In this article we’ll explore how to interpret your basal body temperature chart according to Chinese medicine.

The first step is to chart your BBT for at least one full cycle. Ideally you want to chart for a few months to see if there’s a consistent pattern.

Comparing your BBT chart with a ‘normal’ chart

An average chart looks something like this. There are two phases:

  • follicular phase (before ovulation)
  • luteal phase (after ovulation)

The temperature is usually lower during the follicular phase, then rises and remains higher until menstruation.

BBT chart example

If you overlay the ‘normal’ chart with your own, you may find something like this. The ‘normal’ chart is in grey, the example readings are in red. Here, you’ll notice the temperature rises earlier in the cycle. This results in a short follicular phase, and a shorter cycle overall.

BBT with short follicular phase

In this second example, there’s hardly any temperature rise at all. This may indicate ovulation hasn’t occurred.

BBT chart with no temperature rise at ovulation

Interpret your basal body temperature chart

So now we know how your chart varies from ‘normal’, we can begin to interpret the differences. To do that, we need to understand the menstrual cycle according to Chinese medicine.

The menstrual cycle according to Chinese medicine

Here’s a brief look at one concept in Chinese medicine: Yin and Yang. This is perhaps the oldest and most central philosophy in Chinese medical thought.

Taiji symbol - yin yang

In this symbol the black area represents yin and the light area represents yang.

Yin represents things that are nourishing, still, cool, sinking or decreasing.

Yang represents things that are active, moving, warm, rising or increasing.

Here’s a nice video explanation of yin-yang theory.

In the menstrual cycle, day 1 (the start of menstruation) corresponds with the beginning of the Yin phase of the cycle.

Over the course of the next (roughly) 14 days, a new follicle develops into an egg and the uterine lining begins to grow again. This is the nourishing/yin phase of the cycle.

When yin reaches its maximum, yang begins. This is where ovulation occurs, as the follicle is released into the fallopian tube to continue its journey towards the uterus. This is the moving/yang phase of the cycle.

taijitu (yin-yang) showing phases of the menstrual cycle

An Example

Let’s work through an example to see how you can interpret your basal body temperature chart to identify and resolve an underlying imbalance using acupuncture, dietary and lifestyle advice.

Here’s our example chart showing a short follicular (or yin) phase. This essentially means that ovulation happens too early in the cycle before the follicle has properly developed.

BBT with short follicular phase

Identifying the Imbalance

This pattern can come about in two ways:

  • yin is insufficient, or
  • yang is excessive.

In either case you would expect to have some symptoms of heat or dryness in the body.

  • If the heat is more intense and consistent throughout the day and the cycle, it is more likely to be due to excessive yang.
  • If the heat is mild, occasional or there’s more dryness, it is more likely to be due to insufficient yin.

It’s also possible to have both excessive yang and insufficient yin at the same time. Too much yang (such as heat) can dry out the fluids and therefore reduce yin.

Resolving the Imbalance

In practice, acupuncturists consider other signs and symptoms to clarify the diagnosis and identify the relationships between different imbalances. Treatment can then be chosen to return balance. For example, as well as acupuncture treatment, you might be be given the following recommendations:

  1. Drink more water – increased intake of fluids (increase yin)
  2. Ensure you get adequate sleep and rest – increased stillness/recovery (increase yin)
  3. Avoid spicy foods – reduced intake of heating foods (decrease yang)

If the diagnosis is correct and the changes you make are sufficient, you should see the BBT charts begin to change over the coming months.

There are numerous ways your BBT chart might vary, and this article has explained just one pattern. If you are having difficulty trying to conceive, have irregular cycles, severe menstrual cramps or other cycle-related symptoms, charting your BBT may provide clues to an underlying imbalance. Contact us for more information or to book an appointment.