by Steven H. Horne, RH(AHG)
During May and June, we’re going to be taking a closer look at female health problems, specifically PMS and menstrual issues and menopausal symptoms. But, before we can get into specifics on how to improve women’s health in these areas, it is important we develop an overall understanding of what is causing these problems, so we aren’t just treating symptoms.
I was recently reviewing one of my favorite health books, Food Is Your Best Medicine, by Henry G. Bieler, to prepare for my Get Well Now webinar. Food is Your Best Medicine is one of the best books on health ever written and I highly recommend you get and read it carefully, if you haven’t already done so.
Dr. Bieler was a medical doctor who cured his patients primarily with food. He actually believed what Hippocrates wrote thousands of years ago, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” Dr. Bieler asserts is that there is no such thing as a specific medicine (or cure) for any chronic illness, something I believe very strongly.
If you understand what that statement means, you’ll realize that it is impossible for anyone to write out a “prescription” for what to do for PMS and menopause that will work for everyone. There are simply no “magic pills,” whether drugs, herbs or supplements that will normalize a woman’s hormonal system without adopting a generally healthy lifestyle.
The fact that most women experience some problems with their menstrual cycle and menopause does not mean that this is normal. Like Dr. Bieler, I think that medical doctors make a big mistake in thinking that average means normal. The average person in this country is on an abysmally poor diet and has almost zero stress management skills. Therefore, the average person is not healthy and we cannot use the average person as a gauge for measuring what is normal.
Dr. Bieler’s Three Lines of Defense
In Dr. Bieler’s model of health and disease, the body has three lines of defense against sickness. PMS symptoms, menstrual problems and menopausal symptoms are signs that all three of these lines of defense have become stressed, which means that all three have to be repaired before health can be rebuilt.
The gastrointestinal tract is the body’s first line of defense against disease. The job of the gastrointestinal tract is to digest the food we eat and prepare the nutrients we need for absorption. It also blocks the absorption of substances that are damaging to the body when functioning properly.
Unfortunately, since childhood, most of us have been fed foods that are highly irritating to our digestive systems. These foods cause the lining of the intestines to become irritated or inflamed. This inflammation not only causes poor digestion and absorption of nutrients, it also inhibits movement in the gastrointestinal tract, causing waste to be retained too long.
Intestinal inflammation allows irritating substances to enter the bloodstream that would normally not be absorbed, by passing this first line of defense. Fortunately, the body has a second line of defense, the liver, which filters the blood coming of the intestines. When the liver also becomes overwhelmed due to poor diet and chemical exposure, it is unable to act as a proper filter, either. This allows irritating substances to get past the liver and into the blood stream to affect the body as a whole.
At this point, the third line of defense kicks in gear, which is the endocrine system. By altering hormonal production, the endocrine system stimulates certain tissues to become avenues of vicarious elimination. This hormonal response is the origin of PMS symptoms. In PMS, the uterus is used as an organ of elimination for toxins in the blood. According to Bieler, this is the cause of all the symptoms of PMS.
PMS and Menopause Symptoms
The cramps, discomforts and congestion associated with PMS are the result of toxins accumulating in the pelvic region prior to menses. Edema is created by the inability of the kidneys to handle the toxins. Pain and headaches are due to the irritating effects of these toxins. Finally, heavy menstrual flow, which results in weakness, anxiety and anemia, is caused by the body trying to rid itself of as much toxic material as possible.
Thus, all PMS symptoms are related to a breakdown of the first two lines of defense and a general toxicity of the blood. Over time, these same toxins irritate the female organs sufficiently to cause cysts, fibroids and other chronic reproductive problems.
This also helps us understand menopause. When periods stop, the body loses this “extra channel” of elimination. At that point, the toxic condition of the body taxes the adrenal glands. This creates “hot flashes” and other menopausal symptoms.
Dr. Bieler’s model makes sense to me, especially in the light of my own observations over the years. For example, I have noticed that women who have a billiary eye pattern (in iridology) tend to have some of the worst problems with PMS. The billiary eye pattern is a sign of a genetic tendency to poor digestion and liver toxicity.
Chinese Herbal Formulas for PMS
This is why the Chinese herbal formulas that deal with the “wood” element are often helpful for women with PMS. Chinese Liver Balance, aids the detoxification processes of the liver and colon, especially when used in the Tiao He Cleanse. It is particularly helpful when PMS involves irritability, bouts of anger and anxiety.
When there is anemia and heavy blood loss, Chinese Blood Build can be helpful. Many of the herbs in this formula are standard ingredients in Chinese herbal formulas designed to help women have healthy periods throughout their child-bearing years.
Finally, Chinese Mood Elevator is helpful when PMS is accompanied by sad, heavy feelings and depression. Again, this formula is very supportive of the liver and gastrointestinal tract.
These formulas can also be helpful during menopause. Again, Liver Balance for irritability, Blood Build for weakness and anemia and Mood Elevator for depression.
Obviously, these formulas won’t make up for a “junk food” diet, but when combined with improved nutrition and stress management, they can make a difference. In other issues during the next two months, we’ll delve more deeply into the underlying health issues that cause female complaints, but all of this material is based on the foundational information covered in this issue.