OK LETS TALK PERIODS: WHATS NORMAL?
With Maree Noonan
Period health: Look I try not to get to bound up in how periods ‘should be’ because we’re all different. In a
nutshell periods though we want to come and go like the tides, be unproblematic, not too painful, not too
heavy and without too much drama.
Cycle length: everyone’s normal is going to be different. However, there are boundaries I guess with which we
may use to investigate potential issues/root causes or guide treatment direction. In a nutshell, an ideal cycle
length is 26-35 days, and be semi- predictable, without a lot of fluctuation eg 2-3 day fluctuation only.
- Why is there an ideal length? To allow sufficient hormones to be made for a healthy endometrium,
and allow enough time for a fertile egg to implant in the endometrial lining.
- What do long cycles mean? Late ovulation, potential PCOS, perimenopause.
- Short cycles: perimenopause, premature ovarian failure, hormonal imbalance, early ovulation
Heaviness: This is also hard to gauge, especially with all the different menstrual ‘catching’ options these days:
cups, period undies, tampons, pads etc. The heaviness of your flow can help me interpret your pathology
results and where we may need to focus with ‘balancing’ your hormones ie; improving
(estradiol/progesterone balance) educing your menstrual symptoms/complaints. In the fertility space, the
heaviness of your bleed can give us an idea of the thickness/cosiness of your endometrial lining for a fertilised
egg. We want it not to thick and not too thin!
- Bright red fresh looking blood, without too much clotting/chunky bits.
- A flow that starts straight away, isn’t problematic and affecting your day to day life/activities. Eg.
Flooding/leaking/bleeding through, needing to use a pad and a tampon at the same time or god
forbid maternity pads, having to change a heavy pad/cups frequently eg. Every 1 hour.
-Causes of heavy bleeding: perimenopause, fibroids, cysts, adenomyosis, polyps, high oestrogen/detox issue
- Light bleeds: Can also give us just as much guidance as to where we may want to focus our efforts in
your treatment: what to use/what not to. What hormones we may be wanting to support.
- Spotting: bleeding or discoloured pink or brown discharge outside of your menstrual cycle or in the
lead up to full bleed. This can also a sign of something more sinister going on so always good to see a
gynaecologist if this is ongoing or prolonged eg 5+ days.
Pain: yes! This is normal and common, but again, shouldn’t take over your life. Why does it occur? The
contracting action of the uterus around menstruation functions to shed the endometrial lining, and it’s a big
event when you think about whats happening physiologically.
Why is it more painful for some: this is a big question, and there can be so many causes and factors here:
- Hormonal imbalances: eg. High levels of estrogen can drive up prostaglandins resulting in pain.
- Endometriosis/adenomyosis/ovarian cysts/
- Diet: inflammatory, high sugar, lots of white carbohydrates/junk food/deep fried/take away etc.
- Gut/digestion/liver: need for support/look for direction from pathology and symptomology here
- Genetic predisposition
HOT TIPS FOR WOMENS HEALTH:
Always do timed testing and seek the right interpretation. Unfortunately, generally speaking; GPs will only identify really BIG problems and are very limited in what they can offer you as treatment for periods/hormonal issues/menopause.
If you feel like something isn’t right in your body, get it investigated! And if you’re told everything is fine, but you still don’t feel right, persevere and look for someone else who will listen and can help you in this area. Eg. Hormonal/fertility naturopath, holistic gynaecologists. I’m loving the ladies at OG Surfcoast at the moment. Dr Amy Feng, Dr Edwina Coghlan, Dr Alex Bonner.
Keep things simple: regular exercise that supports your lifestyle/health/health aims eg. Pregnancy/mental health, lots of veggies, lots of water, adequate protein++. Restricting refined foods/added sugars/alcohol, all the things we know we should only have in moderation and keep 'special occasion’ food for special occasions or as a weekend treat.
Understand that all of your body parts/systems are connected. With Naturopathy we’re always looking at how one body part/organ/system maybe effecting another. Sometimes this concept is very foreign because we’re all used to seeing one Dr for your gut and one for your hormones, often no one looks at how the systems may be affecting each other.
Always think about detoxification. These are the root systems we’re always looking at for hormones: To support elimination of waste and hormones out of the body. Ie. Urination, regular bowels, sweating, water intake, exercise.
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