Today we are looking at Mucus. Cervical mucus to be exact. How to learn what to look for, how to track it, and ways to improve the quality at home with food therapy and self-care.
Okay, ladies, starting around day 10 or 11 of your cycle, I ask for women to look for a change. There is a range of days women notice this change, anywhere from days 3 to 5 is typically seen. Like your period, there can be a smaller amount in the beginning and then it increases and has a peak day... but not to worry if you feel there isn’t a huge change because I am here to support you in improving your mucus!
Well, your cervical mucus is easiest and most often noticed before ovulation. Many women begin noticing while wiping that there is a slickness to the discharge and upon examination, either on the toilet paper or while washing in the shower there is some clear elasticity to the mucus. I always notice it while wiping and then examine it more carefully in the shower. Not to be too graphic, but I do a stretch test and see how elastic and snappy it is overall. Usually, this is when you will notice an increase in your libido too.
We are looking for clear, stretchy (classically egg white) mucus that has an elastic quality when you try to stretch it. There are so many tracking methods out there (keep your eyes peeled for our next blog post) but most often all of them have a place to note changes in cervical mucus. Prior to ovulation, you may notice a white opaque tacky discharge or very little clear discharge and then there should be a clear shift within the ovulation window.
As part of trying to conceive, I always recommend to patients signing up for an app that is easy to use (and to share with their practitioner's both western & eastern) to track their cycle; including-shifts in cervical mucus, basal body temperature (BBT), Luteinizing hormone (LH urine test strips) positive days, mood and of course timed intercourse. This amount of physical, emotional, and cyclical information gives us as practitioners an idea of what’s happening with your hormone levels, whether you might need support through different times during your cycle. Having a place to keep notes of how you feel and all the details is important. For one, there is a lot to notice each cycle, and being able to look back and see how much has improved, is really helpful.
Cervical mucus in traditional Chinese medicine is an abundance of yin which is the moisture of the body and supports the growth & development of the follicle as well as the shift in cervical mucus. Things that can tax or use up too much yin are overthinking/overwork, hot, spicy food all the time, too much excessive sweating (like hot yoga), staying up late, and too much screen time AND too much sex (yep, that’s why I always recommend TTC couples and all couples, every other day so there is time to recuperate your yin (women) and yang (men).
How do we as a Western, busier culture support our yin? Well, many of us have as of late slowed down with teleworking and being home more during COVID. This helps with the long hours at the office but is often offset with the excess amount of screen time both for work and entertainment. Being able to sleep an extra 30 minutes a day can even make a huge difference. Yin can be built back up for sure and like all parts of traditional medicine about learning to balance your activity and rest. Making sure you are hydrated is step one.
Oatmeal made with nut or oat milk or goats' milk is a great way to start the day with dates, almonds, and golden raisins. All white/lighter colored fleshy fruits/nuts/beans like coconut, almonds, apples, pears, leechee fruit, bananas, rice, and white yams are all great ways to support yin.
Eating slow-cooked foods like stews, soups and baked fruit will add a deeper level of nourishment vs adding water to your day. Veggies and other foods to support yin are squash (think the inside of a zucchini, spaghetti squash, etc.) taro root, Japanese white yams, fish, pork, legumes, beans. Include good fats: chia, hemp, sesame, flax oil, and avocado.
Avoid: hot, spicy, drying foods, alcohol, coffee, red meat and sweets or dairy.
Drink suggestions: white, green, or jasmine tea. If difficulty sleeping ghee and warm almond milk and honey before bedtime.
Congee: sprouted rice/ quinoa red or black, northern beans, lentils with pork, white pepper, pine nuts, rosemary, sage. Sprouted rice or quinoa red/black, greens, veggies broth, mushrooms, sliced walnuts, and coconut milk.
All in all, certainly a noted part of the female cycle, cervical mucus can be a great way to gauge what is happening and when internally. As you get more comfortable with different aspects of your cycle, you can start to hone in and understand where you may need more support and fine-tune your phases.
Externally speaking, if you feel vaginal dryness is affecting your journey in trying to conceive, you can use coconut oil safely to lubricate your tissue externally/internally. Then work on improving your diet to include yin-building foods and know that in time you can experience an improvement in vaginal tissue and production of cervical mucus.
If you feel like there is an issue with your mucus, be sure to talk with your practitioner to find out whether there is a hormonal imbalance. There are many was to support the development of cervical mucus through hormonal supplementation, herbs, acupuncture and food therapy.
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