Love them or hate them, periods don’t always run smoothly. Whatever the problem is, don’t just go with the flow; read on to find out what could be happening and how to give nature a holistic helping hand.
Do you suspect your periods are a bit heavier than what’s normal? Periods are considered heavy if they interfere with daily life if they stop you from going to work or from doing your normal activities. They can affect all age groups but older women often find their periods are closer together and heavier in nature. Typically, one in five women between the ages of 30 and 50 is affected by abnormal uterine bleeding.
What’s the cause?
Most women with heavy periods do not have anything seriously wrong with them. However, a significant number of women may have a thickening of the lining of the womb (polyps) or benign growths called fibroids which make their periods worse.
It’s important to see your GP if your last three periods have been lasting longer than normal, or if you having pain more than usual, clots or flooding. If there is irregular bleeding between your periods or after sexual intercourse, you shouldn’t ignore these signs and should see your doctor as soon as possible. If you are above the age of 40, it is especially important to seek advice sooner rather than later. Precancerous and cancerous changes are more like to cause erratic bleeding rather than just heavy periods. Fortunately, these changes are relatively uncommon, especially in women under the age of 40.
A healthy lifestyle is important if you are losing a lot of blood each month. Eating a balanced diet, rich in green leafy vegetables will keep your iron levels up. A low-fat high fiber plant-strong diet focussing on vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, and wholegrain cereals can go a long way in ensuring you have all the necessary vitamins and minerals, as well as meeting your protein and calcium needs. However, with heavy periods, the underlying cause, if there is one, needs to be identified and correct treatment must be prescribed. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to seek medical advice when you have concerns about heavy periods.
This is really common (and usually harmless) in young women. Periods becoming painful in later life may suggest a problem, though.
What’s the cause?
When periods become painful in later life it’s known as secondary dysmenorrhea and can be more serious, often indicating a medical problem like endometriosis. See your GP if you suspect this could be the case.
If you have ruled out a serious medical problem, there are many holistic ways to help. Aromatherapy is scientifically proven to ease painful periods. Research has shown that aromatherapy essential oils with analgesic properties can be effective. A recent study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology used lavender, clary sage and marjoram in an unscented cream base for daily massage into the abdomen. The duration of pain was significantly reduced in the aromatherapy group from 2.4 to 1.8 days.
To help relieve period pain at home, take some raspberry lead herbal capsules and using the following fantastic aromatherapy blends:
Aromatic bath: one cup of dead sea salt with 5 drops of lavender, 5 marjorams, and 4 clary sage.
Warm compress: 1-liter warm water with 5 drops of lavender, 5 clary sage, and 5 marjorams. Soak 2 cloths in the water, squeeze out and apply this to lower back and abdomen simultaneously if possible.
Massage oil: Mix 10ml St John’s wort, 20ml sweet almond oil an 5 drops each of clary sage, marjoram and lavender. Massage in clockwise rotations gently over the abdomen and smooth in long soothing strokes down the back.
Ayurvedic practitioners recommend roasting some cumin seeds in a dry pan until pungent, then slowly chewing a teaspoon once cool, and following with a tablespoon of aloe vera juice to banish period pain.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
The range of symptoms is wide and they vary from woman to woman. You may feel bloated, anxious, depressed, low in confidence, suffer mood swings, feel weepy, crave certain foods or be very irritable.
What’s the cause?
Premenstrual syndrome is a group of symptoms that seem to be linked to hormone fluctuations before a period starts, and can last up to a couple of weeks. The exact cause isn’t known.
Try supplementing with evening primrose oil and Agnus cactus which are known to help with symptoms like bloating. Other therapies and remedies to try include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be useful for changing negative thought patterns.
If you are overweight, slimming down will help as women with a body mass index higher than 30 are three times more likely to suffer PMS than those of a normal weight (a BMI of 18.5-24.9).
Eat lots of green leafy vegetables. A recent study found that women who consume the most non-heme iron (that is, iron from a plant source rather than animal) could cut their risk of PMS by up to 40 percent. Green leafy veg is the best source so pile your plate high.
Mostly bleed hardly there at all? At extremes of age, very light periods may be normal and once a good history is taken, women may just need reassurance.
What’s going on?
Intense training and exercise can alter your menstrual cycle or even cause amenorrhea. This can result in the malfunction of the ovaries, which can affect your fertility and chances of conceiving.
If your periods are very light, you could be experiencing the perimenopause, or it could be polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women in the perimenopause may have very light or infrequent periods in the run-up to becoming menopausal, and this is normal. PCOS is where younger women, especially if they are overweight, are producing too much estrogen. You may also sometimes have very heavy periods as the womb lining shifts after many months.
See your GP and if you are diagnosed with PCOS, try to keep to a healthy weight. It’s important to manage PCOS because sufferers may be more at risk of metabolic syndrome, subfertility and womb cancer. Avoiding red meat and dairy will minimise the amount of estrogen you are consuming, as will not eating foods stored in plastics or cans, which contain bisphenol A, a hormone disruptor. You should particularly avoid heating anything in a plastic container to avoid this chemical leaching into your food.