What your period is trying to tell you

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Does your period suck? Do you think it’s normal?

I remember when I first started to get my period, and I DESPISED it. It was the one thing I absolutely dreaded every single month. I just wished it would disappear entirely.

And then I found birth control.

This was my answer.

My doctor confirmed that I didn’t have to have a period every month and that skipping the “withdrawal bleed”, which is not a real period btw, could actually be beneficial.

So I skipped my “periods” for months at a time. And it was the best thing ever.

Until I realized how important my period actually is.

And my hormones were out of wack.

Today I don’t mind my period at all, in fact I welcome it.

And PMS is a thing of the past.


So YES you can and should have effortless periods.

If you don’t, you gotta start digging.

You would think that mother nature thinks things through. So why on earth would the female body have to menstruate every month?

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First of all, your period is a direct indicator of your overall health. which is kinda useful because it can direct us to underlying issues and imbalances that could potentially worsen over time, such as thyroid disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.


When you ovulate and bleed regularly you produce your own estrogen and progesterone. Estradiol is our good estrogen and is important as it supports mood and stimulates serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. It’s also really important to promote healthy bones, proper insulin function, hair, skin, libido, and metabolic function. It is also of course involved in the menstrual cycle, controlling the growth of the uterine lining in the first half of your cycle.

But we need it in the proper forms and in the right amounts! Commonly we see elevated levels of estrogens among women, and not the good kind.

Progesterone is our calming and soothing hormone as it stimulates GABA, but it is commonly seen at low ranges in women nowadays for various reasons. Progesterone helps to counter estrogen’s effects by helping lighten periods and reducing PMS symptoms. It also helps to reduce androgen levels, supports mood and sleep, stimulates bone building, boosts metabolism, and has a protective effect against certain cancers like breast cancer.

Progesterone is also needed to sustain a pregnancy, and avoid the risk of miscarriage.

So as you can see, it’s important that you make these hormones in healthy amounts!

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But what happens when they are out of balance? They can make periods or even day to day life a struggle.

Check out the most common periods problems what to do about them below!

Light periods

Light periods could mean your hormone levels are low, especially estrogen. Food makes up the building blocks of the hormones that you make so you may not be eating enough calories or getting the nutrients you need. Light bleeds usually indicate anovulatory cycles, common in PCOS, which means you may need to look at promoting ovulation, which occurs after the estrogen surge in our follicular phase.

Possible reasons: adrenal stress, nutrient deficiencies, vegan diets, low body weight, smoking, lack of macronutrients and micronutrients…

Some tips: a good quality multi-vitamin may be a good idea to boost nutrient status (particularly zinc, b vitamins, omega 3’s which can be depleted during stress and from vegan diets), manage your stress properly and get enough sleep, take your workouts down a notch, and make sure you are getting enough protein!


Heavy bleeding

A heavy period is blood loss greater than 80 mL or lasting for more than seven days.

Heavy bleeding can mean you have high estrogen levels circulating in the bloodstream. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are making too much estrogen but that your estrogen is too high compared to progesterone, that your liver is not detoxifying estrogen properly, or that you are getting too much exposure from outside sources (hello xenoestrogens!). Hypothyroidism is another reason you can experience heavy bleeding, which can result in too high estrogen and too low progesterone.

Possible reasons: poor liver function, endometriosis, fibroids, excess body fat, exposure to estrogens in the environment, poor gut function, hypothyroidism, estrogen overload…

Some tips: boost your iron stores (which are lost with heavy bleeding) with chlorophyll or grass fed beef which will help lighten periods, avoid dairy which can be inflammatory and make periods worse and it also can reduce iron absorption, include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts to help eliminate excess estrogen, get a full thyroid panel from your doctor to rule out thyroid disease, avoid alcohol which impairs your liver’s ability to detoxify estrogen. Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet with lots of leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, and omega 3 fats.

Long periods

Do you have your period every 35 days or more? This is common in PCOS. This means you are not ovulating or your follicular phase is particularly long. Again you want to address the root imbalances; why are you not ovulating? Is there something else going on here? Are you eating enough macronutrients? Are you getting the proper nutrients that you need? Are you over-exercising? Are you under high stress? Do you have insulin resistance?

You may need to ask your doctor for further testing.

Possible reasons: anovulation, thyroid disease, stress, illness, insulin resistance, fibroids, hypothalamic amenorrhea, endometrial hyperplasia….

Some tips: look at promoting ovulation by promoting elimination of estrogen (liver + gut support), address any nutrient deficiencies, balance your insulin and blood sugar, manage your stress, and address thyroid disease or other causes with your doctor.

Short cycles

Feel like you are constantly bleeding? If your period comes sooner than 21 days this means it is early, which indicates a short luteal or follicular phase or no ovulation.

This may be a sign of low thyroid function, so make sure you do a full panel not just TSH and T4.

Possible reasons: hypothyroidism, stress, illness, low progesterone…

Some tips: get a full thyroid panel test, address your stress (add play into your day, manage your time, meditate, supplement with magnesium, sleep 7-9 hours…), boost progesterone and promote ovulation.

Spotting

Spotting usually means that your progesterone levels are too low and that you are not ovulating. So again, we want to promote ovulation. Side note, you could also be experiencing ovulation spotting which occurs on the day of ovulation when estrogen levels drop. We want to address why you are not ovulating which is commonly linked to thyroid disease, insulin resistance, stress, and nutrient deficiencies.

Possible reasons: uterine fibroids, endometriosis, infections, anovulatory cycle, progesterone deficiency, ovulation spotting, thyroid disease, inflammation, insulin resistance….

Some tips: get a full thyroid panel done by your doctor, manage your stress, avoid dairy and gluten which are inflammatory, eat zinc rich foods like pumpkin seeds and oysters which promote progesterone production, look into a B-complex and vitamin C to provide the nutrients essential for the adrenal glands and to correct any luteal phase issues, try seed cycling.


Cramping

Painful periods, also known as “dysmenorrhea”, are extremely common affecting more than 50% of menstruating women.

It is said to be caused by an increased production of pro-inflammatory and pro-spasmodic chemicals in the muscular lining of the uterus, called prostaglandins.

So naturally we want to lower inflammation by avoiding foods that promote the production of these nasty prostaglandins. Top inflammatory foods include dairy, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, and hydrogenated oils. Then we want to add in foods that inhibit inflammation such as a more plant based diet that includes omega 3 fats.

Another common reason for painful periods is low progesterone so we want to promote the elimination of excess estrogen by eating plenty of fiber and feeding our gut with probiotics, which help get rid of toxins and excess estrogens. High cortisol steals from progesterone production, disrupts blood sugar, and increases inflammation so we also need to manage our stress with plenty of sleep and eating balanced meals throughout the deal (fat+protein+fiber+veggies).

Possible reasons: inflammatory foods, deficiency of micronutrients, stress, excess exercise, low progesterone, excess estrogen, iron deficiency, high insulin…

Some tips: ginger and turmeric in your food or as supplements, avoid inflammatory foods, include omega 3 fats (algae or fish), avoid toxins and adopt clean beauty products, magnesium helps lower prostaglandin production and supports progesterone levels, decrease red meat consumption and increase veggie protein sources (lentils, tempeh, beans, hemp hearts, legumes, spirulina, nuts and seeds…)

Want more tips on beating PMS? Grab my FREE guide here

Laurence Annez