Surviving Your Period vs. Thriving With Your Period (Western vs. Eastern Medicine Perspectives)

November 19, 2019

Surviving Your Period vs. Thriving With Your Period (Western vs. Eastern Medicine Perspectives)

Were you taught that cramps and PMS are normal? (So were we.)

Maybe you also learned (via almost every source on the internet) that it’s fine for cycles to range anywhere from 21 to 38 days and that a 2-day period is just as normal as an 8-day one? 

You are not alone.  This is the common point of view – it comes from Western medicine, which is focused on finding states of disease based on symptoms.

While our founder was trained in Western medicine, she prefers and embraces the holistic approach, based on her training as a reproductive acupuncturist. (Our team is passionately on board with this too.) Instead of just looking for disease, we look for every single sign and symptom that is outside perfection and then to figure out how those symptoms are related as a system. This point of view allows us to focus on optimizing your health and getting your cycle to the ideal state. 

Ideal, in this case, means pain-free and symptom-free (amongst other things). It’s the bedrock of both our formulas and our periods-don’t-need-to-suck philosophy.

Western medicine is all about looking for the “diseased state” and it’s kind of like a Pass/Fail course. If you don’t have an issue that can be diagnosed (F), you pass (it’s normal, you’re fine). That means cramps and PMS are accepted as normal as long as you don’t have a diagnosable disease or condition, like Endometriosis.

Chinese medicine, on the other hand, is all about seeking the “ideal state” and it goes way back. 

During the Qing dynasty in the 1700s, imperial doctors started identifying the “ideal menstrual cycle.” These doctors (who were the first reproductive acupuncturists btw) differentiated between “ideal cycles” and cycles that just had “the absence of pathology” (ie: less-than-ideal cycles with no diagnosable disease/issue). If we consider Western medicine to be pass/fail, Chinese medicine gives you an actual grade and anything less than 100 is something to work on and improve.

The differences between a "disease state", “ideal state” and less-than-optimal-but-no-pathology are important. 

As long as we only look for the disease state, we are kind of stuck with “periods suck but here are some painkillers.” There’s little hope and not much to do to improve when your symptoms are called normal. 

When we know what an ideal cycle looks like, we have something to compare our own cycles to and something to work towards. If you can identify how your cycle is different from the ideal one (maybe your period is longer or shorter, maybe you have cramps, etc.) and unpack how those markers relate to your overall health, habits, and lifestyle, then you can really do something. You can take actions (and supplements) to address the root cause of your period problems and work your way to an ideal cycle.

Figuring out whether to stick to the Western/conventional perspective or embrace Eastern/holistic medicine when it comes to your cycle really just depends on what kind of life you want to have. How do you want to feel every day? How do you want to feel around your period? Do you want to just fight disease or work towards ideal? Do you want temporary relief for your symptoms or do you want to learn from the signals that your body is sending you and figure out what it needs to kick ass?

We don’t know about you but we can’t get too excited about just surviving our lives. We want to THRIVE – and we wish the same for you. 

So, what marks an ideal cycle?

  • Ideal Period Length: 4 days long
  • Ideal Period Blood: bright red with no clots
  • Ideal Flow: steady bleeding throughout your period that fills a regular tampon or pad in about 4 hours (or half-fills a menstrual cup in that amount of time)
  • Ideal Cramps: NO CRAMPS
  • Ideal PMS: NO PMS  (That means no mood swings, no digestive issues, no bowel changes, no bloating,  no breast tenderness, no cycle-induced irritability, anxiety, stress or depression, etc.)

    (If that’s not what your cycle looks or feels like, no need to freak out – read this next.) 

    It’s kind of funny because when we talk about this, people often suggest that Chinese medicine “isn’t based on real science.” If what they mean is “I’m not familiar with this philosophy,” fine. But if they’re saying Chinese medicine isn’t backed up by peered-reviewed clinical data, they are totally wrong. There are hundreds of studies that support this point of view, just not many that synthesize them into one formal doctrine like we are doing at Brazen.  

    To be a scientist, you must be curious. You must ask questions that have never been asked before; to test theories that have never been explored before. This is the work we are doing at Brazen and we do it for one and only one reason: we believe nobody should suffer because of their period, regardless of whether they have a diagnosable disease or just a less-than-ideal cycle. We want to get all people with periods to 100 and won’t stop till we do.

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