At BodaHealth, we believe that your menstrual cycle is an amazing thing… It’s the product of a complicated interaction between several body systems. Your brain, pituitary gland, thyroid glands, adrenals, and ovaries all work together to orchestrate the hormonal balance and fluctuations that bring about your menses. However, when that balance is disturbed in some way, your periods may become irregular or you may have no periods at all.
Women fluctuate widely in what is normal or average when it comes to their menstrual cycle. However, most women will experience a cycle that is somewhere between 24 to 38 days and last between 3 and 8 days.
Your menstrual cycle may be considered irregular if:
- The number of days between each period changes. This is true for very short or long cycles, or a fluctuation between the two.
- The number of days your period lasts changes.
- The amount of flow changes.
- Your periods stop altogether (amenorrhea).
There are a wide variety of reasons your period is irregular, stopped, or changed in some way. Among them:
Stress. Your body responds to stress or emotional upsets with the Fight or Flight response. This means that some of your body’s systems ramp up to deal with the stress at hand, and other systems that aren’t needed in the moment shut down. Major stress can affect your hypothalamus, a part of your brain that regulates reproductive hormones. This temporary hormonal upset can interfere with ovulation and menstruation.
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a condition that can raise your levels of estrogen and androgens (predominantly male hormones), and keep them elevated. In a normal cycle, these hormones will fluctuate. However, with PCOS, these elevated hormones can suppress ovulation and menstruation, leading to irregular or absent cycles.
Some medications can affect your menstrual cycle, including chemotherapy drugs, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and oral corticosteroids. In addition, oral, injectable, or IUD contraceptives may also cause changes in your cycle.
A thyroid imbalance, whether it is overactive or underactive, can disrupt your menstrual cycle.
Excessive weight loss or low body weight may create an imbalance in your hormones, disrupting your cycles and preventing ovulation.
Excessive physical activity can also cause a disruption in your cycles. Low body fat, high energy expenditures, and the stress of competition may all be factors.
Changes in your uterine lining may also upset your cycles. Thickening of the lining, uterine polyps, uterine fibroids or adhesions may also cause random bleeding, irregular periods, or interrupted cycles.
Pregnancy and lactation are a common (and healthy!) cause of menstrual cycle interruption. It’s important to know that while you’re breastfeeding, you may ovulate, but not have periods, and it’s possible to become pregnant before your periods resume.
Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, and if it occurs before the age of 40, it’s considered to be premature. It’s common for your cycles to become irregular before stopping altogether.
At BodaHealth, we offer a number of healing strategies to help you get your cycles back on track. A thorough health history and initial exam is our first step in understanding why your cycles are irregular. Our next step is to develop a targeted treatment plan unique to you.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine will likely be an important part of your treatment. Acupuncture helps to regulate the flow of blood to your uterus and ovaries, thicken your uterine lining, and normalize ovarian function. Acupuncture also boosts the circulation of endorphins, a neurotransmitter that can relieve stress and alleviate pain. In addition, research suggests that acupuncture affects the hypothalamus, a part of your brain that affects menstrual cycle hormones.
In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy is an essential part of treating irregular cycles, and is a great compliment to acupuncture. While acupuncture works to stimulate blood flow and balance brain chemistry and hormones, herbs are formulated to nourish your body for better hormonal, endocrine, and immune function.
Our naturopathic doctors are also a vital component in treating irregular menstrual cycles. They are able to test your reproductive hormones, thyroid, nutritional status, and body composition, and design a treatment plan that is right for your body. All of our practitioners work together with one goal in mind: to help you achieve optimal health and well-being.