Natural Menorrhagia Treatment: Home Remedies for Heavy Periods
Menorrhagia, or heavy menstrual bleeding, affects many women at some point during their lives. For some, it may be a temporary problem; others will experience heavy periods every month for many years.
Menstrual bleeding is generally considered heavy if you:
- soak one or more sanitary pads or tampons every hour
- often need to use double protection
- often need to change sanitary protection during the night
- have menstrual periods that last longer than 7 days
- have large blood clots in your menstrual flow
- bleed so heavily that it interferes with your normal daily activities
The causes of menorrhagia are poorly understood, but this hub will discuss some of the issues that are believed to cause unusually heavy or long-lasting periods, as well as what you can do to reduce your menstrual flow.
Remember, heavy menstrual bleeding can be a sign of serious and even life threatening conditions, such as uterine fibroids and certain types of cancer, so consult your doctor if you are concerned, especially if your heavy periods begin suddenly, are accompanied by other symptoms such as severe pelvic pain, or occur after you have already gone through menopause.
Menorrhagia Cause #1: Excessive Estrogen
Excessive estrogen, or estrogen dominance, is a common type of hormone imbalance that often contributes to menorrhagia, especially if your periods tend to have lots of large clots.
One of the functions of estrogen is to control the build-up of endometrial tissue in the uterus every month. Excessive estrogen can cause excessive amounts of endometrial tissue to be created, resulting in excessive bleeding during menstruation as the tissue is expelled.
Here are some things you can do to prevent or reverse estrogen dominance:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Estrogen is produced by fat cells, so women who are overweight are more likely to have estrogen dominance. Unfortunately, excessive estrogen levels also make it harder to lose weight, so it is especially important for women who have estrogen dominance to:
- Exercise regularly. In addition to helping lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight, exercise also improves blood circulation, and increases general mental and physical health. To learn more, read Exercise for Menstrual Health.
- Eat a diet high in fiber. High fiber diets are not only parts of any weight loss or maintenance program, they also help maintain a healthy hormone balance by binding to waste estrogen in the digestive tract and removing it from the body before it can be reabsorbed. To learn more, read Dietary Fiber for Menstrual Health.
- Stay hydrated. Plain water also plays an important role in maintaining healthy hormone balance because of its role in maintaining healthy liver and kidney function. These organs also play a major role in removing waste estrogen from the body.
- Reduce exposure to xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are foreign (generally man-made) substances that mimic the behavior of estrogen in the body, and are believed to contribute to estrogen dominance. Xenoestrogens are found in many cosmetics and personal hygiene products, in pesticide and hormone residues in some foods, and in many plastics, including plastic wrap and many plastic bottles. To learn more about how to avoid xenoestrogens, read Reducing Exposure to Xenoestrogens.
- Be cautious with phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant estrogens that, like xenoestrogens, mimic the behavior of estrogen in the body. Unlike xenoestrogens, however, phytoestrogens are considered "weak" estrogens and some women actually experience relief of their symptoms of estrogen dominance when they increase consumption of plant estrogens. Other women find that their symptoms worsen. To learn more, read The Phytoestrogen Controversy.
Menorrhagia Cause #2: Thyroid Conditions
A condition that often goes hand-in-hand with estrogen dominance and is also commonly associated with unusually heavy menstrual bleeding is hypothyroidism.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- thinning hair
- sore or tender neck
- inability to tolerate cold
- swelling or puffiness of face and extremities (hands, feet, etc.)
- muscle aches and cramps
- unusual or excessive weight gain, or difficulty losing weight
- enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
Mary Shomon of ThyroidBreakthrough.com offers a helpful online quiz that can help you determine if you might be suffering from hypothyroidism: Risks and Symptoms Quiz. Thyroid problems can generally be diagnosed with simple blood tests, so ask your doctor to test you for hypothyroidism if you believe you may have it.
Menorrhagia Cause #3: Vitamin K Deficiency
If your periods are heavy and unusually long lasting but thin, not clotty, your menorrhagia might be caused by a vitamin K deficiency.
Vitamin K plays an important role in maintaining healthy blood clotting function, and heavy or long lasting but thin periods can be caused by poor blood clotting. Other common signs of vitamin K deficiency include bruising easily and bleeding excessively from small scrapes and cuts.
Always consult a doctor before increasing your consumption of vitamin K if you have a personal or family history of blood clots, stroke, pulmonary embolism, or similar conditions, or if you are on any blood thinning medications. Do not take vitamin K supplements except in cases of severe deficiency - dietary vitamin K sources, such as Romaine lettuce and spinach, are safer and less likely to cause a dangerous overdose. To learn more about how to safely increase your consumption of vitamin K, read Treating Heavy Periods With Vitamin K.
Other Common Causes of Menorrhagia
- Skipping or missing periods. Most women have a few unusually heavy periods for the first few months after beginning menstruation following pregnancy or breastfeeding. This is normal and there is no need to worry unless it continues for more than a few months, or if your bleeding is so heavy that you soak through one or more large pads per hour. If you have irregular periods due to health conditions such as PCOS or if you skip periods deliberately with the use of certain types of birth control pills, you might also find that your periods are unusually heavy and/or painful as a result.
- Blood thinning medications. Much like vitamin K deficiencies, blood thinners can cause heavy and long-lasting periods. Consult your doctor to discuss alternative medications if they become a serious problem for you.
- Pads and tampons. Some women have found that chemicals and fibers found in most commercial pads and tampons irritate their vagina and uterus and lead to unusually heavy or long-lasting periods. Switching to alternative sanitary protection such as cloth pads or menstrual cups may help in these cases.