Every month, your body prepares for a potential pregnancy, and your ovaries release a mature egg. Also, your hormones estrogen and progesterone rise and fall throughout the month. This is known as your menstrual cycle. There are two primary phases of your menstrual cycle, and they are the follicular phase and the luteal phase.
The follicular phase is a time when ovarian follicles grow in preparation for the main attraction - ovulation!
The follicular phase begins on the first day of your period and ends with ovulation. This phase takes about two weeks (though it varies greatly from woman to woman).
Healthy periods start with healthy follicles.
The follicles are the part of your ovaries that produce estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Follicles are negatively affected by inflammation, autoimmunity, thyroid disease, insulin sensitivity, and deficiencies of essential nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin D, Iodine, Zinc and Selenium (Briden 2017)
The luteal phase follows ovulation.
If ovulation was successful, a progesterone secreting gland called the corpus luteum forms. If you remember nothing else, remember this one thing - this is how you make progesterone!
Progesterone is the feel-good hormone for overall well-being, pregnancy and healthy periods.
The luteal phase lasts approx. two weeks. How long the luteal phase lasts is determined by the lifespan of the corpus luteum. The health of your corpus luteum is affected by the same things that affect your ovarian follicles!
If pregnancy does not happen, the lining of the uterus sheds and the next menstrual cycle (your period) begins.
WHAT DOES A HEALTHY PERIOD LOOK LIKE?
21 to 35-day cycles with 2-7 days of bleeding. A cycle shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days is considered irregular.
Menstrual fluid should be mostly liquid, no large clots.
Once flow starts, the menstrual blood should be light to bright red.
Blood loss should not be more than 50 ml or three tablespoons over the course of your period. Menstrual bleeding often seems like a whole lot more than it really is!
Minimal discomfort. Some discomfort is to be expected, but severe pain is not normal.
COMMON PERIOD PROBLEMS
NO PERIODS OR IRREGULAR PERIODS
It is not uncommon to periodically miss a period, or for periods to become irregular from time to time. Sometimes menstrual irregularities are due to normal fluctuations and are not cause for concern. Other times, they are a sign of imbalance, and a call to your doctor is necessary. If your period is shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days, it’s considered irregular.
HEAVY OR PAINFUL PERIODS
Periods are considered heavy if bleeding lasts more than seven days or if blood loss is greater than 80 ml (Briden, 2017). Heavy periods can be due to different things; the most common is failed ovulation (Briden, 2017). Anovulation is common with PCOS and during perimenopause. If you do not ovulate regularly, progesterone levels will drop. Low progesterone, as well as the release of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) during your period, can cause cramping and pain.
WHAT ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL?
CAN BIRTH CONTROL REPAIR OR REGULATE PERIODS?
Since you don’t have a period while taking hormonal birth control medication, the answer is no!
HERE’S THE SCOOP…
The popular birth control medications used to regulate periods suppress your own natural hormones.
You get some relief from symptoms because your hormones are suppressed.
The bleeding during birth control use is called “withdrawal” bleeding.
During the placebo week or “break week” of your birth control program, no hormones are released.
The withdrawal of hormones triggers bleeding.
This is not a real period with a follicular and luteal phase.
The bleeding is programed each month by the medication. Nothing has been repaired or regulated.
When you come off birth control medication, your imbalance will still be there.
6 POWERFUL DAILY HABITS FOR HEALTHY PERIODS
#1 EAT A HORMONE HEALTHY DIET
Eliminate refined sugar: Sugar addiction can lead to insulin resistance and other hormone imbalances. If you have PCOS or other blood sugar issues, I suggest eliminating all sugar, even natural sugar! If you don’t have blood sugar imbalances, you can substitute raw honey, 100% maple syrup, date paste or blackstrap molasses for refined sugar.
Reduce alcohol intake: Alcohol is fuel to the fire for hormone imbalance. Just one alcoholic beverage per day raises estrogen levels! Order “mocktails” or sparkling water when you go out with friends.
Reduce caffeine intake: Overconsumption of caffeine can lead to cortisol imbalance, anxiety and poor sleep. I love Chaga coffee or Roasted Dandelion coffee. If you can’t get through the day without caffeine, that is a sure sign of hormone imbalance.
Meal Prep and cut down on eating out: Processed and fast foods do not provide the nutrients your body needs. Without the right nutrients, your body simply cannot manufacture the hormones necessary for a healthy period.
Eat enough/ Don’t overeat: Both restricting calories and overeating can lead to hormone imbalance. It’s essential to eat the correct amount for your body.
#2 GET THE RIGHT NUTRIENTS ON BOARD
Zinc: helps regulate the HPA axis (stress response) and reduces inflammation. Zinc nourishes the ovaries for healthy ovulation and progesterone production. Zinc is essential for hormone synthesis.
Magnesium: supports hormone health by reducing pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, relaxing muscles of the uterus, preventing constipation and supporting the adrenals.
Vitamin D: vitamin D has shown to reduce period pain. Vitamin D can be found in cod liver oil, tuna, eggs, and salmon. Your body also naturally makes Vitamin D whenever you get out in the sun. If you have menstrual concerns, have your D levels checked.
Iron: is an essential nutrient for women who menstruate. Eat plenty of iron-rich foods. Do not supplement directly with an iron supplement unless you have a confirmed iron deficiency. I like a product called Innate Iron Response.
Iodine: is not just for thyroid health! Iodine is an essential nutrient for ovarian follicles and breast tissue. Iodine also aids in the detoxification of estrogen, making it beneficial for excess estrogen. Ocean vegetables are an excellent source of iodine.
Sleep is essential for hormone health:
Sleep stabilizes the HPA Axis
Sleep balances cortisol
Sleep improves insulin sensitivity
Sleep regulates the release of progesterone, estrogen and luteinizing hormone.
How many hours do you sleep per night? Is your sleep uninterrupted? Shoot for at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. If you have trouble sleeping consider natural sleep aids such as melatonin, magnesium and valerian root.
#4 MOVE YOUR BODY
Movement and exercise are necessary for hormone health. For example, studies show exercise can improve irregular periods, even when caused by conditions such as PCOS. It’s important to note that not all activity is helpful for hormone health.
Exercise such as gentle yoga, walking, and weightlifting that do not cause cortisol to rise are the best type of activities when you’re trying to repair your period. Overtraining can negatively affect neurotransmitters and thyroid hormones too!
Improves insulin sensitivity
Helps with sleep
#5 REDUCE STRESS
Prolonged stress, anxiety, and worry disrupt your hormones. Especially progesterone. If you're serious about repairing your period - managing stress is not an option.
Here are some simple ways to reduce stress:
5-minute breathing practice
Restorative or Yin yoga
Keep a ‘What’s Good’ journal
Practice daily affirmations
Do things that you enjoy!
Learn to let go of things you cannot control
#6 DITCH THE TOXINS
Use organic beauty care
Use only natural household cleaners
Use safe cookware such as glass, ceramic and stainless steel
Install a high-quality filter to purify your drinking water
Purchase organic foods whenever possible
Easy and predictable periods
Endless energy and better moods
Freedom to live your life
Today I presented you with 6 powerful daily habits for healthy periods. I believe if you hold space for these healthy habits, you can change your period for the better! But I also know how difficult change can be. Sticking with a healthy diet, quitting sugar, and living healthy can be hard - especially when you're busy. You need support, you need help planning meals, and you need an easy step by step plan. That's where I come in! NEW COURSE coming in September PCOS & Fertility
Yours in health