Shorter menstrual cycles: why does my period come early?

In the Chinese language, “yue jing” means period. Yue means monthly and jing means something that you should have. This can be translated as “you should have your period every month”.

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Chinese medicine theory considers that the normal menstrual cycle is around 28-30 days. In this article I am going to discuss how having a shorter menstrual cycle can affect your health.

1. Shorter menstrual cycle due to constitutional factors

In my clinical experience some people have shorter cycles less than 28 days which doesn’t affect their general health condition or fertility. We find it is not necessary to treat them because this is associated with their constitution (the inherited, natural state of the body).

2. Shorter menstrual cycle due to external factors

Many external factors can affect the menstrual cycle such as long-distance travel, migrating to another country, the death of a loved one, trauma, natural disasters, divorce, relationship problems, or changing jobs.

All of these issues can cause shorter cycles, but generally the body can re-adjust back to a normal cycle after a couple of months. If it doesn’t, you should seek medical attention.

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3. Shorter menstrual cycle due to certain medications and treatment

Sometimes you may need to take medication or have medical treatment which may affect your periods and make your cycle shorter. You should realise once you stop the medication or stop treatment that your period should return to normal, otherwise you should seek medical attention.

4. Shorter menstrual cycle due to internal organ imbalances

Women who have cycles shorter than 25 days that occur over a long period of time, along with health issues including infertility or miscarriage, are usually associated with the following internal organ disharmonies:

a) Spleen Qi Deficiency
Chinese medicine considers part of the function of the Spleen is circulating the blood. If the Spleen is weak it will cause the period to come early.

For these cases, women may have the following symptoms such as lack of energy, dizziness, bloating, sluggish bowel movements, pale skin, restless sleep, digestive disturbances, pale tongue and a deep, thready pulse.

My suggestions for diet and lifestyle:

Eat the following foods to increase Qi and blood: soup with beef, lamb or black chicken, boiled eggs, goji berries, Chinese red dates, lotus seed. Avoid eating cold food or drink, and eat smaller meals more frequently.

Exercise should not be too strenuous, this means exercise at a pace suitable for your energy level. If you feel very tired the day after it means you have done too much and should decrease your exercise. I suggest gentle exercise in the sunshine for 20-30 minutes each day such as walking, tai chi, yoga or Qi gong. You should make sure to have enough rest as well.

b) Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency
In the clinic, this is another common reason for shorter menstrual cycles. When the Liver and Kidney Yin is weak this will cause a lot of heat in the blood and make the period come early.

Women with this pattern can experience the following symptoms: heat in body and red face, dry skin and hair, skin rashes, emotional disturbances and anxiety, constipation, yellow urination, insomnia or vivid dreams.

My suggestions for diet and lifestyle:

Avoid eating hot and spicy foods such as onion, chilli, ginger, garlic and lamb. I suggest eating more cooling foods such as celery, spinach, carrots, eggplant, orange, lemon, honey, watermelon, pear and tomato.

You should avoid exercise in a hot environment, and drink plenty of water after exercise. Swimming is a suitable exercise for this constitution.

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5. Side effects of shorter menstrual cycle

The following complications can arise if a shorter menstrual cycle due to internal health issues is not resolved over a long period of time:

i) Yin and yang imbalance – long-term short menstrual cycles can cause Yin and Blood Deficiency.

ii) Affect circulation around the lower abdominal area, causing Blood and Qi stagnation. This is the cause of infertility in some cases.

6. How does Chinese medicine and acupuncture help shorter menstrual cycles?

i) Generally we will check the body using traditional diagnostic methods to find out the individual cause for each person.

ii) We will set up a treatment plan which is most effective for you.

iii) We will give you lifestyle and dietary suggestions which will help you respond to treatment more effectively.

It is important to pay attention to minor health issues otherwise other health problems could arise.

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