Healing Heavy Periods (Menorrhagia)
Menorrhagia is defined as excessive blood loss during menstruation. Each woman’s menstrual cycle is unique to her, with the length of the cycle and the amount of blood loss varying from woman to woman. Typically, excessive blood loss should be a concern if a woman is bleeding for longer than 7 days straight or more frequently than every 21 days, or must change a pad or tampon every hour or two for more than half a day. Symptoms can include lightheadedness, dizziness, and fainting. Many factors play a role in the development of menorrhagia, the most prevalent are stress and anxiety. Other factors include: hormonal imbalances, iron deficiency, IUD use, hypothyroidism, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis. If left untreated, menorrhagia eventually causes the body to become depleted of several key nutrients, and larger imbalances arise.
Reduce excessive blood loss using a holistic, natural approach.
Lowering the amount of daily stress you experience can help in every aspect of your life, including that time of the month. Stress is directly linked to imbalanced hormones and can alter your menstrual cycle. High cortisol levels in particular have been linked to menorrhagia.
Remember that stress is not just psychological, but physical as well, so avoid over-exercising if you suffer from menorrhagia or other hormonal imbalances.
To reduce stress:
- Incorporate low-intensity exercise during your menstrual cycle to keep blood circulating and to release endorphins. Regular exercise should be done at least 3x/week for 30-60 minutes to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Incorporate yoga and meditation to relax the mind and calm the body. Both will help you connect to yourself on a spiritual and emotional level.
- Spend time in nature and reconnect with Mother Nature. Even better, go barefoot outside.
- Develop a sleep ritual that allows you to gain optimal beneficial hormonal secretion between 10pm and 2am (this means that you should be asleep during this time frame, so night owls should make efforts to get to bed earlier). Make sure you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Disconnect from technology, especially while eating and in the time before bed. Instead, spend this time outside, exercising, reading a book of interest, spending time with loved ones, or taking up a new hobby.
- Aromatherapy can work wonders on the nervous system. Essential oils such as lavender, lemon, bergamot, and ylang-ylang will all help relieve stress and promote a good night’s sleep. Apply 2-3 drops (mixed with a small amount of a carrier oil, such as almond or jojoba oil) to the temples, wrists, back of ears, and chest for maximum benefits.
Removing xenoestrogens (chemical compounds that mimic estrogen and are found in plastics, conventional beauty and personal care products, cleaning products, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and more) from your daily life is an extremely important aspect of reducing menorrhagia. Excess estrogen and hormonal imbalances can cause irregular menstrual symptoms, so staying away from xenoestrogens is crucial.
To reduce your xenoestrogen exposure, follow these tips:
- Eat organic whenever possible, including produce, grains, legumes, meat, and poultry.
- Invest in a high-quality water filter and try to drink from a glass bottle instead of plastic.
- Avoid using plastic items such as water bottles, plastic wrap, and plastic containers.
- Switch to more natural cosmetics and skincare products to avoid exposure to toxic compounds.
Including the practice of vaginal (or yoni) steaming into your self-care routine can have surprising benefits for a heavy flow during menstruation. Yoni steaming helps to clear out built-up residue from your last menstrual period, helping the vagina in its self-cleansing processes and increasing circulation. Incorporating tonifying herbs can help to tighten and tone the uterus, rebuilding the body and reducing heavy flow.
*Consult a practitioner before practicing yoni steaming at home. Yoni steaming should also not be practiced during menstruation or pregnancy.
Consume iron-rich foods
When we lose an excess amount of blood, we also lose iron. Iron deficiency is quite common in menstruating women, and can cause an array of issues and health concerns. Blood loss exceeding 60 mls per period is associated with a negative iron balance, meaning that more iron is being lost during this time than is being taken in by the body. Consuming iron-rich foods daily will help to ensure that the body isn’t being depleted and will restore any deficiencies. Additional supplementation may be needed if a blood test indicates severe deficiency.
Try: Nettles, grass-fed beef, organic liver and other organ meats, bone broth, pasture-raised eggs (especially the yolks!), spinach, raw beet greens, lentils, mulberries, blackstrap molasses, spirulina, dark chocolate, and amaranth.
Maintain balanced blood sugar levels
A hormone-balancing diet low in high-glycemic carbohydrates and high in protein and healthy fats is the most beneficial way to deal with menorrhagia and related menstrual irregularities. The glycemic index is a ranking system used to determine how quickly a food will raise blood sugar levels. The lower the glycemic load of a food, the slower it will raise blood sugar. This is beneficial as spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels cause corresponding spikes in insulin and can disrupt hormonal balance. Low-glycemic carbohydrates include steel-cut oats, quinoa, brown rice, beans, and non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, kale, zucchini, and mushrooms. Including a source of quality protein with each meal will also stabilize blood sugar levels and help to prevent hormonal issues.
Clean protein sources include: organic poultry, wild-caught salmon and other fish (especially small ones such as mackerel, sardines, and anchovies), pasture-raised eggs, mung beans, lentils, quinoa, tempeh, spirulina, raw almonds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Consuming meals or snacks every 3 or so hours is optimal for balancing blood sugar, as eating regularly prevents blood sugar levels from dropping too low and prevents excessive spikes as well.
The following herbs can be helpful in healing menorrhagia. All of these herbs can be purchased as loose leaf at your local health food store or apothecary, or through a reputable online retailer such as Mountain Rose Herbs.
Stinging nettle is a rich source minerals like iron and is loaded with vitamin C (which naturally increases the absorption of iron). It’s the most efficient herb for fighting iron-deficiency anemia. The root of stinging nettle is particularly beneficial to women as it helps in cases of uterine hemorrhages. It also helps to slow bleeding in cases of abnormally heavy period flows.
Try: Drinking nettle infusions daily. Add 2 tbsp to a quart jar, cover with filtered cool water, top & let it infuse for 4-8 hours (overnight is perfect).
Chasteberry has been used since the time of ancient Greece as a hormone regulator and for healing menstrual irregularities, including heavy menses. This herbal remedy regulates ovulation and progesterone levels due to its effect on the pituitary gland, creating hormonal harmony and contributing to normal estrogen levels and a regular menstrual cycle.
Try: Making an infusion using 3-4 tbsp of loose leaf chasteberry in a quart mason jar. Cover with cold water and a lid, shake to mix, and let sit overnight. Drink daily in the morning with an additional 1-2 cups throughout the day for 3 months.
Shepherd’s purse is an astringent herb that constricts blood vessels and stops excess blood flow. This herb has been used to stop heavy menstruation and hemorrhaging, particularly caused by the uterus. It’s also widely used for uterine bleeding disorders.
Try: Making an infusion using 3-4 tbsp of loose leaf shepherd’s purse in a quart mason jar. Cover with cold water and a lid, shake to mix, and let sit overnight. Drink daily in the morning with an additional 1-2 cups throughout the day.
Yarrow is a herbal remedy known for preventing wound bleeding and for reducing heavy menses and other menstrual irregularities. Like shepherd’s purse, yarrow is an astringent, meaning that it will regulate and stop excess blood flow. Midwives have used this herb to stop hemorrhaging for centuries.
Try: Using this herb both internally and topically. You can make an infusion using 3-4 tbsp of loose leaf yarrow in a quart mason jar. Cover with cold water and a lid, shake to mix, and let sit overnight. Drink daily in the morning with an additional 1-2 cups throughout the day.
Lady’s mantle is another herb known to control excess menstrual bleeding. Cultivated in Europe, lady’s mantle can be employed beneficially at many times throughout a woman’s life. It can ease menstrual pain, reduce menopausal symptoms and spotting, and prevent excessive menstrual bleeding.
Try: Making an infusion using 3-4 tbsp of loose leaf lady’s mantle in a quart mason jar. Cover with cold water and a lid, shake to mix, and let sit overnight. Drink daily in the morning with an additional 1-2 cups throughout the day.
Raspberry leaf can ease menstruation discomfort, tone the uterine muscle, and address heavy bleeding. This beneficial herb strengthens the walls of the uterus, which ultimately supports the entire reproductive systems and contributes to a more normal menstrual flow.
Try: Making an infusion using 3-4 tbsp of loose leaf red raspberry leaf in a quart mason jar. Cover with cold water and a lid, shake to mix, and let sit overnight. Drink daily in the morning with an additional 1-2 cups throughout the day.
It may be good idea to take an additional iron supplement, on top of focusing on iron-rich foods. As mentioned above, it’s important to note that women should always have their blood tested to confirm iron deficiency before taking it in supplement form, as an excess amount of iron in the body has serious side effects. Make sure to select an iron supplement that includes heme iron (the type that is most bioavailable to us and has the best absorption - so long as you’re not a vegetarian) and to combine it with vitamin C for increased absorption. Reversing an iron deficiency will have visible results, including increased energy, less muscle fatigue, fewer headaches, and no dizziness. *consult with a holistic practitioner prior to taking iron.
Fish oil supplementation will yield beneficial effects by reducing the levels of arachidonic acid in the body’s tissues. Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid that’s converted into prostaglandins, which are hormone-like compounds that act on inflammatory response and pain. Women with menorrhagia produce much more arachidonic acid than a typical woman, resulting in an increased production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are thought to contribute to excessive bleeding and cramping during menstruation. Taking omega 3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil will help to normalize your cycle and reduce excessive blood flow.
Vitamin C & bioflavonoids
Vitamin C is known to significantly increase iron absorption, which is needed to prevent the iron deficiency that commonly occurs as a result of excessive blood loss. Capillary fragility is also believed to play a role in menorrhagia. Vitamin C has anti-estrogenic properties on the uterus and strengthens the capillary walls, which can both reduce excess bleeding. Vitamin C and bioflavonoids can significantly reduce menorrhagia.
Deficiency in the B vitamins is correlated to menorrhagia. When we are deficient in B vitamins, the liver loses its ability to inactivate estrogen. Excess estrogen and imbalanced hormones can contribute to or be the cause of menorrhagia, so supplementing with a B complex may normalize estrogen metabolism. B vitamins are also essential for energy production, which may combat symptoms of fatigue caused by menorrhagia.
Magnesium is a beneficial mineral that will help regulate female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Decreased magnesium levels result in elevated estrogen, causing hormonal imbalances and irregular menstrual symptoms such as excess bleeding. Magnesium is also used to help relax muscle tension in the body and to calm the nervous system.
With a holistic approach that incorporates a healing diet and lifestyle along with supportive herbs and supplements, menorrhagia can be reduced safely and effectively. A balanced, healthy menstrual cycle without excessive blood loss will have you feeling revitalized and energetic, and will support appropriate nutrient levels, especially of iron.