What Your Period is Trying to Tell You
I like to think of a woman's period as her monthly report card as to how well she has taken care of her body the month prior.
The heaviness, colour, texture and additional symptoms experienced gives us clues about our recent stress level, sugar intake, toxin exposure, hydration, sleep quality and much more!
The term menstrual cycle refers to not just the bleed, but the beautiful hormonal symphony that should happen all month long to cycling women.
This is totally suppressed by the hormonal birth control pill and when we take that medication our body is instead controlled by synthetic hormones which are created in a lab.
If your period is a total nightmare, unpredictable, debilitating or even completely absent, this is a message from your body.
Here are some common patterns that you may be experiencing, what your body is trying to tell you and how you can improve things naturally...
Heavy & painful periods
This is a BIG indicator that you are dealing with a state known as oestrogen dominance. Oestrogen is a 'building', proliferate hormone and is responsible for growing and thickening the uterine tissue each month. When levels are too high or if it isn't in the correct ratio with progesterone, then the uterine lining can grow in excess and this results in heavier, unpleasant periods. We may also experience symptoms such as heavy bleeding, clotting, long bleeds, painful boobs and major PMS.
Another common driver behind a heavy period is iron deficiency! This didn't make sense to me at first as you would think that too much iron would cause heavy bleeding, but the opposite is actually true. It is also a vicious cycle. Heavy periods cause low iron, and low iron levels can cause heavier periods. Get your iron and ferritin levels tested by your practitioner to see if this is the case for you as you may need to supplement.
What you can do:
A compound known as Di-indole-methane (DIM) is produced by your body when you consume cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and sprouts. DIM helps to safely and efficiently break down and detoxify used or excess hormones through the liver. I recommend that you consume 1-2 portions of these vegetables (lightly cooked) each day. Supplements of DIM are available, however I would not recommend taking it without testing your hormones to know that you have oestrogen dominance. Taking DIM when you don't need to can actually shorten your cycle and lower oestrogen levels, possibly leading to light periods and further imbalances.
Dark brown menstrual blood
The most common reason for this is low progesterone levels. Progesterone is a hormone that is only created if we ovulate (release an egg), therefore it is a good indicator of health. Oestrogen builds the uterine lining, while progesterone halts the thickening and maintains for an embryo to implant, or if not, it is shed and we have a period. When progesterone is low, relative to oestrogen, our period blood can be dark or brown. This happens when the previous uterine lining didn't shed fully, therefore it is old, oxidised blood that can appear during the start or end of our next cycle.
What you can do:
The main way to improve progesterone levels is to reduce stress! When we are stressed our body diverts resources from creating progesterone to creating cortisol (our main stress hormone). This is an evolutionary mechanism as our body prioritises a life or death situation (stressor) over having healthy, balanced hormones and fertility. As I always mention, stress is not just psychological. Are you dehydrated, drinking too much caffeine (even worse, on an empty stomach?!), punishing yourself at the gym every day, criticising your body whenever you look in the mirror or eating foods that you are intolerant to? These are all forms of stress that may be affecting your progesterone production. Click here for my top 5 tips to manage stress post.
If your period lasts less than 3 days, are light pink in colour or have gone M.I.A, this can indicate low oestrogen levels. If we don't have enough oestrogen to thicken the uterine lining, then there is less to shed. Accompanying symptoms may include low libido, hot sweats, dry skin, joint and muscle aches, poor mood, memory and insomnia. High stress levels, low body fat, under-eating, over-exercising, low fat diets, disordered eating and thyroid disorders can all cause low oestrogen levels in pre-menopausal women. If your period is missing for more than 3 months, this is known as secondary amenorrhea. Women with PCOS commonly experience longer menstrual cycles or amenorrhea due to the interference of excess androgens (male hormones), preventing ovulation. In other women, excess stress, over-exercising or under-eating can also prevent ovulation and menstruation.
What you can do:
Cholesterol is one of the building blocks that our hormones are created from, the other being amino acids from protein. We have been told for decades to avoid fat like the plague, for the fear of it clogging our arteries and making us obese, but we know now that it is just not true. Healthy fats are very important for our hormones and overall health. I recommend you consume 1 portion of healthy fat with each meal. Choose from avocado, nuts, seeds, egg yolks, extra virgin olive oil, oily fish, high quality animal fat, coconut, dark chocolate (over 85%) and grass fed butter/ghee. Maintaining a healthy weight (not too high or low) is also important for menstrual health as both extremes can be an issue. If you are dealing with absent or light periods, take a really in-depth look at your nutrition and lifestyle habits. Are you following a restrictive diet? Are you living a highly stressful, demanding life? Are you pushing your body too much with your exercise routine? Do you need to eat more, exercise less and manage your stress?
As always, with any post I create here on my blog or Instagram the advice I give shouldn't replace medical advice as I am not here to treat, diagnose or 'cure' any hormonal imbalances you are dealing with.
Feel free to get in touch if you'd like me to discuss more on this subject or if you have any other blog post recommendations! I love creating content that educates and provides women with natural solutions to their hormone imbalances.