Irregular Menstrual Cycles

By Frank Nuber, Pharmacist

Let’s start by saying that most irregular periods are not serious in most cases. Of course they can be confusing and traumatic nonetheless. . Missed periods, too frequent periods, spotting, or bouts of heavy clotting and bleeding are usually caused by an underlying hormonal imbalance that is easily treated.

Most women have experienced a missed period at one point or another, some with anticipation of pregnancy, or maybe because of anxiety or tension. Stress and anxiety can contribute to too frequent or missed period at anytime.

I see we see women who menstrate like clockwork, while others report never having had a regular cycle. One thing is a given, however: shifts in hormonal balance will alter whatever pattern a woman has experienced in the past. Such shifts are especially common in peri-menopause.

A textbook period happens every 24-29 days, but in truth what is “regular” covers a wide range. Cycles between 23–35 days are very common. A woman may get her period only one to four times a year. Or she might have periods that occur two to three times in a month and involve spotting or extremely heavy flow. Alternatively, she may have heavy episodes of bleeding every two to three months. Irregular periods are simply what are irregular for you.

In general we don’t worry if there is only a period or two that is missed in a year. A variation in frequency more than that may indicate missed period or two over the course of a year may indicate to us the beginning of perimenopause or a disruption of the natural chain of hormonal events that controls menstruation. A wide variety of factors can be responsible for irregular periods, among them:

· Poor nutrition (to many carbs)

· Over exercise

· Overtraining

· Eating disorders

· Extreme weight loss or gain

· Smoking

· Drug use

· Alcohol consumption

· Stress

· Pcos

· Breastfeeding

· Prescription meds

· Chemotherapy

· Imbalances of perimenopause

As you can see, there are many different ways a woman can be irregular for as many different reasons, and it can be very confusing when it happens.

When we are under stress, regardless of the source (danger, personal relationships, work, environment) our adrenal glands are designed to secrete the hormone cortisol. Cortisol has a direct impact on the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and DHEA. Eating disorders, dieting, drug use, and reliance on stimulants like caffeine and alcohol are also interpreted by the body as kinds of stress. Poor nutrition seems to physically change the proteins in the brain so they can no longer send the proper signals for normal ovulation.

Most women ask me if they are in menopause because they have irregular periods. The answer is no. Menopause is defined as having no periods for one year. They are more likely to be in perimenopause, which is the time leading up or just before menopause. Perimenopause can last for several years before menopause takes place.

Women entering perimenopause often have irregular periods due to an imbalance of progesterone that upsets their cycle. Because progesterone regulates the amount and length of bleeding, periods can last longer and be accompanied by very heavy bleeding, (also called menorrhagia or hypermenorrhagia). However, shorter or spottier periods can also indicate perimenopause.

The most common type of irregular period is anovulation, or a cycle in which a woman does not ovulate (i.e., does not release an egg). This is frequently the cause of a missed period (an anovulatory cycle) and is considered normal if it occurs only once or twice a year. Clotting is also considered normal if it is cyclic.

Sporadic episodes of poor diet, high stress, emotional trauma, illness, or strenuous physical exercise are the usual suspects behind occasional anovulatory cycles. Sometimes something as simple as a family holiday or a week with the in-laws will play havoc with a menstrual cycle. Monthly periods are quite susceptible to dips and spikes in emotions and health. For the most part, once lives return to normal, so do periods.

A woman will sometimes skip her period for a few months and then start a heavy period that lasts for days or even weeks. This can be a sign that a woman is entering that perimenopause stage also.

What if I’m just spotting or not getting a period at all?

Women, who’ve suddenly lost a lot of weight or begun a strenuous exercise regimen, then stopped getting their period. Anorexic women or those who exercise two to three hours a day can find their menstrual cycles diminish or stop due to a decrease in body fat. These women have low estrogen and are not ovulating. This is called stress-type hypothalamic amenorrhea, and it occurs when poor nutrition and stress alter the brain’s chemistry and hormone pathways. The brain can’t trigger the right hormones for follicle development, which make the necessary estrogens. Women with this irregularity tend to be at higher risk for bone loss (osteoporosis) and other degenerative conditions and should be evaluated.

Why does my period come twice a month?

In addition to missed periods, women who get more than one period in the span of a month. The causes for this are relatively unknown, but stress and lifestyle seem once again to play a major role. Ingesting medication or other substances that disrupt the cycle may be a factor, as well.

What to do if you have irregular periods. See and discuss the condition with your health care provider. Your hormones should be evaluated including cortisol and thyroid. Have a physical exam to rule out other problems, which usually are less likely but a good thing to rule out by that exam.

How to you treat irregular periods?

Most of the time, simply decreasing our stress, improving nutrition can provide a natural way to restore regular menstrual cycles. These steps alone give the body a much needed boost and will support the natural hormonal balance and monthly cycles we are meant to enjoy… and appreciate!

Make the necessary dietary modifications, increase the amount of filtered water you drink, decrease sugar, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and refined carbohydrates. Increase fruit and vegetable intake (9-13 servings per day). Get some exercise, and start a stress relief program.

Call Me I can Help.

Pharmacist Frank

frank@excelapothecary.com    http://www.excelapothecary.com   (800)899-6561  or (636)794-5189


One comment

  1. You can definitely see your skills in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

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