Fibroids often don’t cause any issue in getting and staying pregnant, unless they are in the endometrial lining of the uterus. Polyps, on the other hand, are within the uterine cavity. Both are most problematic when they are located at the top (fundal) area of the uterus – the area where an embryo enters the uterus from the fallopian tubes if conception occurs in a natural or IUI cycle.
Polyps often develop in older women, or during IVF and FET cycles. Regardless of the onset, Chinese medical opinion views the issue as ‘blood stagnation in the uterus’. Acupuncture and herbal treatment will inevitably focus on resolving that stagnation. Dietary and lifestyle modifications are also recommended and encouraged to potentiate treatment effects overall.
What is a ‘blood stagnation’ diet?
In TCM, blood needs to be ‘vitalized’ for healthy circulation. These things need to happen so that blood can be ‘vitalized’.
- Blood needs to be full and abundant
- Blood needs to be able to flow freely without blockage
- Blood needs warmth for healthy flow
You might be asking yourselves, “If I don’t have abundant blood, does that mean I’m anemic?” “Doesn’t blood always flow freely through our veins and arteries?” “Isn’t blood inherently warm?” All the questions depend on whether you are asking a conventional medical provider, or a TCM provider.
As a Chinese medical provider, my treatment approach does not address these issues separately. When the 3 factors above are in check, blood will be nourished and healthy circulation will ensue, all must be addressed together.
Flavors that address blood stagnation and nourish the blood are bitter, spicy, sour and slightly sweet. Foods that have these flavors and energetic properties should be eaten in abundance. Examples include all fermented foods, green leafy veggies and seaweeds. Animal protein, dairy and certain grains – like corn and wheat- should be limited, eaten in small portions, and balanced with blood vitalizing foods to support Liver function and circulation.
Rooted in Chinese medical dietary therapy, a healthy blood-vitalizing diet should be mostly plant- based and representative of bitter, aromatic, slightly sweet flavors. Fruit, veggies, protein rich grains and legumes should dominate the plate. While dairy, animal proteins and fats can be eaten, portions should small – 3oz, or less for animal protein.
Meal times matter
Temporary fasting diets resonate with Chinese medical nutrition guidelines. Your meals need to digest properly before sleep, and your stomach should be empty before going to bed. Bedtime is “Liver” time in Chinese medicine. Eating too late puts undo stress on Liver function. You should aim for a minimum of 3 hours with no food before bed.
If you have some understanding of Eastern nutrition, you’ve probably heard that cold foods are not supportive of digestion. This is true, and isn’t limited to just the temperature of foods, but also refers to the ‘energetic temperature’ of food. The energetic temperature of food refers to the effect food has on digestion, and therefore the body. Have you ever felt really cold after eating ice cream? That is because your blood is being redirected to your digestive organs, leaving your extremities and reproductive organs, temporarily depriving them of adequate circulation. Is it going to harm you, certainly not, but can routinely eating a ‘cold’ diet compromise blood flow to the reproductive system, yes! (Again, this is coming from a Chinese medical provider). Ice cream is the triple cold whammy – it’s very cold, very creamy and very sweet!
How to balance foods appropriately
It’s counterproductive if dietary changes becomes stressful. Stress compromises blood flow, too! The diet should feel approachable, maybe even fun and enlightening. If you are a meat eater and the thought of becoming temporarily vegan is not an option, try to reframe your thinking.
You can still eat meat, but the portion and the pairings will matter. A good Vietnamese Pho has a few pieces of meat, rice noodles and loads of vegetable sprouts and herbs to balance the sweet, cloying nature of the meat and refined grain pasta. A meaty Thai Larb dish, with loads of Thai basil, cilantro and mint – all very aromatic herbs – adds delicious flavor and properties that support digestion.
You can still eat dairy, but switching to goat, or sheep’s dairy, will be much better on your digestion. Kefir is fermented, and therefore the best form of dairy. Pizza can be more blood vitalizing if you opt for goat cheese and veggies over sausage and mozzarella.
Understanding what’s going to be the better choice is sustainable and doable, and will help you stay on track in eating the best blood vitalizing foods!