Despite the fact that we live in an age of increasing body acceptance and positivity, “period” can still be considered a dirty word. But like so many other physical cycles, menstruation has important messages for us. And if we don’t talk about it, we might miss the information it’s sharing about our health!
So, let’s talk about heavy periods. Known officially as menorrhagia, this condition occurs as unusually heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding. While the average woman loses 30 to 40 milliliters of blood during a period, a woman with menorrhagia can lose up to 80 milliliters. This excessive blood loss and the intense cramping that accompanies it can make it difficult for women with heavy periods to go about their daily lives, and t’s common for them to dread the week of their period. (1, 2)
Symptoms of Heavy Periods
It can be challenging to figure out exactly how much blood you lose during each period, but there are other signs that can point to your period being unusually heavy. Symptoms of menorrhagia include: (1, 2)
- Needing to change your tampon or pad every hour
- Passing blood clots larger than a quarter
- Experiencing severe cramps
- Bleeding for longer than a week
- Showing signs of anemia, such as fatigue or shortness of breath
- Needing to “double-up” on menstrual products
- Having to wake up during the night to change menstrual products
- Avoiding daily activities because of your period
Causes of Heavy Periods
Many women with heavy periods may have had them for many years and feel like they are used to them at this point. For some, a heavy period might not feel unusual, or they may believe that they can’t do anything about it. But you shouldn’t ignore a pattern of heavy periods, since it could be your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. (1, 2)
Menorrhagia has many potential causes. If you experience a heavy, painful period on a recurring basis, it could be caused by: (1, 2)
- Hormone Imbalance
- Bleeding disorder
- Uterine polyps
- Uterine fibroids
- Specific cancers
- Childbirth recovery
There are a few other types of heavy periods that aren’t classified as menorrhagia because they’re not prolonged or recurring, but they’re still important to be aware of and potentially look into. Heavy bleeding on just the first day of your period could be caused by changes in birth control or other medications. Women who suddenly have a heavy period one month could be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. This could also be caused by an intrauterine device (IUD) or other medications, such as blood thinners. Because of the wide array of possible causes of heavy periods, it’s crucial to pay attention to your body, notice other signs and symptoms, and reach out to a medical professional if you have concerns. (1, 2)
Conventional Treatment for Heavy Periods
Conventional treatment for heavy periods often focuses on controlling blood flow and masking symptoms. A doctor will usually do a physical exam and ask about your health history and menstrual cycles. They may also request that you keep a record of your menstrual cycle, including the days that you bleed, how heavy the flow is, your symptoms, and how many menstrual products you need to use. (1, 2)
After these initial requests, your doctor may also recommend further testing, which could include blood tests, a pap smear, an endometrial biopsy, or an ultrasound. Depending on what they learn, your doctor may recommend one or more of these conventional treatment options: (1, 2)
- Birth Control – Your doctor may prescribe an oral contraceptive or hormonal IUD for the purpose of managing the heaviness and length of periods. It is important to note that these “hormonal” solutions are actually endocrine system disruptors, and are only a bandaid an may create bigger hormonal issues down the road.
- Prescription Medication – A doctor could prescribe a medication like synthetics oral progestins to control hormone levels and alleviate menorrhagia.
- Over-The-Counter Pain Medication – Your doctor may recommend that you use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, to reduce cramping and blood loss.
- Surgery – If the above treatment options don’t help your heavy periods, your doctor might suggest treating them with surgery. This could involve removing polyps or fibroids or performing a dilation and curettage (D & C), in which a surgeon removes layers of tissue from the uterus in order to reduce heavy bleeding. However, even with a D & C, menorrhagia can reoccur, and you may need to have the procedure done again (because the actual problem is not being addressed, more on that later).
In serious cases of menorrhagia, your doctor could recommend a hysterectomy, in which the uterus and cervix are removed. This is a major procedure that would eliminate your periods and the possibility of becoming pregnant later.
While these treatments are common for menorrhagia, if a woman’s heavy periods are caused by a hormonal imbalance, these conventional treatment options will just mask the symptoms, not truly treat the underlying problem. In this case, steps need to be taken to bring hormones back into balance naturally.
How to Treat Heavy Periods Naturally
There are many different reasons that heavy periods might occur. The majority of which are a sign from your body that it’s time to heal your hormones. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this naturally that could also have a positive impact on your heavy periods. And it has a lot to do with estrogen.
Estrogen is a sneaky little hormone that is often overlooked in typical blood tests. It can be related to issues such as weight gain, sleepless nights, sugar cravings, low energy, depression and insulin resistance in both men and women, and heavy periods or intense PMS symptoms just for the ladies.
It has snuck up on me a few times over the years, so now that I’m onto estrogen’s tricks, I’m giving you the inside info to make sure estrogen isn’t getting in the way of you feeling like your best self.
Unexplained weight, acne, low libido, restless sleep, hot flashes and struggling to build muscle, are just some of the common characteristics that can be seen when estrogen is dominating your body.
And Estrogen doesn’t discriminate. It’s just as much of an issue these days with both men and women. I see it all the time in clients coming through my virtual practice door.
And it can be very confusing for people, who for the first time in their lives are having trouble managing weight and their cycle seems to be playing cruel tricks on them every month.
Why Does Estrogen Get Out Of Control?
Reason #1 – A possible genetic predisposition. Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with estrogen responsive cancer? You might have some genetic variants that predisose you to estrogen dominance. About 80% of all breast cancers are “ER-positive”, meaning the cancer cells grow in response to estrogen. But don’t worry, as we always say, your genes are not your destiny. Learn more about hormones and genetics in this post.
Reason #2 – Poor estrogen metabolism clearance. A Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones (DUTCH) can reveal estrogen metabolites (estrone and estradiol) going down the less favorable pathway. In addition, some people have difficulty clearing the used estrogen and this can recirculate throughout the body, creating an estrogen dominant situation (even when estrogen levels aren’t particularly high.) The Dutch test looks at all phases of estrogen metabolism. These values cannot be seen on a blood test, so they have been routinely missed.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
In men, it’s usually determined when estrogen levels are relatively high in comparison to testosterone. Meaning testosterone levels could be normal or low, and estrogen is relatively high to whatever that number is.
In women, it’s commonly evaluated based upon the ratio of estrogen to progesterone, but as with men, it can also be evaluated when comparing testosterone to estrogen.
In general, when estrogen levels are relatively high to other hormones, it’s not good.
I fell victim to estrogen dominance back in the day. My weight climbed by 15 pounds, I broke out with acne, I had painful and heavy periods, I didn’t sleep great, and I couldn’t keep my emotions under wraps – all because estrogen had taken over. And I’m also certain estrogen was a tipping factor towards my Hashimoto’s.
The good news is that estrogen dominance doesn’t happen overnight. It’s preventable and reversible in almost any case.
But if estrogen gets out of control, it can lead to more health issues beyond stubborn weight, acne and heavy periods.
Estrogen Dominance Can Also Contribute To:
- Hormone driven cancers such as the ER-2 breast cancer
- Autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s
- Yeast and bacteria overgrowth such as Candida
So how can you keep estrogen within its normal playing field?
Natural Solutions for Heavy Periods and Estrogen Dominance
- Sort Out Estrogen Sources
One of the biggest reasons why estrogen is on the rise is due to a classification of toxins known as Xenoestrogens. These toxins have the ability to mimic estrogen in the body or block hormone receptor sites resulting in elevated estrogen levels. Common sources of estrogen-promoting toxins can be found in:
- Plastic food and water containers, or other types of containers
- Lotions, shampoos, conditioners, deodorant or other personal care products
- Metal substances such as cadmium, lead, and mercury
Aim to swap out your plastic containers for glass or stainless steel and use the EWG’s Skin Deep Database to find non-toxic personal care products.
Other estrogen-elevating sources also include:
- Non-organic foods containing pesticides or added hormones
- Tap water (yes, even though it’s deemed “safe”) contaminated with pesticides/toxins
- Intestinal parasites, bacteria and yeast that elevate toxic enzymes and trap estrogen
- Excess body fat that absorbs, stores and synthesizes estrogen
- Synthetic hormones found in hormone replacement therapies and/or birth control
- Water damaged buildings with mold growth
- Unrelenting mental or emotional stress
Some actions you can take RIGHT NOW to tackle these sources are eating organic, drinking and cooking with only filtered water, properly addressing water leaks and mold, and taking time to meditate or de-stress daily.
To sort out the synthetic hormones, detox from mold and/or intestinal pathogens, consider working with myself and my team in our intensive natural medicine implementation program, The GLOW Protocol
2. Love Your Liver
The reality is, we can’t control our exposure to estrogen-driving toxins 100% of the time. But our liver does play a major role in getting rid of excess estrogen that might be circulating in the body, and that’s something you can get behind. By supporting liver function, you can kill two birds with one stone: eliminate toxins you’ve been exposed to that might raise estrogen levels, and get rid of excess estrogen.
To support your liver, you can:
- Take a daily liver support supplement with nutrients such as milk thistle
- Eat naturally detoxifying foods such as beets, grapefruits, lemons, and dandelion greens
- Regularly use a castor oil pack, do dry body brushing or sit in an infrared sauna
- Do all of the above and give more power to your liver!
3. Eat And Drink Anti-Estrogenic
The great news is, you can combat estrogen on a daily basis with little effort. Simply aim to eat anti-estrogenic foods, known as cruciferous vegetables, and drink clean, filtered water (from a glass or steel bottle of course!).
Some of the best estrogen regulating foods to consume include:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bok Choy
- Collard Greens
4. Maintain Ideal Weight With Healthy Diet And Exercise
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, losing weight could help women who are overweight to regulate their menstrual cycles. Even losing just a small amount of weight could have a positive impact. And weight loss has the added benefit of helping to regulate your hormones, which could help with heavy periods. (3, 4)
If you decide to lose weight, do so in a healthy way by making dietary changes that you can sustain long-term. Focus on filling your diet with fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meats, and whole grains to help you feel good and regulate your heavy periods with healthy, sustainable weight loss.
Regular exercise is another way to help you maintain a healthy weight, balance your hormones, and improve heavy periods. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. If you’re not a fan of going to the gym, don’t worry. You can meet your exercise goals by doing activities that are fun for you. Moderate physical activity can mean walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, playing sports, and more! Look for types of exercise that you’ll look forward to so you’ll be more likely to get in all of your minutes of physical activity.
5. Reduce Stress
Stress can deeply affect our physical and mental health, so it’s no surprise that it can also be a culprit of heavy periods. While it would be nice to completely eliminate stress from our lives, situations that cause tension will arise sooner or later. Because of this, it’s essential to learn how to manage stress in our lives. (5)
Try using some of the following activities to manage your stress levels:
- Tai chi or qi gong
- Spend time outside
- Talk to a friend or family member about what is causing your stress
If you find that you frequently feel stressed and struggle to reduce feelings of stress through activities like the above, you may consider seeking support. A therapist can help you identify what makes you feel stressed and offer tools for successfully managing it. This will likely improve your overall quality of life and could reduce your heavy periods.(5)
6. Consider Supplements
Taking certain supplements could improve your heavy periods. As with any new supplement or medication, it’s important to talk to your doctor or another medical professional first. They can help you figure out the dosage you need, as well as advise you about how a new supplement may interact with ones you’re already taking. (6)
Supplements that could naturally treat heavy periods include: (6, 7)
- Chaste tree – Also known as chasteberry, this herb is popular in Europe for treating heavy bleeding and hormonal imbalances in women. One study found that taking chaste tree was helpful for some women in reducing the days that they experienced heavy bleeding during their periods.
- Vitamin C – There is evidence that Vitamin C can help lessen heavy bleeding. It may also assist the body in absorbing iron, which is essential for those with heavy periods because they lose so much iron.
- Iron – It’s possible that an iron deficiency could cause menorrhagia. For some women, eating a diet rich in iron could help them regulate their periods. In addition, women suffering from heavy periods may lose too much iron in their blood, which can lead to anemia. So, eating an iron-rich diet or supplementing with iron can be helpful.
- Daily GLOW – a female physician-formulated high quality multinutrient formula with added herbs to combat stress, detoxify estrogen, balance hormones, support thyroid, immune health, combat cravings, improve sleep, and enhance energy, Daily GLOW combines it all into one professional strength formula. Click here to learn more about Daily GLOW
- Bio-identical Progesterone – For women who are producing enough progesterone, adding some bio-identical progesterone can help balance things out. Be sure to use only physiological doses and avoid synthetic progestins (as those will just make the problem worse. It’s a good idea to consult your health care provider before starting on any hormones.
Having heavy periods every month can be discouraging, but there is hope! You can naturally treat menorrhagia and stop dreading your period. And I’d love to coach you through it.
The 21 Day Metabolic Rehab and Hormone Makeover can guide you through most of the action steps listed above while restoring healthy hormone levels and metabolism naturally. You’ll learn to use food as medicine, detoxify your liver, learn at home natural medicine healing practices, and be guided every step of the way with daily coaching.
The 21 Day Metabolic Rehab and Hormone Makeover is the perfect plan for anyone experiencing estrogen dominance, heavy periods, PMS, weight loss resistance, insomnia, digestive distress, or other hormonal issues. Click here to Rehab your hormones with me today