The Menstruation Cycle & Skin Health According to Traditional Chinese Medicine by Allison Locke
In today's wellness collab we have Allison Locke. Allison is an acupuncturist and integrative health practitioner based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. She is a fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine and member of the Obstetrical Acupuncture Association. She has specialized training in treating fertility and reproductive health. As a stage 3 endo warrior herself, Allison is extremely passionate in helping treat endometriosis and pelvic pain
Share your story and how you became an acupuncturist.
I discovered traditional Chinese medicine completely by accident. I originally went to school in New York City for architecture, got disillusioned with the whole industry, dropped out, and then traveled around the country with my friend’s band for a summer. It was while traveling that I randomly picked up a book about traditional Chinese medicine (shout out to Ted Kaptchuk’s The Web That Has No Weaver!). I immediately fell in love with it. Nothing had ever resonated so hard for me. When we got back to New York City I applied for TCM school and it was the best decision I ever made!
In what way does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view/target skin health?
The skin is under the category of the metal element in TCM. It relates to the large intestine and lung organ systems. So imbalances of the large intestine and lung can manifest as skin conditions. For example, a buildup of heat and toxicity in the large intestine due to poor digestion/detoxification can lead to acne or eczema.The facial complexion can also be used as a diagnostic tool. For example, pale or sallow skin could be a deficiency of blood, qi, or yang. Dry patches or scales on the skin mean dryness due to blood stagnation, and red skin indicates heat. Dark circles under the eyes could be due to poor blood circulation or a kidney deficiency. We are taught to analyze all components of the body to create a holistic picture of what’s going on inside in order to properly and effectively treat it. Using acupuncture, herbs, gua sha, and diet/lifestyle therapy, we can target the internal disharmonies in the body to heal disease and promote healthy skin. Basically, any skin condition is letting us know that there is an internal disharmony that needs to be addressed, and treating the body holistically will heal the skin.
What are the different phases of the menstrual cycle and how do they affect the body?
There are four different phases of the menstrual cycle: menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. The cycle can also be divided into two categories, the follicular phase (day one of your period until ovulation), and the luteal phase (from ovulation to your next period). Various hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, fluctuate widely throughout these different phases. And with this natural and healthy fluctuation, we may feel and act differently. During the menstrual phase, many of our reproductive hormones are low and at a baseline. This is the perfect time to rest. It’s also the most intuitive time of your cycle making it great for meditation or journaling. As your estrogen levels begin to rise in the follicular phase your energy and creativity will start to increase. This is a great time to brainstorm projects, take on new tasks, or try a fun new exercise class. During ovulation our estrogen levels are at its peak and testosterone swoops in, making us feel outgoing and social. This is the best time to plan a date, attend parties, or be interviewed. Communication skills are strong. Ovulation is the best time to do high-impact workouts or more strenuous cardio. After ovulation, in the luteal phase, the presence of progesterone makes us slow down a little bit. We should start focusing on lower impact strength training or light cardio so we don’t aggravate our adrenals, and nurture our inner introvert. It’s also a great time for cleaning and organizing.
Depending on the cycle, should we eat differently or function differently?
During our period it’s important to eat warm, nourishing foods to keep our blood and qi circulating smoothly and prevent menstrual cramps. It’s also great to eat foods rich in iron to replenish from blood loss. Support healthy estrogen levels in the follicular phase with food rich in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon or nuts and seeds. During ovulation your body can tolerate lighter foods like salads and loves antioxidants like goji berries or blueberries to support healthy eggs. After ovulation we want to support healthy estrogen detoxification to prevent PMS symptoms like breast tenderness, bloating, or painful/heavy periods. Support healthy liver detoxification with foods like cruciferous vegetables, garlic, leafy greens, and being mindful of caffeine intake. Supporting a healthy microbiome will also help make sure digestion stays on track before and during your period. Eating plenty of fibrous veggies and fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut are wonderful during this time in your cycle.
How can we tell if we have a hormonal imbalance? If so, how can we heal it?
Hormones are chemical messengers that affect many processes in the body, including growth, development, metabolism, and sexual development. Although we like to demonize them, hormones function to keep us alive, healthy, and happy. When they’re out of balance you may experience symptoms like PMS, period pain, mood swings, low energy, poor sleep, difficulty losing weight, acne or skin conditions, and more. Common hormone imbalances can present as deficiency or excess of estrogen, progesterone, thyroid hormones, cortisol, or testosterone. Because there are hormone receptors everywhere in the body, your hormones affect all organ systems and produce a wide array of effects. So the symptoms of a hormone balance can vary widely (and a lot of symptoms can overlap!). This is why it’s so important to seek the help of a healthcare profession in the diagnosis and treatment of any hormonal imbalance. The main pillars of hormone health are diet, sleep, stress, and exercise. So focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet, regular exercise, 8 hours of sleep, and practicing regular stress reduction are great first steps! If you are still struggling with symptoms, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, and supplements are great go-to measures.
Can’t skip daily habit?
Oil pulling. I’m convinced it has cured me of recurrent cavities!
All of the books by Ainslie Macleod
What makes you feel at peace?
You can heal without being cured. Which means even though you are dealing with something chronic or long term, does not mean you can’t make steps to improve your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual wellbeing.
Favorite skincare tool?
Gua sha stones for sure!
Ways to connect with you
You can find me on instagram and tiktok @sea_of_qi_healing or through my website seaofqihealing.com.