Up to 91% of women have reported painful periods at some point in their lives! That's a LOT of women, almost all of them, actually.
If you're unaware of where your period pain might be stemming from, read more here.
There's more than just birth control as your option for managing your pain OR your heavy periods. Birth control came out in the 60s, and hasn't changed much in over 60 years.
There are many more integrative options that can help with your pain and bleeding that not only address your main concerns, but also help you have better overall health- and who doesn't want to kill 2 birds with one stone?
1. Avoiding trigger foods
This may feel overwhelming if you've never noticed a correlation between what you're eating and how you're feeling. So if you're new to addressing your nutrition, I suggest with starting somewhere easy like keeping a food journal.
Food journal: For 7 days, write down what you eat, when you eat, how you feel after you eat (bloated, tired, emotional, irritable, energetic, etc), and when you pooped/overall gut related symptoms.
There's no judgement with this. It's purely information gathering for YOU to notice any correlations with timing of food, what type of food (dairy, greasy foods, alcohol, etc).
If you know you have gut issues that may be related to food, but don't quite know what foods they might be, a good place to start is with the most common intolerances: dairy, gluten, corn, soy, alcohol, and sugar. If you want to take it even further, you can try the Paleo diet or the Whole30 diet (I've never had a patient who tried this that said they didn't feel good on it).
If this feels too much to cut out multiple foods at once, start with ONE that you think may be contributing most to your symptoms. Cut it out for 6 weeks entirely (you need that full time of eliminating before adding it back in to truly see if you were reacting to it).
Then after you've cut it out, add it back in for one day with every meal and wait 3 days before eating it again. How did you feel? How was your sleep? Your gut? Your poops? Your mood? Your energy? Your skin? Your next cycle?
2. Addressing elevated estrogen levels
This one requires getting some labs done, so work with someone for this!
Generally, in the second half of your cycle, your luteal phase, we want to see progesterone be the dominant hormone, and estrogen a secondary hormone. In women with period pain and/or heavy periods, we see that estrogen is high in the luteal phase and progesterone is lower (as seen below).
Working on liver AND gut metabolism of your estrogen can be helpful if this is the case.
If you're not pooping daily, start there! Refer to the food triggers and start there.
Make sure to include at least 100 oz of water daily!
Include 1 cup of veggies with EVERY single meal. That means breakfast too!
Increase your cruciferous veggie intake. Cruciferous veggies help with liver metabolism of estrogen and break down to make a compound called DIM which helps to eliminate estrogen.
B vitamins- your liver loves b vitamins to help with phase 1 AND phase 2 of liver metabolism.
Lots of antioxidants to help your liver metabolism: vitamin C, NAC, dark berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc).
Sweating daily! This is a simple one that many people overlook. Shoot for about 30 minutes of sweating daily to help with detox and elimination of hormones, and many other things as well.
3. Managing stress and your cortisol rhythm
This one isn't fun or flashy, but let me tell you when it clicks, it makes the world of difference in your life!
Chronic stress is the number one cause of chronic issues in our society. And who do you know that isn't chronically stressed? It causes inflammation, lowers your immune system, causes issues with ALL your hormones (thyroid, blood sugar and insulin, estrogen, progesterone, you name it!), and makes you feel like you're losing your mind. Who wants that?! No thanks.
Yet, many of us live in a constant state of stress. Our sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system is what's taking over our lives. Working to get back to the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state can help with so many things in our lives.
Starting with a simple morning and evening routine can make the biggest impact to your nervous system and stress levels:
Morning: Get sunlight within 20 minutes of waking up. Go outside (being by a window doesn't give you the same benefit) for 5-10 minutes within 2 hours of sunrise- this is when the lux is at its highest. We're shooting for 100k lux. Drink your morning tea, coffee, smoothie, or eat breakfast out here. It doesn't have to be for very long. This will help to get your cortisol awakening response going in the morning so you don't feel like you're dragging yourself to wake up.
Nighttime: There's a million things we can do at night to help get better sleep but the TWO biggest things that I've seen work time and again are:
Putting away ALL screens (meaning nothing on in the background either) at least 30 minutes before bedtime
Paced breathing for at LEAST 10 minutes. You can use an app, your apple watch, or this link. My favorite default is 4 seconds inhaling, 6 seconds exhaling, no breath holding. Make it the last thing you do before bed and notice how much better you sleep.
4. Raspberry leaf tea
One of my favorite herbs for so many concerns. It's helpful for pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum, AND for period pain and heavy bleeding.
Raspberry leaf is known as a uterine tonic. This means it helps to tonify your uterine muscle. Tonify is term used in herbal medicine that means if something is too tight, it helps to relax it, if it's too loose, it helps to strengthen it. That's why I love herbs! It works synergistically with your body to do what your body needs.
The therapeutic dosing of herbs is higher than you might think. So if you've tried raspberry leaf tea in the past and didn't notice a difference, it may have been because you weren't drining enough.
If you're doing tea bags, you need 3 tea bags PER CUP of water. If you're doing a loose leaf (which is the more cost effective option), you want to do 1/4 cup of tea (or 3 tablespoons) per cup of water. Depending on how severe your pain or bleeding is, you'll want to do 1-3 cups daily.
5. Castor oil packs
This is another one that I love using for BOTH heavy bleeding and period pain. I have had several patients claim it helped immensely with pain and bringing down bleeding.
Shoot for 4-5x/week of this. You'll want to rub a hexane free castor oil all over your uterine/pelvic area and put a towel or old shirt you don't mind staining over it. Add a hot water bottle on top of this and relax for about 30-45 minutes with the heat.
Many people ask: "Can we use an electric heating pad?" You can, but the heat from a hot water bottle is a bit different, and I prefer to use that if you're able to get your hands on one.
Do this as often as possible, and when you have pain or heavy bleeding as well.
If you want to learn more about how to manage your heavy bleeding and painful periods, check out the online course! You'll find more tips, education, and integrative tools like these to manage your hormones and have worry free periods.