Heavy menstrual bleeding is both common and can be managed. The average woman will lose anywhere between six and sixteen teaspoons of blood during her period, and this may vary from month to month. If you’re changing your pad or tampon every hour, wearing a pad and a tampon at the same time, passing large blood clots, or feeling dizzy, then you’re likely having a heavy period. This isn’t necessarily anything to worry about, and there are natural ways to help stem or manage your heavy flow.
Blood only accounts for around one third of the fluids you lose during your period. You will also pass mucus, uterine lining, and tissue. This leads to low blood volume and dehydration. Decreased blood volume will increase blood thickness, which contributes to the heaviness and longevity of your flow. Upping your daily water intake throughout your cycle will help to counter this, as well as staving off cramps and the fatigue that comes from dehydration.
Potassium helps all muscles to contract, including the uterus, which is why your body demands more potassium when you bleed. If your levels are low, you can experience heavy, irregular, or painful periods. Maintain higher levels throughout your cycle by eating bananas, oranges, apricots, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peas, eggplant, and pumpkin.
Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that carries oxygen around the body. Levels can therefore drop during a heavy menstrual flow, leaving you feeling weak. Food rich in iron will replenish hemoglobin levels. Opt for beef, chicken, or turkey. If you’re vegetarian, choose lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.
Blackstrap molasses is the molasses that remains after maximum extraction of sugar. It is a good source of iron, which replenishes red blood cells, and magnesium, which promotes the healthy excretion of estrogen. It therefore reduces the risk of estrogen dominance, a common cause of heavy periods.
Blackstrap molasses also contains vitamin B6, which further supports the liver in processing excess hormones. Mix a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses into a cup of water or add it to coffee, smoothies, or oatmeal—but go easy on the portion size since it is sugar.
Say No to Sugar
Insulin and estrogen have a complex relationship. An imbalance of either hormone will exacerbate heavy menstrual flow. Too much estrogen causes insulin sensitivity, while too much insulin thickens the uterine lining (meaning there’s more to shed). Quitting sugar, or cutting down on it, can help with managing a heavier flow.
Don’t Do Dairy
Cow’s milk contains small amounts of over 60 different hormones, including testosterone, progesterone, and insulin, as well as an insulin-like growth hormone. While these are low doses, heavy periods can indicate pre-existing hormonal imbalances in your body, so eliminating dairy products for a few months could be a worthwhile experiment—especially as dairy products also contain prostaglandins, which exacerbate the formation of blood clots.
Up Your Iodine
A large percentage of the body’s iodine is contained in the ovaries, where it plays a key role in reducing estrogen dominance. Eat more seafood, seaweed, or eggs. You can also take an iodine supplement, but too much could impair your thyroid function. Speak to a doctor about checking your levels before you pop any pills.
Supplement a Healthy Lifestyle
Vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron and, when taken with bioflavonoids, it also strengthens the capillaries and reduces heavy bleeding. Dosing up on vitamins A and K can also support your overall health, but supplements will only truly benefit an already healthy lifestyle, not to mention you should consult your doctor before adding any supplements to your routine. Addressing external stressors is equally important since stress has a negative impact on hormone levels, regardless of how many supplements you’re taking. Explore ways to counter this—anything from yoga to talking therapy or more sleep, so long as it works for you.
Placing a cold compress on your abdomen will cause blood vessels to constrict. This reduces blood loss and stems heavy menstrual flow. A pack containing either ice or refrigerant gel will also reduce swelling and inflammation, and numb pain. Wrap the pack in a T-shirt or towel and place it on your belly for up to 20 minutes at a time, taking breaks of a few hours in between.
How Heavy Is Too Heavy?
If you’ve just come off the Pill, or have a newly inserted intrauterine device, your first few periods may be heavier as your hormone levels readjust. The same can happen after you’ve given birth. If you’ve neither had a baby nor started taking hormonal contraception, and heavy menstrual bleeding comes on suddenly after years of a lighter flow, it could be triggered by a hormonal disruption, such as endometriosis or fibroids. So if your period feels abnormally heavy to you, and you’re in serious pain, don’t wait to speak to your doctor.