Heavy periods can be frightening as well as frustrating. No one wants to feel like their insides are falling out (YIKES) or be pinned to the couch because of debilitating period pain! Luckily, there are effective natural solutions to address abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding. This article will discuss the best natural remedies for heavy periods.
Heavy periods are actually coined menorrhagia by the medical community. They are a common symptom many women experience each month. This prolonged and substantial bleeding affects approximately 10 million American women annually.
So what makes a period abnormally heavy?
Menorrhagia consists of one or more of the following:
- It stains clothing or bedding.
- It requires a change of sanitary towels or tampons every 1-2 hours.
- It requires double sanitary protection like tampons and pads.
- You feel weak, tired, and sluggish during your period.
- You pass large blood clots as big as the size of a quarter.
- You bleed for more than seven days.
Friends, when your period begins to interfere with your daily life, something is not right.
Here is an interesting case study for your reading pleasure: of the 22% of women over 35 years with heavy bleeding, only 7% discussed their symptoms with their doctor. Also, 83% of women felt that their heavy periods were something they just had to live with.
The fact of the matter is that while heavy periods may be common, they are anything but normal.
Root Causes of Heavy Periods
If you suffer from heavy periods, there is nothing “wrong” with you per se. However, there is likely an underlying health condition that is contributing to your heavy menstrual bleeding. While natural remedies can help ease your symptoms, you must also heal the underlying root cause.
Here are a few of the common root causes of heavy periods:
- High Estrogen: Estrogen dominance is a hormonal imbalance that occurs when estrogen levels are greater than progesterone levels throughout the menstrual cycle. When estrogen levels are too high, it can cause significant thickening of the uterine lining, leading to symptoms such as early spotting before menstruation, heavy and painful periods, blood clots during menstruation, PMS, and more.
- Low Progesterone: Progesterone levels are often low or lower than normal in an individual with estrogen dominance. This can also be problematic because adequate progesterone is necessary to signal a stop to uterine growth and to keep the uterine lining intact for a longer period of time.
- Low Iron: Iron is essential for healthy blood clotting. Unfortunately, being iron deficient can be both a cause and a result of heavy periods. Women who suffer from heavy periods often end up with an iron deficiency.
- Endometriosis: This is a chronic, painful inflammatory condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Endometriosis symptoms include moderate to intensely painful periods, cramps that send pain to the back or down the legs, painful bowel movements or urination, and pain with sexual activity.
- Fibroids are abnormal growths that develop in or on a woman’s uterus. Fibroids are almost always benign or noncancerous. Symptoms may include heavy and prolonged periods, mid-cycle bleeding, and pelvic pain.
- Prostaglandins: These are lipid (fat) derived compounds that control processes like inflammation, blood flow, blood clot formation, and the induction of labor. In the uterus, prostaglandins promote muscle contraction each month so that you can shed your uterine lining (a.k.a. menstruation). When prostaglandin levels become too high or uncontrolled, it can lead to heavy periods. Studies have also shown prostaglandin inflammation to cause dysmenorrhea, or painful menstrual cramps.
- Thyroid Disorders: Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are common hormone disorders in women that can cause menstrual cycle changes ranging from skipped periods to very heavy periods.
Natural Remedies for Heavy Periods
Natural remedies for heavy periods aim to ease your symptoms while also targeting some of the root causes. It’s important to work with a functional medicine practitioner in order to determine your unique health situation. Oftentimes, lab work and other diagnostic tools are necessary in order to determine the exact root cause of your heavy periods. That being said, here are some of my favorite natural remedies for heavy periods!
This herb is also known as Chaste Tree Berry and is popular for supporting hormonal imbalances and abnormal bleeding in women.
Vitex acts upon the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, and through a cascade of biochemical events, it can help shift the ratio of estrogen to progesterone.
Further, vitex will help increase the levels of progesterone in the body. Since progesterone inhibits the growth or thickening of the uterine lining, it will aid in reducing the amount of blood lost during menstruation.
In a study of 126 women with menstrual disorders, 58 women had a decrease in the number of heavy bleeding days after using 15 drops of vitex liquid extract three times a day for several cycles.
While vitex is a useful herb to help normalize and regulate the menstrual cycle, it is not a fast-acting herb and may take several months to achieve results.
Due to its ability to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis, ginger may be considered an effective therapeutic remedy for abnormally heavy periods.
Inhibition of prostaglandins could explain ginger’s traditional use as an anti-inflammatory agent and its ability to effectively reduce blood flow due to heavy menses.
A study of 92 young women with heavy menstrual bleeding found that the level of menstrual blood loss dramatically decreased after taking ginger daily for three consecutive cycles.
Iron deficiency and heavy menstrual bleeding can easily become a vicious cycle. For example, low iron causes the uterine muscles to weaken, reducing the ability of these muscles to clamp down on blood vessels, which is necessary to decrease or stop bleeding. Meanwhile, heavy bleeding can also worsen iron deficiency, which exacerbates the bleeding.
If you are deficient, starting an iron supplement can help minimize heavy bleeding due to an iron deficiency.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. Supplementing with a high dose of vitamin C has been shown to strengthen the blood vessels that reach the uterus and help minimize bleeding.
In a small study with 18 women who had heavy bleeding, bleeding outcomes improved in 16 out of the 18 women who took both vitamin C and bioflavonoids.
Vitamin C can also assist with iron absorption, leading to better iron status and better periods.
Getting to the root cause is critical if you want to stop heavy periods for good, however, sometimes you need help managing the symptoms of a heavy period. In that case, here are my favorite self-care natural remedies for heavy periods.
Use a heating pad – the warmth will help relax your muscles and ease pain associated with heavy periods.
Cook with cast-iron – if you struggle with iron deficiency you can introduce cooking with cast-iron. Moist foods like sauces will absorb iron from the pot which is a win-win if you need to up your iron intake.
Use menstrual cups – menstrual cups are a great, non-toxic alternative to tampoons and pads. They hold more blood than the alternatives which means less trips to the bathroom, too.
Another great way to take care of your body as a woman is to optimize your diet and lifestyle around your menstrual cycle.
Work with a Fertility Coach
Heavy periods are often a sign of a more significant issue, and it’s essential to get to the root cause. I work with women in my one-on-one consultation program to uncover the underlying causes of their hormonal symptoms and help them optimize their reproductive health.
If you’re interested in learning more about fertility coaching, contact me. As a Doctor of Naturopathy, Certified Holistic Health Coach, and Fertility Coach, I’m dedicated to helping you achieve success on your fertility journey.
Not to mention, I’m a mom of six, so I’ve got plenty of experience to share! My goal is to help you feel prepared and nourish your physical, emotional, and mental well-being as you work to optimize your fertility!