“Instead of dreading their menses, early humans cherished the uterus and women’s cycles of menstruation, pregnancy, birth and menopause. They celebrated the uterus as the body’s centre of Female Power and Creativity.” ~Dr. Eve Agee, The Uterine Health Companion
(The Dance, by Dr. Laura Batson, ND)
Historically, menstruation has been viewed as many different things. Hippocrates was one physician to see that menstruation was unique to female physiology. He considered it “a necessary and healthy purgation upon which the health of the entire female was dependent upon.” On the other hand, menstrual blood could make vines wither, turn wine sour, drive men and dogs mad, and of course there were other forces of menstrual blood… With 300-400 periods in a lifetime, I guess that makes women pretty powerful beings.
Today, women’s personal and cultural views on menstruation vary greatly. Some may consider this a period of relief, inconvenience, detoxification, reflection, uncleanliness, or just painful and disruptive. We need to realize menstruation is a natural event and it is part of a women’s natural rhythm. It is a symbol of our connection with the rhythm of the moon and the earth.
The “Normals” of a Period
A girl will usually get her period around the ages of 10-16 years. In the beginning the cycle is sometimes irregular and anovulatory (meaning no ovulation). It then starts to regulate and balance out. Hormones are produced (Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH), Estrogen, and Progesterone) and follow a specific pattern. The rhythm of these hormones are separated into three phases:
- Follicular phase: Day 1-14: Day 1 is the start of menstruation (lasting about 2-6days). FSH matures follicles and produce estrogens. The endometrium thickens to prepare for the implantation of the fertilized egg.
- Ovulation: Day 14: At Day 14 you get a great increase of estrogen between day 12 & 13 cause the increased secretion of LH and leads to ovulation. The basal body temperature (BBT) rises about 0.5°C 1-2 days later and remains elevated until the end of the cycle. This temperature rise generally indicates that ovulation has occurred.
- Luteal phase: Days 14-28: The development of a corpus luteum secretes progesterone and leads to an increase in BBT and an increase in mucoid secretion from the uterine glands. When fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum degenerates and estrogens and progesterone decrease subsequently, results in the menstruation.
Hormone Levels During the Menstrual Cycle
During ages 40-50, menstrual irregularities can start in terms of frequency, duration, length, and volume as the body prepares for menopause.
There is physiological variance in this textbook pattern. The length of the cycle depends on the rate and quality of the follicular phase- the follicular growth and development. This varies between individuals. To assess each female cycle we often look at the pattern of:
- Duration: 25-32 days
- Length: 3-6 days of flow
- Heaviest day is usually Day 2
- Volume is about 30-80mL
- PMS symptoms: cramps, cravings, mood, etc.
What does Hormone Irregularity look like?
We live in an environment and culture which exposes us to excess estrogens, environmental toxins (hormone disrupters), suppressed emotions, and a busy/stressful lifestyle. Each of our body’s react to these factors in a very unique manner, which determines our menstrual rhythm. We need to understand how these individual differences reflect overall health. We also need to understand how certain characteristics may be indicators for an underlying pathologic process or a predisposition to a chronic illness. At Insight Naturopathic Clinic, Dr. Lee assesses at your overall health, your sleep patterns, your energy levels, your blood work, laboratory tests, and more. Dr. Lee also pays close attention to bleeding patterns. These include:
- Amenorrhea: lack of menstruation
- Anovulation: lack of ovulation
- Dysfunctional uterine bleeding: irregular, prolonged, excessive uterine bleeding with no cause
- Dysmenorrhea: Painful menstruation
- Hypomenrrhea: scant menstruation
- Intermenstrual bleeding: bleeding between periods
- Menorrhagia: excessive, prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Oligomenorrhea: infrequent menstruation or scattered menstrual pattern
- PCOS: polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Polymenorhrea: frequent menstruation (ex every two weeks)
- Premenstrual syndrome: psychoemotional and physical disorders during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
In all these cases, Dr. Lee works with your body to regulate its hormones. She uses botanicals, nutrition, acupuncture or supplements to balance out the adrenal glands, thyroid, and ovaries; and optimizes liver and kidney elimination functions. If you are experiencing any of these conditions, or would like more information about hormone balancing and menstrual regulation, contact Dr. Lee at Insight Naturopathic Clinic.