When the abnormal becomes the normal

During my time in Clinical Practice – there is one thing that becomes more and more noticeable.  People start ignoring the signs their body is telling them, and these signs can be happening on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

This can include digestive signs that are not normal – bloating, irregular bowels (not daily, and varying types), or headaches, achy joints, low energy to name a few.

The symptoms I want to focus on now are to do with menstruation cycle.

Some clients put up with what they think are normal period symptoms – not realising what a normal period is.  This can often come about because they have always had awful periods, and when talking to their friends – who may also have terrible periods, compare and then decide oh well that must be normal.

So, what does a normal period look like

Length of your cycle – normal is anywhere between 21-35 days (average is 28 days)

Menstrual Fluid

Menstrual fluid should be liquid with no large clots. If you do have clots – they should be no larger than 1.5cm and only a few of them.

Colour of blood should be reddish-brown colour.  Blood turns darker when exposed to air – so when freshly lost will be red and then may turn brown if it has been on your sanitary pad for a while.  If you’re seeing strange brown stuff at the start of your period, it’s actually oxidized blood that didn’t quite make it out of your uterus during your last cycle.

Amount of fluid – is a total of 50 millilitres – which is equivalent to 3 tablespoons for the length of your bleed.  Less than 25mls is a scanty flow and more than 80mls is excessive.  Any blood loss less than 10mls or over 80 mls are giving us clues that there are hormonal imbalances that need to be addressed.  Hormonal testing may be needed, as well as looking at the organs that work at keeping the hormones working well.  They include the Pituitary (part of the brain), adrenals, ovaries, liver and your gut health.

Because it is hard to measure your blood loss, here is a guideline to work out how many sanitary products you use during each period.  One soaked regular pad or tampon holds 5mls (1 teaspoon), and a super tampon fully soaked = 10mls.  Add up the number of products you use to work out how much blood you are losing.

A simple guideline – you shouldn’t have to change your tampon or pad any more frequently then every two hours during the day.  Because your flow slows at night, then you shouldn’t need to wake up during the night to change your pad.

Length of your period

This can be between two and 7 days.  The day you start bleeding is day 1 – and the day you stop  (this may be including the last couple of days of spotting) is your last day of your period.

You shouldn’t stop and start – once you have finished the bleeding – your blood should not appear until the next period – at least 21 days after your day 1.  Spotting in-between your cycle needs to be addressed and worked out what is the issue causing this.

 Period Pain

This is a common symptom before your bleed, during your bleed and during ovulation.  This is hard to gauge as everyone has a different pain tolerance.

Normal period pain (primary dysmenorrhea) is a bit of cramping in your lower pelvis or back. It occurs during the first day or two of your period and improves with ibuprofen. It doesn’t interfere with your daily activities.

Severe period pain (secondary dysmenorrhea) is throbbing, burning, searing, or stabbing pain that lasts for many days and can even occur between periods. It doesn’t improve with ibuprofen, and it’s so bad you vomit and sometimes miss school or work.

Severe period pain is caused by an underlying medical condition such as endometriosis or adenomyosis, and it can get worse as you get older.  This pain needs to be addressed, and working out what is causing this.

Pain associated with your menstruation can be caused by many things; hormonal imbalances, magnesium and zinc deficiencies as well as inflammation.  Both normal and severe pain can be treated by getting these imbalances corrected – by using herbs, nutrients, and looking at the diet to remove inflammatory foods.

Healthy hormones are vital to your health, both mental and physical.  Covering up the underlying causes by using pharmaceuticals is dealing with the symptoms, and not getting to the root cause of the issue.  Sometimes it can be as simple as making a few changes to your diet, lifestyle and addressing hormonal and nutritional imbalances that will make a huge difference to your menstruation cycle.

Let’s not forget the Males – they also have hormones, and they are also crucial for their health.  Symptoms of low testosterone include fatigue, memory loss, poor concentration, depression, irritability, loss of muscle strength and size, visceral weight gain, osteoporosis and even hot flushes.  Low testosterone is a significant contributor to cardiometabolic risk, promoting high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and atherosclerosis.

Men also have some Estrogen in their body, and it can become an issue when the Estrogen becomes high and the testosterone becomes low.  Influences of testosterone and Estrogen levels are diet, stress, environmental toxicity (especially the ones that cause Estrogen dysregulation), and excessive body fat.

Estrogen is made from the circulating testosterone in the body by an enzyme called aromatase. As men age, they tend to make increasing levels of Estrogen with decreased production of testosterone. Estrogen can be made in the liver, muscle and brain, as well as the fat cells.   So, when fat starts to increase, so does the ability of the male body to make Estrogen.

Another factor of rising Estrogen are the chemicals that we are exposed to, especially the ones that have estrogenic actions.  They are called xeno-estrogens, and one of the biggest contributor are plasticisers such as bisphenol A (BPA ).  They are found in plastic containers and bottles, lined canned products, receipt paper, and many beauty products to name a few.

Healthy hormones are vital to your health, both mental and physical.  Covering up the underlying causes by using pharmaceuticals is dealing with the symptoms, and not getting to the root cause of the issue.  Sometimes it can be as simple as making a few changes to your diet, lifestyle and addressing hormonal and nutritional imbalances.  These changes can make a huge difference to your menstruation cycle, and for men balancing their testosterone levels.

My take home message – start listening to your body and what it is trying to tell you.  If you feel like you have any hormonal issues that you would like to get sorted – please make an appointment to see me for a consult.