A Women's Right to Bleed
Recently I have had more than a few women at various stages of their lives, dealing with chronic period problems. Many of these have been suffering since they were in their teens, and some have had their period since they were 10 or 11. It is amazing how many of these women have been subjected to medications that not only attempt to reduce their blood flow and the length of their period, but many that induce the body to forgo a period completely. Some of the well-marketed oral contraceptives spring to mind.
Now before you start screaming and clutching your pill pack to your chest, let me tell you that there is no reason that you need to suffer with your period, and you don't have to marry a pill pack to do it. Instead I want to give some things to think about so that you don't automatically despise anything that reminds you of your Aunt Flo coming to visit, cousin Red, the crimson wave, having the painters in, riding the cotton pony, being on the rag, shark week, trouble in Ladytown, or that time of the month.
Unbeknownst to you, your menstrual cycle is just that, a cycle. Throughout this cycle there are secondary effects, reactions and changes that are powering other systems and keeping chemical signals flowing. You may not realize but these are subtle pieces of your overall health. The symptoms and issues you have with your period are your body's way of bringing your attention to problems far beyond your ovaries. This is because your cycle is like an engine where all the parts work together.
Let's start with the control center. The endocrine or gland system of the body is the master of your period. This is primarily focused in the pituitary gland which is in the center of your head just below the brain. It releases a fabulous couple of chemical hormones known as FSH or Follicle Stimulating Hormone and LH or Luteinizing Hormone. These travel through the blood until they reach the ovaries which react to these hormones by then turning on the estrogen and progesterone factory. The levels of these hormones determine how much estrogen and progesterone your ovaries have been directed to make.
Then through the month your ovaries release these hormones in varying quantities to trigger each stage of your cycle from ramping up the pathway for egg release to building up the lining of the uterus to feed an egg once fertilized. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.
Within this cycle of who's telling whom to do what, exist numerous ways in which this cycle can go sideways and the result will be problems with your period. BUT that does not mean that simply giving your body more or less estrogen and progesterone is the answer, because it isn't. It simply reduces the symptoms, but it doesn't solve the problem. Now you are asking why you should care, because as long as you can walk from A to B without requiring a blood transfusion you're good.
You need to care because the underlying imbalances affect other things, secretly and quietly, which will gradually develop into big problems. Here are a few examples:
- Estrogen and Progesterone are made in the ovaries from cholesterol. If your cholesterol level is very high, you will make a LOT of these hormones, while if it's too low you will make only a little. High cholesterol is a reflection of liver and gallbladder issues, while low cholesterol will mean you also won't be making Vitamin D, nor cortisol which is your natural inflammation fighter (think cortisone).
- If the pituitary is not releasing sufficient amounts of FSH or LH, then it is also probably not controlling the thyroid and the adrenal glands, won't release enough ADH which controls your blood pressure, won't be there in the delivery room when you need your contractions to be strong enough to birth your baby, and definitely won't be helping your breasts to fill with milk to feed said cute baby.
- Your circulatory system is a growing and learning system throughout your life. You can grow new blood vessels and increase blood flow to a particular area of the body on demand. So just imagine if you have sustained an injury to the pelvis, uterus or vaginal tract (such as can happen with a D&C) then you may have a reduction in blood vessels just as if you gain weight, your body can create lots of new ones. This can really change your period and the quality of your menstrual shedding. The other problem is that this, along with any scar tissue, can develop into other congestive conditions such as endometriosis.
You get the picture. Now an even more important factor in your period is that your glands do not just send signals in one direction (we always think down the body), such as from the pituitary to the thyroid to the adrenals. Each gland is essentially watching what the other glands are doing so it can react / adjust its signal. So if there is a severe imbalance in the ovaries and uterus, then the other glands can become dysregulated as well.
In this way, we see undiagnosed hypothyroid conditions as a key component in breast cancer cases, chronic immune weakness when the uterus is congested for long periods of time and even chronic neck tension in low Vitamin D levels and estrogen dominance problems. And your glands know the difference between your own body-created hormones and those provided by oral contraceptives or hormonal creams.
The lesson here is that your period is very important, both as a means of the body detoxifying the pelvis and reproductive organs, training your circulatory system and as a key component of a complex system of tissues and glands that are all talking to each other. Preventing a period with oral contraceptives only increases uterine congestion and reduces proper circulatory development. It will also affect your future fertility, despite all assurances to the contrary. You can regain control and balance of your menstrual cycle naturally through your diet, with herbs, homeopathics and stress management. And all of these have no side effects. You can walk with your head held high, no bath towel in your purse, and no extra strength prescription Advil in your pocket.
Befriend your monthly bleed. It's the best friend a woman has.