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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.
Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.
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:
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.
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:
They may recommend functional testing to help determine the cause of irregular periods, and to investigate baseline health, with tests such as:
Depending on your results and symptoms, a personalised irregular period natural treatment strategy may target the following:
Natural remedies including dietary, lifestyle, herbal and supplemental strategies may include:
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.
Are you ready for a personalised, natural functional medicine treatment? Our unique model of care was designed with you in mind. Find out how, then book a call today
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:
If you’re seeking an absent periods functional medicine treatment, our experienced women’s health practitioners can help you regulate your menstrual cycle.
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:
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.
Experiencing an early period can be attributed to various factors. Here are some potential reasons why your period may be starting earlier than expected:
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.
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.
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.
Experiencing brown discharge without a period can have various causes. Here are some possible explanations for this occurrence:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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