Do you know a heavy period is a sign of hormonal imbalance and it can be addressed naturally through nutrition and lifestyle?
Unfortunately many people don’t realize they have a period that is too heavy because the number of pads or tampons used each cycle isn’t something that’s usually discussed. Or, they think this is just they way their body works and they suffer through it. Read on to learn how heavy is too heavy and what you can do about it.
Normal menstrual flow lasts from 4 to 7 days (average 5) and is about 10 to 35 mL per cycle with a maximum of 45 to 60 mL per cycle.
Heavy periods are officially defined as over 80 mL flow per cycle or more than 7 days of menstrual flow.
You can know if this is happening for you through your subjective experience of a period that seems “heavier than usual”, if you experience “flooding”, or if you feel like you can’t leave the house because of how much bleeding you are having. As well, flow is considered too heavy if you need to change a pad or tampon every two hours over a 24 to 48 hour period. Also, if you use menstrual cups there’s often a measurement on the side so you can see exactly what the volume is.
What’s causing this and what can you do?
It’s important to know this is more common in teenagers and people going through perimenopause, however even then there is something that can be done about it.
There are a lot of recommendations that can potentially help your body heal.
There’s a bit of a vicious circle with this one because low iron causes heavy periods and heavy periods cause low iron! Because most people with heavy periods have low iron (about 80%), definitely get your iron levels tested and start to take iron supplements if they are low.
- Take whatever dose is recommended by your care provider. This could be about 15-50 mg daily.
- Increase iron from food like red meat, liver, egg yolks, dark green vegetables, dried fruits, carrots, beets, tomatoes.
- It takes a while to restore your iron so you will likely need to take iron supplements for at least one year if not longer.
A thyroid that is not functioning normally can also lead to heavy flow. Be sure to get your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), T3 and T4 checked out. Depending where you live the health care may only cover TSH, but you need to make sure to get all three of these done to see the complete picture of what’s going on with your thyroid.
As well, it may be that you have an imbalance of estrogen to progesterone, with too much estrogen.
Support your progesterone hormone and conversely enhance estrogen detoxification:
- Vitex (chaste tree berry), sarsaparilla roots, wild yam roots, or yarrow flowers/leaves supplements are known to support progesterone (many others too!).
- Progesterone therapy may be recommended (talk to a doctor)
- Detox estrogen through reduction in alcohol intake, take vitamin B6 and DIM (diindolylmethane) supplements.
- Eat phytoestrogens like nuts, soy, flaxseeds.
- Support your liver function or do a liver cleanse.
There are a ton of more recommendations that can be made, but you certainly won’t need to do them all and what works for you will depend on your body.
The best way to get the best help is to get some personalized support from a holistic care provider.
What can a health care provider do?
Of course, every body is different, and you probably won’t need to follow all of the possible recommendations but will need to find what works for you in consultation with a care provider.
Care providers can:
- Create a protocol for your unique body with supplements and diet recommendations just for you.
- Test you for anemia (low iron).
- Test your hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone to see if they are normal.
- Do an endometrial sampling to check for uterine pathology (e.g. endometriosis).
- Do an ultrasound to check for fibroids.
- Test for any under-active thyroid disease which may cause heavy periods.
But please do keep in mind that you don’t need to suffer, heavy periods are not normal, and you can take steps to improve this and improve your experience of your periods.