One of the common hormonal symptoms that I work with in clinic is heavy periods. Many women are unsure if their period is actually considered heavy or not. In this article we will cover what is classified as a heavy period, what may be causing your heavy periods and how you can begin to start investigating the root cause as well as reducing your symptoms in the mean time.
What is classified as a heavy period?
A normal amount of blood loss is anywhere up to 80 mL across the entire menstrual bleed. To put that into real terms because I don’t think anyone measures the mL of their menstrual loss, that’s 8 fully soaked super tampons, or 16 regular. Another way to conceptualise the 80 mL is 4 tablespoons across the entire menstrual cycle.
Some other indicators that your cycle is too heavy are:
- Bleeding for longer than 7 days.
- Doubling up on products e.g. a tampon and a pad for fear of breakthrough bleeding.
- Needing to change your menstrual product more than every 2 hours.
- Seeing blood clots in your menstrual blood, larger than a 5 cent piece.
- Waking in the night to change your menstrual product.
Why Is heavy bleeding a problem?
Heavy bleeding is a symptom that there is a hormonal imbalance such as high oestrogen or low thyroid hormones, or it can be a sign of something like uterine polyps or fibroids. It’s safe to say that it is not a symptom you want to ignore.
As a result of excessive blood loss each month, it’s highly likely that you are also experiencing low iron levels which can contribute to daily fatigue, shortness of breath and foggy thinking.
What causes heavy periods?
- Excess oestrogen and low progesterone
- Fibroids (non-cancerous tumours or growth in the uterus)
- Endometrial polyps
- Blood thinning medications, like aspirin
- Certain birth control like the copper IUD
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Liver or kidney disease
- Iron deficiency
So what are the next steps in resolving your heavy periods?
- Find out the root cause. This will involve further testing through your GP and in clinic I typically recommend either a salivary hormone or urine test, to get more information about the rest of your hormones.
- Correct nutrient deficiencies that may be contributing to heavy periods this includes iron and iodine. Note: I do not recommend high dose iron supplementation, as it causes GI upset and is ineffective.
- Support oestrogen metabolism via the liver and gut. Oestrogen is an anabolic hormone which really simply means it’s job is to build. It builds blood, uterine tissue, breast tissue and more. More oestrogen = more blood. Note: If you have gut symptoms like constipation, diarrhoea or bloating then this is going to be a key part of resolving your menstrual problems.
- Support progesterone production. Progesterone opposes oestrogen and make periods lighter.
- In some individuals a dairy free diet can be beneficial, you will need to allow 30-90 days to see a change.
If you have been struggling with your period, then the next step is booking in a complimentary consultation in which we will discuss your health challenges, health goals & what’s needed to get you there!