Is your busy work schedule affecting your monthly cycle?
Cramps and Clots
Is your busy work schedule affecting your monthly cycle? Dr Colin La Grange homeopath, acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese medicine, believes so.
Many women grow up thinking that painful, clotted periods are normal. This belief is perpetuated by the fact that as a young girl, more than half of your friends have the same thing, and there is no one to talk to about what is and isn’t normal. This article aims to shed a little light on the subject.
In order to understand the issue at hand, you need to understand how and why the lining of the uterus, the endometrium is formed. During an ideal period, there is no pain; no clots and a bright red, moderate flow bleed for three to five days.
There are eight hormones involved in the production of healthy lining:
Two direct hormones: oestrogen to grow and lay down the lining in the first (follicular) phase and progesterone to mature the lining in the second (luteal) phase. Progesterone is also the resource from which oestrogen is made.
Two brain regulators: FSH starts the first half by triggering follicle growth, which makes oestrogen. The LH causes ovulation, which starts the second half where the follicle, after egg release, becomes the corpus luteum that makes progesterone.
Two supporters: Thyroid hormone and growth hormone, which assist with metabolism and growth of the follicle and the lining.
Two interfering hormones: Insulin, a blood sugar controller that can interfere with oestrogen production and cortisol, our stress hormone that steals our progesterone away from making oestrogen.
The Right Stuff
Under ideal circumstances, the hormone levels are all available and functioning ideally, allowing the ovary to make one healthy dominant follicle and plenty of oestrogen in the first half, growing the lining to full thickness. At ovulation the follicle pops, releasing the egg and causing the oestrogen levels to fall. The progesterone produced from the corpus luteum (popped follicle) matures the lining without the interference of oestrogen, whose levels have fallen after the ovulation. When the progesterone levels fall around 14 days after ovulation, the menstruation begins as a bright red bleed, as the shedding of the matured lining.
The cramping and clotting menstruation takes place when the hormone levels and functioning are not ideal. Stress steals the progesterone, interferes with thyroid hormone and insulin, which all results in low oestrogen. The FSH from the brain, which should be switched off by the presence of oestrogen is over-produced in the lack of oestrogen. High FSH makes too many follicles in the first half. When the largest of these ovulates some more progesterone is made, but instead of maturing the lining, it is rather converted into oestrogen, allowing the extra follicle to continue to grow and ironically produce more oestrogen in the second half than the first. At the start of the menstruation the endometrial lining is still growing and not matured, which results in large portions of this tearing off instead of shedding off, causing pain, clotting and commonly hemorrhaging from the uterus wall. The heavy painful clotted bleeding is associated with oestrogen dominance, which means having high levels of oestrogen in the luteal phase instead of in the follicular phase, where they are supposed to be high. These ‘clots’ are not blood clots, but rather they are large pieces of growing endometrium.
If you have a majority of the following symptoms you most likely have an oestrogen dominant pattern: period pain; clotting; dark red, heavy bleeding; short cycles; spotting before the period; neck and shoulder tension; headaches from the base of head to the eyes, worse two to three days before the bleed; breast tenderness and bloating the week before your period, irritability and time urgency. Oestrogen dominance and this type of clotting pain, is closely associated to endometriosis, where some of those growing fragments may be forced backwards through your fallopian tubes at the time of your menstruation
The strong association between stress and oestrogen dominance, makes it more prevalent in the modern driven woman. Those of you with the fast-paced, hectic life of over-achievement and constant rush, are placing a demand on your stress fuel cortisol and a drain on your progesterone and its reproductive hormone dependents. It is no surprise that the cramp and clot curse afflicts the well-groomed, dynamic, busy lady, who has too much on her plate and definitely does not have time to deal with pain and PMS.
The long term perpetuation of this condition is a lot like creating a hormonal debt cycle that just seems to get worse, as your body is in a constant compensation state, in a bid to recreate balance. The cycle, unfortunately, leads to more problems and greater hormone imbalances and can lead to pathological conditions such as endometriosis, fibrocystic breast diseases, uterine fibroids, ovarian cyst and an increase risk in oestrogen-related cancers.
It is actually very unnecessary for anyone to suffer with any of these conditions or to allow your body to degenerate to this state, as there is so much you can do to support your body and prevent this from happening. The types of stressors that can lead to oestrogen dominance include: not sleeping enough, poor diet, insufficient oxygen and emotional stress. I call this your FARE: food, air, rest and emotions.
The most important part of the whole clot and cramp menstrual cycle is realising that is not a normal state and must be dealt with immediately.
Get at least 8 hours of sleep a day. Enough rest is very important. Most teenagers, busy business women and moms are sleep-deprived. This is the easiest way to drive up the cortisol levels, and its consequential knock-on effects
Have less high energy stimulant food and more wholesome sustainable food. We all eat way too much wheat and sugar, and stimulants like coffee and alcohol. Wheat and sugar add to the cortisol adrenal overdrive and result in hormonal disruption and increased acidity in the uterus/ vaginal environment. Coffee, and not just the caffeine, has proven to be highly stimulating of the reproductive system and not in any good way. Alcohol has a very disruptive and inflammatory causing effect on the hormone system relating to menstrual pain and the reproductive system as a whole.
Learn to breathe slowly and deeply to ensure good oxygen exchange. Most people shallow breathe and do not get the best oxygen exchange. Breathing, using your diaphragm and abdomen, and not just the ribs, helps to get a healthy O2 and CO2 balance and also reduces stress.
Reduce the emotion stressors in your life. This is always easier said than done, especially when your hormones are driving you to be this way. It becomes a vicious circle and the more emotional you become the more the hormones make you emotional. Healthy food, adequate rest and breathing, properly assist in reducing the hormone-driven emotional issues. Please be self-honouring and nicer to yourself. If you treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve, then others will too. Your hormones will be your friends and not your enemy.
Dr Colin la Grange has been treating infertility for 11 years and is the founder of Life Centre, a world first multidisciplinary Complementary and Alternative Medicine approach to treating infertility. He is currently researching new formulas for endometriosis, PMS, and PCOS.
Dr La Grange has been a regular contributor on Mothers and Daughters hormonal health and this article first appeared in Longevity Magazine.