Skip to Main Content

Women’s Health Issue (Gynecology) #1 – Coldness

by Trisha Han

  Self-Help Topics, Wellness & Prevention

In the ancient times, women’s health was often a thorny issue in Chinese medicine, much like in Western Medicine not too long ago. Women were often reluctant to discuss their problems and lifestyles openly with male doctors, and because of this, could not get the most accurate diagnosis of their conditions. Although modern women are more open with their doctors, and there are many female doctors as well, there has also been a significant increase in illness in female patients compared to a few thousand years ago–several conditions in particular. It includes coldness, blood stagnation, Qi stagnation. Today we only talk about the first issue – coldness.

The first is excess cold, or conditions derived from being exposed to the cold for too long. Through the tens of thousands of years that humans have existed, we have developed an aptitude for adapting to all sorts of temperatures, and our bodies have become used to the temperature cycles in spring, summer, fall and winter. But technology brought something so different from what we had adapted to in nature–air conditioning. With A.C., we can go from the sweltering heat to the freezing cold in less than a minute, just by stepping into a room. Only a hundred years ago, it took the course of many months from summer to winter to accomplish that same temperature change.

These days, every single building has air conditioning installed–whether it’s the supermarket, your house, your workplace, or the gym. And our bodies have not been able to adapt to such sudden temperature changes yet. One piece of evidence is the rise of skin diseases such as ezcema and acne. Part of it, I believe, comes from the food we eat, but another large factor is the fluctuating temperature environments caused by air conditioning.

For example, if you’re walking outside during the summer and sweat is pouring down your face, then you suddenly walk into an air-conditioned room, what’s going to happen to all the sweat that was supposed to continue pouring down your face? Your sweat pores close unexpectedly because of the temperature change, and all the sweat collects underneath the skin and traps debris and oil that can’t be transported out. If this scenario continues for many days, months and years, it will eventually lead to various types of skin conditions, infections and rashes.

Being exposed to rapid temperature changes can also cause digestive problems. In the summertime, we usually wear less clothes because the temperatures are high outside–chances are, our limbs are usually exposed. When we walk into a cold building, the cold easily enters through our hands and feet and go into our visceral organs, including our digestive organs. Many people have sensitive stomachs during the summertime, and will have indigestion or an upset stomach due to one small thing–it is all because there is excess cold in the organs because of the A.C.

But the people most easily affected by the cold are women, because women usually wear less clothing during the summer, at times even exposing the stomach–upon walking into a cold room, the cold will immediately seep into her body through the exposed areas.

According to Chinese Medicine, women’s bodies cannot afford to have stagnant blood and Qi, because a woman’s reproductive organs all depend on the circulation and warmth of blood. Stagnant blood and Qi could cause irregular or absent menstrual cycles, which leads to infertility and other gynecological conditions. This is why I always tell my infertility patients not to drink ice water and drink warm water instead.

When I first became acquainted with gynecology, I was confused: why do women who are not experiencing heat deficiency often have to take warm-natured herbs to regulate their conditions? Finally I realized that a woman’s uterus thrives in warmth–even if there is malignant and excessive heat present, caution must be taken so that the warmth is not countered completely by cold-natured herbs; that is why women must take warm-natured herbs, even in regulating a heat-related illness.

Another cause of malignant cold is drinking ice water. While air conditioning is considered “inner heat, outer cold”, drinking ice water is just the opposite–“outer heat, inner cold”. You could be outside in 100 degrees, and then drink some cold water in hopes to relieve the heat, but all it does is make your stomach very confused. Drinking ice water is another habit that our ancestors couldn’t have even imagined–but now, especially here in America, it has become ingrained into our daily lifestyles, and our bodies simply have not adjusted.

Drinking ice water also has a large impact on women’s health, because the coldness that we ingest causes harm to our organs almost immediately. The coldness will cause blood and Qi stagnation in the uterus, and obstruct menses flow. If the stagnation is ignored, it will accumulate, causes various types of gynecological illnesses.

So, in general, we must all be careful of our daily habits, because they can gradually build and affect us for a lifetime. But women, especially, must take care to avoid excess cold from entering their bodies. Instead of drinking ice water, try drinking room temperature or warm water instead. Always keep a light jacket or sweater on hand, for the times you have to enter an air-conditioned building after being outside in the sun. And eat some ginger snaps as a snack, or some ginger chew candies (ginger is warm-natured), just to be safe.