never had menstruation after 16 years of age. When a woman has had menstruation but afterwards stopped getting one for at least three straight months and she is not breast feeding, in menopause, or pregnant, her type of amenorrhea is known as secondary amenorrhea. The possible causes for secondary amenorrhea involve malfunctioning ovaries, psychological disorders or stress, eating disorders or severe weight loss, intense exercising, hypopituitarism, hypothyroidism, or high levels of androgen or prolactin in the body. Typical symptoms include goiters, headaches, swollen breasts, nausea, and of course, the stoppage of menses.
The focus of any amenorrhea treatment is to restore the feedback system between the ovaries, the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland , and the reaction of the uterine wall to stimulation since normal menstrual cycles only work on this type of feedback system that is healthy. In making sure normal menstruation is experienced, a lot of hormones need to be involved. They include FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), androgen, prolactin, and estrogen.
Treating Amenorrhea with Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture
The most important organs that normalize menstruation and blood in Chinese medicine are the kidneys, spleen, and liver. The kidneys govern egg quality, reproduction, and conception. The spleen and liver are responsible for the smooth flow of the hormones and the amount of nutrients in the body. Qualified acupuncturists treat patients with amenorrhea based on an evaluation of their specific condition that is individualized and customizes a plan of treatment to effectively and properly address their condition.
With the ability to normalize the Ovarian/Pituitary/Hypothalamus axis and balance the hormones by improving circulation of the brain and the reproductive organs, acupuncture also can help lower stress levels and relax the body. High levels of stress in the body can inhibit menstruation as stress tends to block the flow of blood to the reproductive organs resulting in hormonal production imbalance.
Some of the benefits of using Chinese herbs for the treatment of amenorrhea include their ability to adjust the Ovarian/Pituitary/Hypothalamus axis and build up the uterine wall. This adjustment aids in improving and regulating the body’s natural hormonal production that which in turn results in normal menstruation. Moreover, Chinese herbs can improve reproductive health by nourishing the kidney, liver, and spleen systems.
ROM or reproductive organ massage, an updated version of massage therapy is a procedure that manipulates the fascia of the pelvic cavity to establish a stronger connection between the ovary and pituitary to boost blood flow to the ovaries. Massage therapy enhances endocrine function by boosting blood flow to the pelvic region and relieving stress.
The patient is treated with a specific nutritional guidance designed to improve the health of the spleen, liver, and kidney functions as they underlie the patient’s metabolic processes and are responsible for her reproductive health. To help restore proper menstruation and balance the hormones, patients with amenorrhea are given a diet of lean meats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and less junk food and sugar. Moreover, patients should add their intake of essential fatty acids, vitamins B6, A, K, C, E, D, and calcium.
Treating Amenorrhea with Western Conventional Modes of Treatment
To regulate the menstrual cycle, Western medicine’s normal protocol is to prescribe birth control pills or hormone therapy. The main cause cannot be resolved using Western medicine therapies, just the symptoms.
Amenorrhea Related Articles and Research
A Chinese clinical study was performed to test if acupuncture is as effective as medication in treating amenorrhea. The study involved 95 patients who had amenorrhea that had lasted for six months or more. The patients all blamed their condition to the use of birth control pills. Acupuncture was given to 57 of the patients while drugs were administered to the rest of the 38 patients. The study involved a total of six courses (20 treatments per course), that were divided by five-day breaks between the courses. The drug therapy group was first given Stilbestrol, which was then followed by an injection of Progesteronum. The rate of efficacy was measured a month after the treatments were all done. The results showed a 97.36% rate of effectiveness for the drug group and a 96.49% for the acupuncture group. However, six months after the study ended the rate of effectiveness of the drug group dropped to almost 79% while that of the acupuncture group tallied a steady 94.7%. This showed the long term benefit of acupuncture for the treatment of amenorrhea over medications.
There are several other studies done in China showing that Chinese herbal medicine, moxibustion, and acupuncture are much better than conventional medicine in the treatment of amenorrhea and other types of menstrual disorders.
Dr. Vickery is a licensed acupuncturist in Tarzana, CA., and the founder and clinical director of Vickery Health and Wellness.