What is an irregular period?

Understanding your menstrual cycle

Your menstrual cycle is like a monthly health report card. If you’re in optimal health, your periods will occur consistently around 21 - 35 days, which is governed by when or, if, you ovulate (except if you’re taking the oral contraceptive pill). 

Irregular periods are when the gap between periods is unpredictable and variable, arriving early or late in the cycle.

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Functional medicine for irregular periods

Having irregular periods can be frustrating, and can cause significant distress as they interfere with daily life. The great news is that natural treatment is available to improve irregular periods and balance your hormones. Using functional medicine, you can enjoy regular, healthy cycles that are a measure of good health.


Symptoms of irregular periods

Irregular period signs

Irregular periods (oligomenorrhoea) is when periods are less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart, or cycle lengths vary monthly e.g., 20 days one month, 40 days the next - without consistency. Periods may be missed altogether for one or more months. If you’re not sure when your next period will be, then you may be experiencing irregular periods. 

Other symptoms include:

  • Brown discharge / light pink blood but no period
  • Period pain, but no period
  • Cramps, but no period
  • Period back pain, but no period
  • A negative pregnancy test, but no period
  • No period after stopping the pill
  • Irregular periods after pregnancy
  • No period after COVID

When your periods first start (menarche), it’s normal to be irregular for the first year. Equally, perimenopause symptoms (the transition prior to menopause) can start any time from 35 - 52 years and last  2 - 12 years. Irregular cycles and heavier bleeding can be experienced at this time, amongst other symptoms. Using an app to track your periods is a great way to record how regular your cycles are.

If a person experiences the absence of periods for three consecutive months, it is typically regarded as amenorrhoea, AKA absent periods. Amenorrhoea can be a sign of an underlying health issue, and it is important to seek medical attention for evaluation and appropriate management.

Causes of irregular periods

Several factors such as excess androgens, thyroid dysfunction, stress, nutrient depletion, and overexercising, can disrupt the normal menstrual cycle.

Hormone imbalances can have a significant impact on menstrual regularity, leading to irregular periods or even absence of periods. 

Excess androgens such as testosterone, can interfere with the regular release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation), leading to irregular periods or the absence of periods altogether. Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are characterised by high levels of androgens, and women with PCOS often experience irregular or infrequent periods. Symptoms can include unusual hair growth, and insulin resistance causing weight gain and anovulatory cycles. 

High prolactin (hyperprolactinemia) can cause a variety of menstrual issues, such as irregular or missed periods, decreased libido, breast pain, headaches, acne, excessive facial hair growth and vaginal dryness. It is often mistaken for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). A blood test is needed to determine whether hyperprolactinemia is present. Potential causes of high prolactin levels include an underactive or overactive thyroid, benign pituitary tumours, elevated oestrogen (for example due to the contraceptive pill), certain medications such as SSRI’s, stomach acid medications (PPIs), antipsychotics and other drugs, energy deficiency/under eating, alcohol consumption and stress.

Hypothyroidism is caused by an underactive thyroid gland, whereby it produces inadequate amounts of the hormone which regulates bodily processes. This affects ovulation and thus inhibits progesterone production. Standard TSH screenings may not be enough to reveal these issues and a naturopath trained in functional medicine can investigate the full thyroid picture with additional tests such as T3, T4 Reverse T3 and Thyroid Antibodies to identify the underlying cause.

Toxin exposure can contribute to irregular periods as we are all exposed to a wide range of toxins on a daily basis, such as herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, flame retardants, food additives, halogens and solvents. These substances can interfere with the body's natural hormones, disrupting their function and causing various health issues. While it is not always possible to completely avoid these chemicals due to our modern environment, we can limit exposure by making more mindful choices regarding the products we use and filtering water if necessary. If you believe that your toxin levels may be too high for your body to handle on its own, consulting an experienced practitioner about a detoxification program could be beneficial.

Poor gut health - dysbiosis of the microbiome, an imbalance in the gut flora, impacts every part of human health, including hormone regulation. Microbiota (gut flora strains) help us to absorb nutrients, break down foods and compounds, detoxify oestrogen, and regulate inflammation. Antibiotics are the most common cause of dysbiosis.

What causes eczema?


Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.

These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.

Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected. 

Food allergy and sensitivity

Food hypersensitivity has been found to cause or exacerbate atopic dermatitis in 10-30% of cases, and 90% of these are caused by eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat.

Compromised gut health

The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.

Nutritional deficiencies

Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).

Weather and environment

Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.


Hormones also play a role in the course of atopic dermatitis, including the stress hormone cortisol which triggers an inflammatory immune response affecting all organs of the body, including the skin.

Mould exposure

Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.

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Irregular periods treatment - the conventional approach

When addressing irregular periods, the standard approach often involves conducting various tests and examinations to determine the underlying cause. These diagnostic procedures aim to rule out more severe medical conditions and may involve the following:

Pelvic Examination: A healthcare provider may perform a pelvic examination to assess the reproductive organs for any abnormalities or signs of infection. This physical examination helps identify potential causes of irregular periods.

Referral to a Gynaecologist: If necessary, a referral to a gynaecologist, who specialises in women's reproductive health, may be made. Gynaecologists have expertise in diagnosing and treating conditions related to the female reproductive system, including irregular periods.

Pelvic Ultrasound Scan/Transvaginal Ultrasound: An ultrasound scan may be recommended to visualise the pelvic organs more clearly. This non-invasive procedure uses sound waves to create images of the uterus, ovaries, and surrounding structures. In some cases, a transvaginal ultrasound, where a small probe is inserted into the vagina, may provide more detailed information.

Laparoscopy: In certain situations, a laparoscopy procedure may be performed. This surgical procedure involves making a small incision near the navel and inserting a telescopic instrument to examine the pelvic organs. Laparoscopy allows for direct visualisation of the reproductive organs and can help diagnose conditions like endometriosis or ovarian cysts.

Hysteroscopy: Another diagnostic procedure, called hysteroscopy, may be conducted to evaluate the inside of the uterus. This procedure involves inserting a small camera attached to a tube through the cervix to examine the uterine cavity. Hysteroscopy can help identify abnormalities, such as polyps or fibroids, that might contribute to irregular periods.

It's important to note that the specific diagnostic tests and procedures recommended may vary depending on individual circumstances and the suspected underlying cause of the irregular periods. A healthcare professional will evaluate each case and determine the most appropriate course of action to diagnose and address the issue effectively.

It’s recommended to see your doctor if you experience:

  • Infrequent periods (more or less than every six weeks)
  • Bleeding between periods
  • No period by 16-17 years of age

However, most commonly, irregular periods are treated by prescribing the oral contraceptive pill.  These measures do not address the underlying cause, or ensure regular ovulation, which is protective for all aspects of a  health and fertility. This is why many women seek out the support of a functional medicine practitioner to help them regulate their periods naturally.

Irregular periods treatment - the functional medicine approach

In the realm of natural functional medicine treatment, the approach for irregular periods begins with a thorough investigation aimed at identifying the underlying cause and any contributing factors. This comprehensive examination allows for a targeted approach to address these specific factors and restore menstrual regularity.

A functional medicine women's health practitioner spends time investigating all aspects of your cycle in your first consultation, looking at the whole person. At Melbourne Functional Medicine, Vicki van der Meer and Rebecca Hughes are both passionate advocates for women’s health. In your initial consultation they will investigate your:

  • Menstrual / symptom history
  • Lifetime medical history
  • Medications / supplements
  • Nutrition, diet and absorption
  • Lifestyle and environmental factors
  • Surgeries / accidents
  • Family and genetic history, especially your female relatives

They may recommend functional testing to help determine the cause of irregular periods, and to investigate baseline health, with tests such as:

  • Microbiome and stool testing - looking for gut flora dysbiosis 
  • Organic Acids Test (OAT) looking for specific markers for inflammation, digestive function & nutrient absorption
  • Food sensitivities and allergy testing
  • Heavy metal or environmental toxin exposure
  • Hormone levels

Depending on your results and symptoms, a personalised irregular period natural treatment strategy may target the following:

  • Removing causative / contributing factors such as dairy, or gluten consumption, sugar, alcohol or poor diet
  • Balance hormones with herbal medicines, targeted supplementation, and lifestyle strategies
  • Improve stress resilience, depression and anxiety to reduce its impact on dysregulation of hormones and help regulate the menstrual cycle
  • Restoring a healthy microbiome - treatment  may focus on improving gut health through dietary changes, probiotic supplementation, and addressing any gut-related issues like leaky gut or dysbiosis
  • Restoring thyroid function - the thyroid is the master regulator, when not functioning optimally it can affect ovulation and hormone production 
  • Dietary and nutritional support - specific dietary changes and nutritional supplementation to support hormonal balance and overall reproductive health. This may involve consuming nutrient-dense foods, managing blood sugar levels, and incorporating specific nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and magnesium
  • Reduce the impact of medications and other concurrent health conditions - with holistic functional medicine treatment strategies

Natural remedies including dietary, lifestyle, herbal and supplemental strategies may include:

  • There is no specific diet for irregular periods, however if PCOS is the cause, a low GI diet can help. Your practitioner may also recommend an anti-inflammatory diet, or a specific diet plan personalised to your body’s needs - eliminating any food intolerances, allergies or sensitivities. 
  • Dietary recommendations for improving hormone production - including replacing refined vegetable oils with extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil, reducing refined and processed grains, sugar, and fast foods
  • Lifestyle medicine such as gentle movement, yoga, meditation and Shinrin-yoku (Japanese forest bathing) to build stress resilience
  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, which can impair liver function and prevent breakdown of excess oestrogen
  • Improve vitamin / mineral status with dietary changes and supplemental medicines which might include - B vitamin complex, precision probiotics, calcium-d-glucarate, inositol, Omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, iodine, magnesium, iron, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium
  • Herbal medicines depending on your symptoms, a tailored strategy might include a range of different herbs e.g. chaste tree, shatavari, wild yam, black cohosh, peonie, licorice, tribulus, passionflower, kava, ashwagandha (withania) 

It is essential that any herbal remedies are prescribed and monitored by a qualified practitioner to ensure the correct dosage, absence of contraindications or interactions with other medications, and appropriateness for the individual.

In our six-month program, you’ll have a functional medicine practitioner to guide and direct your personalised natural treatment strategy, as well as a health coach to help you achieve your wellness objectives. Although making positive changes can be challenging, having a coach to accompany you every step of the way will ensure that you’re staying on course, giving yourself the best chance of achieving consistent, healthy periods for the rest of your menstruating life.

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Why do I have cramps but no period?

Your period is like a regular monthly report card, and each month your body decides if it feels ‘safe’ and has the resources needed to make a baby, and therefore produce an egg. This is called ovulation, and it regulates the rest of your menstrual cycle. 

There are many reasons why you might be experiencing menstrual cramps outside of your period:

  • anovulatory cycle - where you have not ovulated and therefore do not produce enough of the hormones required to have a ‘proper’ menstrual bleed, this can result in light, heavy or no period.
  • ovulation occurs around Day 14 of your cycle and can feel (in some women) like a cramp or dull ache on one side of the abdomen
  • coming off contraception can affect ovulation and therefore pain
  • very mild cramping can sometime be experienced during the first trimester of pregnancy
  • ectopic pregnancy -which happens when a fertilised egg implants outside the uterus
  • gastrointestinal disturbances, diarrhoea, constipation, IBS or IBD
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • endometriosis
  • food intolerances
  • uterine fibroids

If you’re seeking an absent periods functional medicine treatment, our experienced women’s health practitioners can help you regulate your menstrual cycle.

Why is my period not stopping?

If your period isn’t stopping, it’s essential to consider several potential factors that could contribute to this situation. Here are some possible reasons why your period may be prolonged or not stopping:

  • Hormonal imbalances: Hormonal imbalances, such as an imbalance between oestrogen and progesterone, can affect the regularity and duration of your period
  • Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid disorders can disrupt hormone levels and lead to prolonged or irregular bleeding
  • Uterine abnormalities: Structural abnormalities in the uterus, such as fibroids (noncancerous growths in the uterine wall) or polyps (benign growths on the uterine lining), can cause excessive or prolonged bleeding. These conditions may require medical intervention to address the underlying cause
  • Medications and birth control: Certain medications, such as blood thinners or hormonal contraceptives, can affect your menstrual cycle and potentially lead to prolonged bleeding. If you recently started or changed any medications, it is worth discussing this with your healthcare provider
  • Infections and pelvic inflammatory disease: Infections in the reproductive organs, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), can cause inflammation and lead to abnormal bleeding. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect an infection, as it may require treatment with antibiotics
  • Stress: High levels of stress or emotional turmoil can disrupt hormone levels and affect the regularity and duration of your period. Psychological stressors can impact the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis, leading to menstrual irregularities
  • Other underlying health conditions: Certain health conditions, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, or bleeding disorders, can contribute to prolonged or heavy menstrual bleeding. These conditions may require medical evaluation and management

If your period is lasting longer than usual or you have concerns about its duration, consult with a healthcare professional. They can evaluate your medical history, perform necessary examinations or tests, and provide appropriate guidance and treatment options based on your specific situation.

Why is my period early?

Experiencing an early period can be attributed to various factors. Here are some potential reasons why your period may be starting earlier than expected:

  • Hormonal fluctuations: Hormonal imbalances can disrupt the regularity of your menstrual cycle, causing your period to come earlier than usual. Fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone levels, which can occur due to factors like stress, changes in weight, or certain medical conditions, may contribute to this irregularity
  • Stress: Stress, both physical and emotional, can impact the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis, which regulates hormone production and menstrual cycles. High levels of stress can lead to hormonal disruptions and result in an early period
  • Birth control: If you’re using hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills or intrauterine devices (IUDs), they can sometimes cause breakthrough bleeding or irregularities in your menstrual cycle. This can manifest as an early period
  • Changes in medications or supplements: Starting or stopping certain medications or supplements can influence hormonal balance and potentially lead to alterations in your menstrual cycle. Always consult with your healthcare provider if you have recently made changes to your medication or supplement regimen
  • Perimenopause: As you approach menopause, typically in your 40s or 50s, your hormone levels naturally fluctuate, leading to irregular periods. During this transitional phase called perimenopause, your menstrual cycle may become unpredictable, with periods occurring earlier or later than usual
  • Underlying medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, or uterine abnormalities, can cause irregular menstrual cycles, including early periods. These conditions may require medical evaluation for proper diagnosis and management

It is important to remember that individual experiences can vary, and the specific cause of your early period may require further investigation by a healthcare professional. If you have concerns about the timing or irregularity of your periods, consulting with a healthcare provider can provide insight, guidance, and appropriate treatment options based on your unique situation.

Why is my menstrual cycle getting longer?

The menstrual cycle length is regulated by ovulating, and if you do not ovulate, then the hormones required to start your period are not produced by the ovaries, which can lead to longer menstrual cycles. However, anovulatory cycles aren’t always longer. Some women menstruate every 2 weeks when they’re not ovulating.  

PCOS is typically associated with longer cycles due to very late ovulation, and menstrual cycle length varies a lot naturally in late 30s and early 40s with the advent of perimenopause.

Are there functional medicine practitioners that can help with irregular periods?

Yes, there are menstrual cycle functional medicine practitioners in beautiful South Melbourne at Melbourne Functional Medicine. Vicki van der Meer and Rebecca Hughes are passionate about womens’ health, and can help with irregular periods, with natural remedies.

As naturopaths trained in functional medicine, both Vicki and Rebecca can help with irregular period specialist treatment methods to restore hormonal balance using herbal, lifestyle and supplementary medicine.Treatment will depend on the root cause of your condition, and this can be identified by taking an  in depth case history of your symptoms, family history, and a range of other factors.

Why do I have brown discharge but no period?

Experiencing brown discharge without a period can have various causes. Here are some possible explanations for this occurrence:

  • Menstrual cycle variations: Brown discharge can sometimes occur at the beginning or end of your menstrual cycle. It may be residual blood from a previous period that has taken longer to exit the body. This can give the discharge a brownish colour
  • Hormonal imbalances: Hormonal fluctuations can affect the timing and nature of your menstrual cycle. An imbalance in oestrogen and progesterone levels can lead to irregularities, including brown discharge. Hormonal imbalances can be caused by factors such as stress, changes in weight, or certain medical conditions
  • Ovulation: Some women may experience light spotting or brown discharge during ovulation, which occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle. This is usually considered normal and is a result of hormonal changes during this phase
  • Hormonal contraceptives: Birth control pills, patches, or implants can sometimes cause irregular bleeding or brown discharge. This can be a side effect of the hormonal changes induced by these methods
  • Infection or inflammation: Infections, such as bacterial vaginosis or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), can cause abnormal discharge, including brownish or discoloured discharge. Inflammation or irritation of the cervix or vagina can also lead to similar symptoms
  • Polyps or fibroids: Uterine polyps or fibroids, which are noncancerous growths in the uterus, can cause irregular bleeding and brown discharge. These growths may require medical evaluation and treatment if they become problematic
  • Perimenopause: During the transition to menopause, known as perimenopause, hormone levels can fluctuate, leading to changes in the menstrual cycle. Brown discharge may occur as a result of these hormonal shifts

If you’re experiencing persistent or concerning symptoms, consult a healthcare professional. They can evaluate your specific situation, conduct any necessary tests or examinations, and provide appropriate diagnosis and treatment options based on your individual needs. Following diagnosis, a functional medicine naturopath who supports people with  irregular periods like our practitioners can help provide a holistic treatment plan.

What vitamins can help with irregular periods?

Several vitamins and minerals play a role in hormonal balance and reproductive health, which can help regulate irregular periods. While it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements, here are some vitamins that are commonly associated with menstrual regularity:

  • Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is involved in hormone regulation and may help promote a balanced menstrual cycle. It is thought to support the production of progesterone and can be found in foods like poultry, fish, bananas, and spinach
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E has antioxidant properties and may help reduce inflammation. Some studies suggest that it can improve menstrual symptoms and regulate the menstrual cycle. Good sources of vitamin E include nuts, seeds, spinach, and avocados
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for overall health and plays a role in hormone regulation. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with menstrual irregularities. Sun exposure and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are natural sources of vitamin D, and it can also be obtained through supplements
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, including hormone regulation. It may help alleviate menstrual pain and support hormonal balance. Good sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
  • Iron: Iron deficiency can contribute to irregular periods and heavy bleeding. Adequate iron levels are necessary for healthy blood flow and red blood cell production. Iron-rich foods include lean meats, beans, and leafy greens

It's worth noting that individual nutrient needs can vary, and it's important to maintain a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients. Additionally, if you suspect nutrient deficiencies or are considering supplementation, consult with a healthcare professional who can evaluate your specific needs and provide personalised recommendations. They can guide you on appropriate dosages and help ensure that supplements are suitable for you.

How to cure irregular periods in a teenage girl?

If a teenage girl is experiencing irregular periods and is in her first menstrual year, this is fairly normal as the fluctuation in hormones can be erratic until they start to normalise. Any irregular periods beyond that point require investigation into hormones, lifestyle, diet, underlying medical conditions and other factors.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to the team directly – we’ll be happy to assist.