Menstruation is an experience that many women don’t look fondly upon. From a young age we are told that periods are an inconvenience & something to be hidden. Women often feel dirty while menstruating & consider periods to be a tremendous burden.
I totally get it. It’s valid to feel like things can can be messy & cramps are a total buzz kill. That being said, I’d like to change some of the story we have around periods being something to be ashamed about. When you think about it, periods are kind of amazing – every month your body is creating the perfect cozy environment for a potential babe – and will not suffice for anything less – so, will shed the blood lining to fashion a new one when it needs. Crazy!
Also, historically while women were menstruating it was considered a very sacred time & a phase to be revered. Women would gather & share stories & rest . We were considered our most “powerful” during that time of the month. (see book: Rent Tent for more). Periods are not only a window into your physical health (i.e. consider it your monthly report card) they are also vessels for emotional repression to come through. I am always so curious to learn about what emotions women feel during their premenstrual stage as this gives insight into what emotion (sadness, anger, frustration, depression) they could be suppressing in their daily life. When we know the emotion, we can focus on finding a healthy outlet for that emotion for the rest of the days of month so that it doesn’t come out as strong pre- period.
Such a big part of period health, is hormone balance. Typically what we see in practice is estrogen excess and/or progesterone deficiency. What causes this is a combination of factors including lack of fibre in diet, exposure to synthetic hormores via meat & plastics, STRESS & lifestyle factors. An ND is able to run a full female hormone panel for you to know sure what is out of balance but for your information, below are some signs of estrogen excess/progesterone deficiency to watch out for:
- Mood concerns
- Premenstrual spotting
- Breast tenderness
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Irregular periods
- Low sex drive
- Sluggish metabolism
Ever wonder what a “healthy” period even looks like? Here are some characteristics:
- Total cycle length 28-32 days
- Days of flow/bleed on average: 5
- Comes and goes with gusto ie. Limited spotting before & leading out
- No clots
- Bright red in colour throughout, small amounts of brown spotting ok
- Limited/no cramping with onset of period
- Less than 80mL of actual bleeding
- Bonus: cycling with actual moon cycles (We are about 70% of water afterall)
Period health is a common concern that Naturopathic Doctors address in practice. Speak to an ND at your earliest convenience if you are experiencing symptoms listed about or anything outside what is listed as heathy period above. Your period doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence.
Check out below for some healthy period tips:
- Drink LOTS of water (2L per day): Water is our most basic detox ingredient. If there is excess estrogen in our body, water will help to keep bowels regular to ensure hormones are getting flushed out.
- High dose probiotic (multistrain, 15+ billion CPU): Probiotics help to breakdown hormones so that they can be excreted properly. Ensuring you’ve got a good terrain will help balance things out.
- 2 tbsp of ground flax seed per day: Flax seed contains something called lignans which are what we call hormone modulators. They work to bring estrogen down when its too high or up when its too low(menopause). They are have the added benefit of being a source of fibre and a good healthy fat.
- Fish oil (Omega 3 fatty acid): Most of our hormones are composed in part of fats, making sure you are giving your body the fuel it needs to make healthy hormones is crucial. Additionally, fish oil is a powerhouse as an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is generally a contributing factors in concerns like period cramping & PMS.
- Lots of dark leafy greens & vegetables especially broccoli/kale: This will increase fibre to your diet to ensure your bowels are moving. Broccoli/kale specifically contains something called Indole 3 carbonyl which is a natural hormone detox ingredient.
- Avoid using plastics: Plastics can wreak havoc on your hormonal system because they contain hormone disrupters, like BPA.
- Consume hormone-free meats: No brainer.
- Remove dairy from diet: This will limit hormone exposure, after all dairy is cow’s breast milk so you can believe it will influence your own hormones.
- Exercise: Enhances circulation & therefore clearance of inflammatory cytokines. Also helps with mood, confidence & so so much more.
- Rest during your period: During our actual flow/bleed phase, it super important to create space for rest to allow any emotions to move through & whatever needs to be released, be released. This will help to welcome a fresh new cycle & create a better relationship with your period in general.
- Additional go-to supplements (talk to your ND before implementing):
- Vitex: A helpful herb for progesterone deficiency & PMS
- Vitamin B6: Involved in neurotransmitter formation, so helpful for mood swings related to PMS
- Magnesium: Heavily involved in many things including neurotransmitter formation, muscle tension, liver detox, mood/stress
- Raspberry Leaf Tea: Gentle hormone balancer & very nutritive
- Zinc: Helps in maintenance of the corpus luteum which is part of the shell which your egg is released from, which also secretes progesterone. Helpful in progesterone deficiency.
Information above is not a substitute for medical advice and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Please seek medical advice before implementing changes to your own life.