Suffering From Heavy & Painful Periods? 7 Foods To Lighten Your Flow & Help With Pain | The Hormone Diva

Suffering From Heavy & Painful Periods? 7 Foods To Lighten Your Flow & Help With Pain

 

Suffering From Heavy & Painful Periods? 7 Foods To Lighten Your Flow & Help With Pain | Infographic | The Hormone Diva

Right from my very first period, I’ve had cramps. Debilitating, nauseating, tear-inducing cramps. As a teenager (before the pill) my periods were also really heavy. Every time I would stand up I could feel the blood rushing out of me, and I was changing my super-duper pads every hour or two. The heaviness of my periods eventually went away, but the pain never did.

 

I was stuck popping Midol, Advil, Tylenol or anything that would work. I used heating pads, hot baths, massage, stretches and nasty thoughts about my uterus to try and quell the cramps. Often, I was so dizzy from them (even with meds) that it was hard for me to focus and work. 

 

Luckily, after a few years of working on my personal health and balancing my hormones, my periods are nearly pain free, and haven’t been heavy in years. It’s so AMAZING to actually be able to function on my period! 

 

I know that if you’re reading this, you likely have a similar story of pain and heavy flow. But where does it come from? And how can you fix it naturally?

 

That’s what I’m here to share with you.

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What’s Causing My Painful and Heavy Periods?

Below I’m outlining four major contributors to painful and heavy periods. This list is by no means exhaustive, and I always recommend having tests done with your family healthcare practitioner to definitively find the cause. 

 

Estrogen Dominance

Very common these days, and a major contributors to the section on endometriosis, etc, below. Estrogen dominance is simply having too much estrogen in relation to progesterone in the body. These two hormones have a very delicate balance which can cause a lot of symptoms, including period pain and heavy flow if left unchecked.

 

What this means is that you can be estrogen dominant AND have low levels of estrogen- if the estrogen is still higher in ratio to progesterone than it should be. Lab testing can be done to tell for sure.

 

How does it create pain and heavy flow? Part of estrogen’s job is to begin thickening the lining of your uterus, in case a fertilized egg needs to be implanted after ovulation. The egg needs a cushy, cozy home, and estrogen helps create this atmosphere. If you’re estrogen dominant and/or have irregular cycles, the lining can build and build.

 

When it finally sheds, the blood may be heavy, dark and full of clots. 

 

Additionally, estrogen can build up in excess fat tissue. So, if you are overweight, you might be storing even more estrogen than you need. Eventually, this fat tissue becomes like an organ itself, producing AND storing estrogen, creating quite a vicious cycle. 

 

Endometriosis, Fibroids, Cysts or Polyps

While all of these conditions are separate, and require slightly different treatments, that all have common underlying contributors that lead to pain and heavy flow.

 

Endometriosis is often the most painful hormonal disorder, as the endometrial tissue (which normally lives inside the uterus) is elsewhere in the body- on the fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder, etc. When your uterine tissue sheds during a period, so will the misplaced tissue, creating boat loads of pain and sometimes heavy flow.

 

Uterine fibroids, polyps and ovarian cysts can also contribute to pain. Fibroids are extremely common in women with very heavy menstrual flow. A rupturing ovarian cyst can be very painful and cause cramping. You might consider these issues if you also experience bleeding or spotting between periods, extended bleeding (longer than 7 days) or irregular menstrual cycles. 

 

Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland isn’t something we normally think about when it comes to our menstrual flow- cuz what does a gland in your neck have to do with your ovaries and uterus? Interestingly, they have a very intricate relationship, sometimes called the OAT Axis (Ovary-Adrenal-Thyroid Axis). 

 

Having an underactive thyroid gland (either from hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) can contribute to heavy menstrual flow, irregular periods and menstrual pain. Hypothyroidism can reduce clearance of estrogens (contributing to estrogen dominance). Thyroid imbalance may also cause a disturbance in LH or Luteinizing Hormone, which if chronically elevated, can delay periods. 

 

Inflammation and Prostaglandins

Both inflammation and prostaglandins are huge contributors to menstrual pain. Prostaglandin imbalance can also cause you to experience loose bowels or diarrhea around your period time. 

 

Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that participate in a wide variety of functions in your body including muscle contraction and relaxation, modulating inflammation, regulating blood pressure, and dilating and constricting blood vessels.  Where they differ from actual hormones is that they are not produced in a gland and sent out into your body, rather your body makes them at the needed site. Pretty freaking cool- unless this turns into menstrual cramps. 

 

Prostaglandins are gut-muscle regulators and regulators of both ovulation and your menstrual cycle. This is where the connection begins. Having too many prostaglandins in production because of your internal inflammation brings extra bodies to the site- and may cause more pain than you’d like when Aunt Flo comes to visit. 

 

The prostaglandins seem to be involved whether or not you have a pre-existing digestive complaint like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. An interesting thing to note is that the shits and tears you experience during your period may be connected  as well! 

 

7 Foods To Lighten Your Flow & Help With Pain

Food is always the best place to start when you’re trying to balance hormones. The trick to getting these foods to work for you is to use them regularly. For example, the ginger tea recipe I’ve included below can be used daily, and increased during your period. Same goes for the rest!

 

#1 Ginger 

Ginger is a fabulous medicinal herb that you might have kicking around your kitchen. I find that using fresh ginger is most effective in reducing pain and heavy flow, however dried ginger powder can be used in a pinch. And no- crystallized ginger does not count, its full of sugar!

 

Ginger has the follow properties that make it fabulous for cramps and heavy flow:

  • Anti-inflammatory: reduces inflammation
  • Anti-spasmodic: inhibits prostaglandins and relaxes muscle spasms/contractions
  • Antiemetic: reduces nausea and vomiting, which for some women accompanies heavy flow and pain
  • Digestive: stimulates digestive juices to bring up your nutrient status and strengthen your gut

 

HOW TO USE:

  • As a daily tea, see recipe below
  • Tincture, follow bottle directions
  • In Cramp Tea
  • Capsules, follow bottle directions (not the best option, in my opinion)

 

[yumprint-recipe id=’17’] 

CONTRAINDICATIONS: In some, ginger may increase bleeding, and in others, may reduce it. Tread carefully when using ginger during your period in large amounts. Discontinue if bleeding increases. Theoretically  ginger may interfere with antacids, anticoagulant or anti-platelet drugs, and should not be used before, during or after surgery. 

 

#2 Avocado

One of my favourite foods to recommend for women with reproductive issues, avocados are incredibly nutritious. While I personally am still working on loving the taste, I still find ways to include them into my diet regularly to get all the benefits. Unless you have a serious allergy, there’s nothing wrong with having one whole avocado daily, if you wish.

 

Avocados have the following properties that make them great for cramping and heavy flow:

  • Anti-inflammatory: High in monounsaturated fatty acids and a good source of Vitamin C
  • Blood-sugar balancing: due to B vitamins, monounsaturated fats and minerals
  • Cravings reduction: super nutrient dense and high in fat to reduce feelings of hunger and give the body what it needs to reduce cravings
  • Hormone-balancing: high in vitamins B5 and B6- both necessary for proper adrenal function and production of the anti-inflammatory sex hormone, progesterone

 

HOW TO USE:

  • Eat it with a spoon, straight out of the skin
  • Make some Chocolate Pudding
  • Throw it in a smoothie in place of a banana for a creamy texture, and lower sugar
  • Slice it and add to sandwiches and salads
  • Mash it up, add some lime and salsa for a quick guacamole
  • Roast it with some veggies and blend into a creamy soup (a personal fav)
  • Mash it up and combine with cooked chicken or fish and seasonings of choice for a quick chicken (or salmon/tuna) salad instead of mayo

 Happy Hormones Quiz | The Hormone Diva 

#3 Flaxseed

Depending on the source, some may say that flaxseeds are great for pain, heavy flow and estrogen dominant conditions, and others say the opposite. At this point, unless the woman has a history of estrogen-dependent cancer, I haven’t seen any adverse effects from using flaxseeds.

 

Flaxseeds are what’s known as a phyto-estrogen, or a plant-based estrogen that has a weaker effect than the estrogen our body makes. This is beneficial for us because these phyto-estrogens will bind to estrogen receptors with a weaker effect, reducing estrogen dominance. Flaxseeds also contain lignans, the compound with the phyto-estrogenic effect, also has anti-inflammatory benefits. Flax is also very high in omega-3 fatty acids, those fats which are most beneficial for menstrual pain, but are often lacking in our diet, which tends to have too much omega-6. 

 

Flaxseeds shouldn’t be eaten whole- they are so small, your body isn’t going to break them down well, and it’s what inside that will give the hormonal benefits. Typical amount is 1-2 tbsp daily. Flax should also NEVER be heated, as you’ll damage the omega-3 fats. Store in the fridge or freezer. 

 

HOW TO USE:

  • Seed cycling: great for regulating menstrual cycles, readjusting estrogen/progesterone balance
  • Sprinkle on salads, yogurt or chia pudding
  • Mix into a smoothie
  • Use in raw energy ball recipes

 

#4 Sesame Seed

Another nutrient-packed seed, sesame seeds should be in every Hormone Diva’s repertoire. Sesame seeds can be used for the second phase of seed-cycling, if you wish. Like flaxseeds, a good daily amount is 1-2 tbsp. Again, you can store in the fridge or freezer for a longer shelf life. 

 

Here’s a few reasons why sesame seeds could help reduce pain or flow:

  • Calcium + Magnesium: these two minerals help regulate muscle contraction/relaxation in the body. Having enough of both can reduce menstrual pain
  • Phyto-progesterone: plant-based progesterone to help increase progesterone in the body, regulate estrogen/progesterone ratio
  • Iron: low levels of this mineral can contribute to heavy menstrual flow, which ironically depletes your iron stores even more
  • Fiber: fiber helps to bind to estrogens (and toxins and other items) to be released from your body via your bowel movements

 

HOW TO USE:

  • Seed cycling: great for regulating menstrual cycles, readjusting estrogen/progesterone balance
  • Sprinkle on salads, yogurt or chia pudding
  • Mix into a smoothie
  • Use in raw energy ball recipes
  • Sprinkle on Asian dishes like stir-fries
  • Use tahini (sesame seed paste) instead of peanut butter
  • Use tahini to make hummus and dip some veggies

 Happy Hormones Quiz | The Hormone Diva 

#5 Raspberries 

One of the best fruits for women trying to get healthy, raspberries could lighten your flow and help with pain if used correctly. If you want to use this food therapeutically, I would recommend consuming about 1/2 cup daily, fresh or frozen. Sorry- raspberry jam doesn’t count! Reduce your toxic exposure and focus on getting organic raspberries only. 

 

Here’s a few good reasons to get more raspberries:

  • Low-sugar: with only 5.4g sugar in a cup of raspberries, they’re one of the lowest sugar fruits
  • Vitamin C: a perfect nutrient, especially helpful for detoxification, reducing inflammation and potentially helping with endometriosis
  • High-fiber: with 8g fibre per cup, these berries can help get your bowels moving so you can get rid of excess estrogens
  • Anti-cancer: the ellagic acid in raspberries makes them potential cancer fighters
  • Liver detox: the ellagic acid can also increase glucuronidation (part of Phase II liver detox) by up to 75%!

 

HOW TO USE:

Mix into smoothies

  • Eat raw, straight from the package
  • Throw onto salads or yogurt
  • Make a Raspberry Chia Pudding (see recipe below)
  • Put raspberries and a dash of water into a pot and cook until mushy, use as a sugar-free fruit spread on grain-free pancakes, waffles, etc
  • Make some gran-free, low-sugar raspberry muffins

 

[yumprint-recipe id=’18’] 

#6 Wild-Caught Salmon

Second to last on the list but no less important, the use of wild-caught salmon could be very beneficial for your pain and flow. It’s important to get wild-caught salmon whenever possible, as much of the salmon you get is farmed, and they often inject dyes to make it look pink. The farmed fish are often so malnourished that their flesh is nearly white, not pink. Wild-caught salmon on the other hand has eaten a traditional diet (versus some GMO fish food) and hasn’t been subjected to overcrowding, antibiotics or similar nasties. Aim for a couple salmon servings weekly when you can. I provide several salmon recipes in my 21-Day Happy Hormones Diet program because I believe it’s so amazing. 

 

Here’s why you need this fish:

  • Omega-3s: again we’re talking about these anti-inflammatory, blood sugar and hormone-balancing fats. Salmon is one of the highest sources of omegas you can get.
  • Protein: having good amount of protein in the diet will help to produce hormones, give you energy, and balance blood sugar
  • Selenium: this mineral is used in droves for thyroid health
  • Vitamin D + B Vitamins: help with proper hormone balance, reduction of prostaglandins, mood balance and more

 

HOW TO USE:

  • Use canned salmon to make salmon cakes
  • Mix cooked salmon with seasonings, chopped veg and mashed avocado for a salmon salad
  • Bake with butter, lemon juice and a sprig of thyme
  • Throw it on the grill with a sugar-free marinade
  • Make a soup with 1 cup bone broth, 1 tbsp organic, non-GMO miso paste, salmon pieces and green onions

 

#7 Spinach

Lastly, we have spinach. Spinach is really a wonder-green. Green leafy veg like spinach are an indispensable part of a Hormone Diva’s diet. Spinach in this sense can be swapped out for any other leafy green like kale, collards or swiss chard. ALWAYS choose organic, as leafy greens are heavily sprayed. 

 

Here’s the goodies:

  • Iron: low levels of this mineral can contribute to heavy menstrual flow, which ironically depletes your iron stores even more
  • Vitamin C: a perfect nutrient, especially helpful for detoxification, reducing inflammation and potentially helping with endometriosis
  • Vitamin A + K: Both of these nutrients are needed to regulate bleeding, in fact, many women with heavy menstrual flow are deficient in Vitamin A
  • High-fiber: get your bowels moving so you can get rid of excess estrogens

 

HOW TO USE:

  • Use raw as a base for salads
  • Add a handful to smoothies
  • Saute in butter or coconut oil just until wilted for a side dish
  • Chop and add to soups and stews
  • Add to sandwiches and wraps instead of nutrient-poor iceberg lettuce

 


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Comments

  1. Period Food

    Hello! thank you so much for sharing such an amazing post.
    Please do share some more.
    Cheers!

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