The ability to observe the menstrual cycle and take note of any changes from month-to-month is one of the greatest advantages of having a natural cycle (one that is not influenced by hormonal contraceptives like the pill). I took this for granted for the decade that I was on the birth control pill, but now that I am in my late-20s and know that I will not be having kids for a number of years yet, it is important to me that I can observe any changes in my fertility. Beyond this, changes in the cycle can indicate issues with nutrition, stress and inflammation.
For optimal health and fertility, keep a look out for these three things each month:
Bright red bleeding that lasts 4-5 days
During a healthy cycle, estrogen helps to grow the uterine lining during the first half. After ovulation, progesterone takes over and maintains a nice, healthy uterine lining. This is important for fertility because even if an egg is fertilized, it will not survive if the uterus cannot provide the right environment for implantation.
Bright red blood indicates a healthy and fresh uterine lining that has been built by the right amount of estrogen and maintained by the right amount of progesterone.
If your blood is dark and clotted, this usually indicates too much estrogen.
Bleeding that is lighter in color and appears more pink is often caused by too little estrogen.
Bleeding that is brown or rusty in color can indicate too little progesterone and/or dysfunctional shedding of the uterine lining.
A steady flow without spotting
If one day of spotting occurs in the middle of the cycle and is a fresh red in color, then it is most likely bleeding associated with ovulation, and is normal. Other than this type of spotting, there should be no bleeding outside of the period days.
If spotting occurs before the period and is brown or rusty in color, this is most likely a combination of low progesterone and/or impeded blood flow. Normal, red colored spotting before the period is generally an indicator of low progesterone.
If spotting occurs after the period and is pink in color or if the period is very light, this typically indicates low estrogen.
Most women experience spotting at some point in their lives, so long as it does not last more than a few days one either side of the period it is not a major cause for concern. However, focusing on diet and lifestyle adjustments to reduce spotting will ensure optimal health and fertility.
No PMS or pre-period symptoms
That’s right, ladies. PMS is not “normal.” Changes in energy and minor shifts in mood or emotionality are normal and reflect hormonal fluctuations that affect our neurochemistry. Other than these subtle differences pre-period, you should notice absolutely nothing before bleeding begins.
Extreme emotionality and weepiness can indicate too much estrogen in relation to progesterone, aka estrogen dominance. Breast pain, swelling or tenderness can also indicate estrogen dominance. This can also be an indication of a mild inflammatory response or too many prostaglandins.
PMS symptoms like irritability can be a sign of too little progesterone.
Here are some simple holistic health guidelines and remedies:
If you often experience some of the above-mentioned symptoms, here is an abbreviated guide.
- Too little progesterone: For too little progesterone, follow the same eating guidelines listed above for too much estrogen and increase your intake of vitamin C.
- Too much estrogen/estrogen dominance: To correct this, focus on eating a lot of leafy greens and omega-3 fatty acids. Minimizing omega-6 fatty acids, conventional meats and estrogenic foods like soy will also help. You may also focus on supporting your liver by consuming bitter greens and drinking warm water with lemon.
- Too little estrogen: You can help your body sort this out by eating enough healthy fats like nuts, olive oil, avocados and coconut oil. You may also want to focus on getting enough healthy protein from pastured eggs, grass fed meat, and beans.
- Dysfunctional shedding of uterine lining/impaired blood flow: For disrupted flow, you might try holistic remedies like castor oil packs or vaginal steaming. Abdominal massage can also be helpful.
- Too many prostaglandins: Raw honey has been shown to reduce prostaglandin levels. An anti-inflammatory diet that includes leafy greens and antioxidant rich foods like berries can help to overcome these symptoms. The herb turmeric is also highly anti-inflammatory. Evening primrose oil can also be helpful for this issue.
- PMS in general: Magnesium is fantastic for banishing PMS symptoms. Magnesium-rich foods include leafy greens, nuts, fish, beans and avocados. You may also choose to supplement with magnesium.
Remember to trust and honor your body! If you see changes in your cycle or experience things like spotting or PMS symptoms, you can work with holistic solutions to feel better fast, and to safeguard your health and fertility.