Period Problems need to be Taken Seriously. Period.
What do period problems and a heart attack have in common?
They both need to be taken seriously.
Yes; a heart attack is more likely to be have the potential of being life-threatening. However in both cases, quality of life can be reduced substantially, when the proper assessment and treatment protocols are not in place.
We have been programmed to seek medical attention for things like an ear infection, strep throat, or the persistent odd rash we have on our arms. But why do we still have a tough time seeking the proper assessment for menstrual health concerns? The answer is likely multi-factorial; is it the insidious underlying societal shame placed on periods and women’s health concerns in general, or possibly our healthcare system not equipped with the proper assessment nor treatment plan that will actually FIX the root cause.
Period problems are not something women should have to ‘live with’; rather be empowered to investigate further. Why is it, that your periods are so heavy, and painful? Is your hormonal acne the result of a hormonal imbalance, or rooted in a dietary cause, or both? The unpredictability of when your period will come next should warrant further investigation.
Among a group of women, chances are that someone will be carrying some type of period pain medication in their purse, like Advil, Tylenol (or Midol, the marketed pharmaceutical for period pain). Yes, period pain can be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s ‘normal’. There is a lot that we can offer our patients.
There are two main hormonal concerns that can be happening here. The first is low progesterone, in relation to either a normal or elevated estrogen, and the second is elevated estrogen in relation to a normal progesterone level. We determine levels via a blood test done on day 21 of your cycle, or 7 days prior to your next expected period. The reason being, is that we would expect progesterone to be at its highest point at this time, and if it is not, then we know we need to support progesterone. Similarly with estrogen, the level of elevation will determine if we should be adding in estrogen metabolism support, in hopes of creating a better estrogen to progesterone ratio.
Often coinciding with heavy periods, but not always. Some considerations as an investigation into painful periods are looking at it from both an inflammatory cause, as well as a potential mineral deficiency. To assess for inflammation, I like to run inflammatory markers on blood work, such as hs-CRP and possibly ESR, which will tell us more about generalized levels of inflammation existing the body. In terms of a mineral deficiency, magnesium deficiencies are common. I like to assess this based on symptoms, rather than blood work, as serum magnesium will give us the status of magnesium within the blood, but not about levels within the actual muscle tissue, which is what we are most interested in. Remembering, that the uterus is a muscle, and the cramping sensation you may be experiencing, could very well be due to the muscle being unable to relax. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency could be tight shoulders or muscle cramping, feeling like you are tossing and turning in your sleep or experiencing restless leg syndrome, heightened anxiety, migraine headaches and possibly constipation.
When to consider hormonal testing, aside from heavy or painful periods;
- Irregular, missed, long or short cycles
- Insomnia, anxiety or irritability
- Breast tenderness
- Acne or migraines that seem to be worse during certain points of your cycle
- Hot flashes, vaginal dryness or changes in libido
If there is a root cause that we can start to address, that would help alleviate your current menstrual concerns – wouldn’t you want to know about it? The first part of the process is listening to your body; making note of the symptoms you’re experiencing. Then it is our turn to have you properly assessed for the appropriate treatment plan.
Although period problems and heart attacks may not have much in common – speaking to the title of this post – menstrual concerns should be taken seriously. There is much that we can do to support you, and improve your overall quality of life.
Have a question? I’d love to hear from you. Book a free strategy session to discuss your options!
Dr. Alison Gottschalk, ND