Ever have days when you bleed through everything and it feels like you period is never going to stop? Heavy periods, or menorrhoea is no joke. I have experienced it personally as a teen (I even wore a tampon and a night pad and still bled through within half an hour), was put on various forms of the pill, mini pill, the IUD, the implant. You name it I was on it. But nothing ever worked and I was made to feel like it was my fault that my periods didn’t know how to respond, like I was the problem.
Now I know that it wasn’t me and that hormonal birth control can make things far, far worse. (That’s a whole other story as to why).
Is My Period Heavy?
That’s a great question, the chances are, if you think your period is heavy, it likely is. But incase you need some pointers, here are some signs it is on the heavy side:
- Needing to change your sanitary wear every 1-2 hours.
- Needing to wear two forms of sanitary protection (eg tampon and a pad).
- Bleeding through clothes and bedding, even when wearing appropriate padding (eg you don’t need to change it).
- Bleeding that lasts for over a week.
The NHS website (UK health service) defines a heavy period as a period in which a total blood volume of 80mg is lost in one period, a period lasting more than 7 days or both. For reference, that is about 16 table spoons of blood, and on average we lose approximately 6-8 tablespoons of blood throughout the who period, or enough to fill a shot glass if that means more to you.
Great, But My Doctor Says That Heavy Bleeding Is Normal
I hear your frustration. Heavy bleeding isn’t necessarily painful, but it can be such an inconvenience and mess with your daily life. If the doctor says that there is nothing wrong, there are times in life when heavy bleeding is common and is due to hormonal fluctuations. Some examples are:
- Puberty – and believe it or not it can take years before your periods regulate.
- Perimenopause to menopause.
- Post partum (although immediate post partum bleeding is normal and called lochia.
Additionally, some forms of hormonal medications can cause heavier bleeding (this is super common amongst a number of my clients).
I Don’t Fit Any Of The Above, Is There Something Wrong With Me?
It is always worth getting checked out if you have had a change or think there is something wrong. There are a number of issues that can cause heavy bleeding and if you believe you have one of them, then getting a diagnosis can be very useful. Examples include, thyroid issues, endometriosis, adenomyosis, STIs and fibroids to name a few.
If you suspect there is something wrong, for all the suggested issues above, there are nutrition and lifestyle, however, getting a diagnosis and an idea of all your treatment options and the severity of the condition is an important and useful first step. If in doubt, get checked out.
What Can I Do To Improve My Flow?
There are a number of things you can try:
1. Switch To Alternative Menstrual Products.
Standard products can increase flow as they are often inflammatory. There are a number of alternative products including disposables made of more vulva friendly materials. I switched 5 years ago, and have never looked back. They are so much more comfortable, I wish I had switched years earlier.
2. Love Your Womb
Spend some time taking care of your womb when it isn’t bleeding. One thing that I have seen really improve heavy bleedings over the years in practice include: womb massage (both performed by a practitioner such as myself and self massage), castor oil packs and womb steams.
3. Love The Veggies
Vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds are extremely important for our hormones. They are packed full of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, as well as add fibre. These are essential elements of detoxing excess oestrogen, one of the causes of heavy periods.
You’ll notice the emphasis on the vegetables. That is because we need to consume higher amounts of veggies over fruit, nuts and seeds, however, most people seem to go heavy on the fruit, which can upset blood sugar levels in some people and not eat enough veggies. You want to be eating at least two portions per meal (yes even at breakfast) and work your way up to at least two portions of dark green leafy greens a day, which are great for helping with excess oestrogen.
Don’t forget to work your way up slowly, so you don’t get any unpleasant side effects. You can also join my Healthy Recipe Quick Start which will help you increase your vegetable intake in delicious ways.
4. Reduce Your Inflammation
Inflammation can cause so many issues throughout the body, and there is more evidence, that it is a cause of auto-immune diseases and I certainly believe it to be linked with endometriosis. There are a number of ways to work on reducing your inflammation, such as increasing your omega 3 intake, reducing inflammatory foods and seed cycling (in people who aren’t sensitive to seeds). I have some videos that explore several aspects of inflammation and how it affects your periods.
5. Try Meatless & Dairy Free
Red meat and even dairy products can be problematic in some women as they contain arachidonic acid which encourages the production of inflammatory prostaglandin (PGE2) which can cause increased blood flow and blood clots. I recommend living them or even cutting them out for some time to see if this makes any difference.
Red meat can also increase oestrogen dominance which could result in heavier periods as well as other symptoms such as PMS, heavy periods, painful breasts, endometriosis and a number of other conditions.
6. Lower Your Insulin
Insulin is a growth hormone that can thicken your endometrium (which is the womb lining) and cause heavy periods in some women. If this is sounding familiar, excess insulin is also found in many women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and can stimulate the ovaries to produce testosterone, which is responsible for hirsutism (hair growth where you don’t want it), hair loss on the scalp and acne, to name a few symptoms.
You can work on getting your insulin under control by lowering your blood sugar levels under control.
7. Supplements For Periods
A good quality prenatal supplement contains many of the micronutrients required for healthy menstrual cycles, even if you are not trying to get pregnant. I really like Designs for Health, Thorne Research and Natural Health Clinic pre-natal supplements.
Good quality fish oil (if it smells fishy it is rancid). I like Nordic Naturals and Rosita’s Fermented Cod Liver Oil. Cod liver oil also has the added benefit of vitamin A, another micronutrient that can help with heavy periods.
Ginger not only makes a great tea and a spice for your food, but there was a small study done that showed that 250 mg of dried ginger a day in capsule form could lighten heavy periods.
Iron is a bit of a double edged sword, heavy bleeding can cause iron deficiency and anaemia, however, one of the risks of iron deficiency is heavier bleeding. Iron can be found in many foods such as organic liver and kidneys, beef, and chicken (if you now meat isn’t causing your heavy periods). However, there are lots of non meat sources too such as eggs, apricots, raisins, beans, nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables including cooked spinach. There are some studies showing that iron supplementation made no difference so it is worth experimenting and seeing what helps you personally.
Vitamin C is needed not only to help with iron absorption but has been shown to lighten menstrual flow. In my training, we were taught around 2 000 – 4 000 mg of Vitamin C a day could be required. At the moment I am using Rainbow Light Vitamin C.
Don’t forget, if you want to boost your health, check out the Quickstart Recipe Kit.