What causes Irregular periods? What’s a normal menstrual cycle? When should I worry? And what can I do if my periods are not regular? These are perhaps some of the questions you had in mind before you came here.
Rightly so! Irregular periods are more common than they seem to be. We often come across that the average length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days and that the menstrual flow lasts for 3-5 days. However, the reality is far from the stated normal!
More than 80% of the women struggle with irregular periods at some point in their lives. Scanty flow, missed periods, heavy bleeding, menstruation extending beyond two weeks, or spotting in between the cycles are some of the many variations of menstrual cycle in real women.
This simply means that irregular periods is not so uncommon after all. And that you are not alone!
Now, you need to fix the problem because irregular periods is not normal either. And here you will find just that.
In this post you will learn about the causes, signs and symptoms of irregular periods. Also, we will go into the details of diet, lifestyle and Ayurvedic natural ways to support a healthy and regular menstrual cycle. Let’s get started!
What You'll Learn | Click on Topic to Go There
What Causes irregular Periods?
Irregular periods are usually a common occurrence for young girls after they attain menarche and for women who are close to menopause. This is because the sex hormones (Estrogen and Progesterone) that regulate the menstrual cycle are not flowing in a regular way at both ends of the reproductive life.
However, when your periods do not follow a clockwork during your reproductive years (from late teens to early 40s) then it surely is an indication of hormonal imbalances that have put your menstrual cycle out of sync.
Here are some of the factors that trigger hormonal imbalances, which eventually cause irregular periods.
- Nutritional deficiencies such as Zinc deficiency, Vitamin D deficiency, low levels of Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and Folic Acid.
- Insufficient proteins and fats in your diet. Both of these are building blocks of the hormones. If you don’t eat them enough, you are putting yourself at risk of multiple hormonal imbalances including irregular periods.
Health Conditions that cause Irregular Periods
- Fibroids, Tumors and Cysts on the ovaries or Uterus. Excessive growth in the ovaries and uterus creates excessive pressure on the reproductive system organs. This leads to heavy periods, short menstrual cycle and dysfunctional bleeding in many cases.
- Low thyroid function or Hyperthyroidism can further disturb the levels of Estrogen and Progesterone in the body. This causes irregular periods, missed periods or heavy bleeding.
- PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This itself is a health condition that is caused due to severe hormone imbalances in the body. You can learn more about PCOS here.
- Stress in the form of physical stress due to excessive exercise or mental stress can push your cortisol levels up. This further disturbs hormonal imbalances.
- Lack of sleep and irregular sleeping patterns. This is one of the most prominent causes of irregular periods besides stress. Restful sleep in the night promotes circadian rhythm balance, which is necessary for the hormones to work well. When you don’t sleep on time, you end up disturbing your metabolism, hormones and immunity.
- Changes in Weight. When you gain excessive weight or lose too much all of a sudden, it creates a cascade of hormonal and metabolic dysfunctions. This sows the seeds of irregular periods or missed periods.
- Exposure to environmental chemicals. Some of these chemicals mimic the function of Estrogen hormone. When you get exposed to these chemicals, they disturb normal functioning of your body’s hormones. This leads to irregular periods.
Menstrual Cycle: What’s Normal?
What is a normal menstrual cycle? It must be stated at this point that, what defines “normal” when speaking of menstrual cycles is actually a wide range. Each woman has her own unique menstrual cycle.
The key is to note what is normal for you and watch it. If there is a wide variation in “your own” regular cycle, then that change is not normal.
With that said, let’s go on to see what a normal menstrual cycle is.
What’s the Normal Length of a Menstrual Cycle?
The length of the menstrual cycle is calculated as the first day of the last menstrual period (when you had red colored flow) to the first day of the next period (again red colored flow).
You should track yours over three months to learn more about your cycle length and to detect abnormalities if any.
The average length of the menstrual cycle is 28 days, around 4 weeks. Since, every woman has a unique body type, so is the menstrual cycle.
For majority of the women who go through a healthy menstrual cycle, it can range from anywhere between 21 days (3 weeks) to 35 days (5 weeks).
While one has a variable length of the cycle, it should always fall in the range of 21 days to 35 days for it to be considered healthy.
If you have shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days on a consistent basis, then you should see a Doctor.
What’s the Normal Days of Menstrual Flow? How Long should Menstruation Last?
Don’t confuse the length of the menstrual cycle and that of the menstrual period. The cycle lasts from one period of flow to the other, as defined above.
On the other hand, a period is the actual phase of menstrual flow. It is the stage when you experience bleeding.
A normal period lasts for an average of 5 days, with an allowance of 3 days, plus or minus. That is to say, the length of a normal period is between 2 – 8 days.
Thus, if your period lasts longer than 8 days consistently with heavy bleeding then it’s not normal. Similarly, if your period doesn’t have sufficient flow or lasts for less than 2 days, then also you should see a doctor.
Normal intensity or rate of bleeding during a menstrual period
Bleeding can vary in intensity from woman to woman again. However, ideally, a rate of bleeding that requires you to use 3 pads/day is considered normal, with an allowance of 2 pads/day, plus or minus.
Again, that is to say that using between 1-5 pads/day during your period is normal, and you have nothing to worry about if this is the case with you.
Is my Menstrual Cycle Normal?
To reiterate for emphasis, “normal” here is used very loosely. Let’s study Miss Jane and Miss Aisha.
Miss Jane and Miss Aisha both had periods lasting for 6 days this month.
For Miss Jane, her periods lasted for 6 days last month and the month before that. She also had 6 days this month. Thus, she has had a “normal” period.
On the other hand, Miss Aisha had her period last for 4 days last month and the month before that. Now, she has had 6 days this month.
While 6 days is still within the range of a normal period, for Miss Aisha, it is not normal. She bled for two days longer than usual. Something is not right, and she should get it checked out if this happens for 2-3 times or more.
7 Signs of Irregular Periods That You Should Know
Just as what’s normal is in a wide range, so also is what’s abnormal. We can say anything out of the ranges stated above falls to the abnormal.
However, variation in women of mid-reproductive age is yet unclear. Here are the 7 most commonly signs of irregular periods.
1. Amenorrhea (No Periods) | Absence of Menstrual Flow
This is a condition in which there is outright absence of menstruation, even through the woman is in her reproductive years. Loss of menstrual flow either due to health condition or temporary health imbalance can lead to Amenorrhea.
It is not the same as Menopause, which is a complete stop of menstrual cycle beyond the reproductive age, at about 45-50 years.
Secondary Amenorrhoea is declared when when there is no menstruation for 6 months and there is no pregnancy either. It happens due to hormonal imbalances and not due to a health condition.
2. Oligomenorrhea (Missed Periods) | Extremely Long Menstrual Cycle
This a when the menstrual cycle is longer that normal. That is, the cycle lasts for more than 35 days.
So, if your menstrual cycle is coming after every 40 days or 60 days and it still comes then you need to get checked for hormonal imbalances.
3. Polymenorrhea (Frequent Periods) | Extremely Short Menstrual Cycle
Polymenorrhoea is opposite to oligomenorrhoea. In polymenorrhoea, the menstrual cycle is shorter than 21 days.
In other words, there is menstruation more than once withing 21 days or three weeks. This is shorter than the normal range. This is usually the case with Endometriosis and Thyroid disorders.
4. Hypomenorrhea (Scanty Periods) | Light Menstrual Flow
This one involves the period, and not the whole cycle. It is characterized by period that lasts for less than 2 days with little blood. The blood flow is so light that during the period, there’s only a need for 1 pad/day or even less.
This is usually the case with low estrogen levels due to nutrient deficiencies or excessive stress.
5. Menorrhagia (Heavy Periods) | Heavy Menstrual Flow
Menorrhagia is quite the opposite to hypomenorrhoea. It is characterized by flow lasting for longer than 8 days. The flow is so heavy that it requires 5 pads/day, or more.
There might also be blood clots that come out with the heavy flow of blood.
This happens due to high estrogen that builds up excessive endometrial lining.
6. Dysmenorrhea | Excessive Period Cramps
While there can usually be some degree of pain and cramping during menstruation, but with dysmenorrhea is diagnosed when your period cramps affect your ability to function.
Usually this is the case in endometriosis and extreme hormone imbalances as PCOS.
There is spasmodic pain in the first two days, which can be felt in the lower abdomen and is radiating to the legs.
7. Brown Spotty Stains
Dark brownish and rusty menstrual flow in the form of spotting and stains is usually caused by low Progesterone levels. In this case the endometrial lining hasn’t built up fully and also the old blood from previous cycle hasn’t cleared up.
This blood gets oxidized in time causing brownish colored flow, which is scanty due to insufficient built up.
Now that you have understood the causes and symptoms of Irregular periods, let’s take a look into the Ayurvedic ways to fix your periods.
The 3 Stages of a Menstrual Cycle in Ayurveda
Each Dosha, and hence the respective energies play an important role in different phases of the menstrual cycle. The dynamic forces of growth (Kapha), transformation (Pitta), and movement (Vata) guide the three stages of Menstrual cycle.
1. Kapha Dosha dominates the Follicular Phase
Follicular phase is the first phase before the release of the egg. This phase starts after menstruation and lasts just before Ovulation, and is the growth phase. In this stage, the endometrium in the uterus thickens and becomes glandular.
Any imbalance in Kapha would lead to the formation of clots and mucus in the menstrual flow.
2. Pitta Dosha dominates the Luteal phase
Luteal phase follows the Follicular phase. It starts with Ovulation and lasts just before Menstruation.
In this stage, Pitta Dosha acts through the blood tissues and the endometrium becomes more engorged with blood vessels. This prepares the uterus to nurture the fertilized egg, should it come.
Any imbalance in Pitta would lead to excessive growth of the layer, and hence cause heavy bleeding.
3. Vata Dosha dominates Menstruation (Period)
Menstruation or the period is the last phase of the menstrual cycle. In this stage, the uterus gets rid of the endometrium layer via the downward force of Apana Vayu – Vata Dosha, and menstrual flow is established.
Any imbalance of Vata Dosha would lead to restricted or painful flow, bloating, and PMS symptoms.
Healthy Menstrual Cycle | An Ayurvedic View
Regular menstrual cycle is necessary to maintain the balance of Dosha, hormones, and for proper functioning of reproductive system for women. It also indicates good health and is a sign of fertility.
Women who undergo regular periods are better able to work with fertile windows and experience healthy pregnancy outcomes.
Painful and irregular periods are a sign of dosha imbalance that affect the functioning of our endocrine system and reproductive system.
It also affects the health of multiple organs and body systems such as the digestive system, cardiovascular system, fertility, and nervous system.
Healthy Period is Pain free and Regular
Following are considered to be the characteristics of healthy menstrual flow. If any of the above characteristics are missing, it is interpreted to be a sign of imbalance in Dosha.
- Bright red in color, similar to a red lotus.
- Does not stain clothing. If the flow stains clothes, it indicates the presence of toxins and blocked channels.
- Is odorless – does not have any foul smell.
- On average, the amount of the flow is four anjalees – a cup formed by closing fingers of your one hand.
- Does not lead to any kind of pain, body dysfunction, and discomfort.
Ayurvedic Natural Remedies for Irregular Periods
In Ayurveda, menstruation is considered to be a part of monthly cleansing for females. Menstrual blood is the waste product formed when blood tissues or Rakta Dhatu is generated from the Rasa Dhatu or Plasma Tissues.
Menstrual cycle allows monthly flushing of the unwanted materials and malignant tissues.Ayurveda
That’s why menstruation in Ayurveda is considered to be the time to rejuvenate, relax, and nurture the body and mind.
For a healthy menstrual cycle one needs to:
- Avoid over stimulation of the senses
- Consume fresh, nutritious, and light foods that would nourish the tissues and stimulate digestive fire
- Sleep and rest well to avoid fatigue
- Avoid processed, fried, and spicy foods
- Engage in light and refreshing physical activity
- Avoid excessive and strenuous exercises
1. Food Habits for Healthy Menstrual Cycle
Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food! This is a popular saying and one of the basic pillars of Ayurveda. A healthy and balanced diet nourishes your body and supports the vital energy of life.
- Consume warm, unctuous, easily digestible, and lightly spiced foods.
- A light diet that consists of easily digestible vegetables, grain forms, and fruits should be consumed. It should be lightly spiced up with digestion promoting spices and herbs such as cinnamon, black pepper, mint, carom seeds, ginger, and cardamom.
- Do not overeat. Consume food in small portions such that they are easy to digest and do not overload the digestive system.
- Use healthy fats such as ghee, mustard oil, sesame oil, and coconut oil to prepare your meals.
- Stop or reduce caffeine, alcohol and smoking. All of these are stimulants that reduce sleep and further aggravate hormone imbalances.
- Reduce your salt and sugar intake. For sugar, replace it with natural sweeteners such as molasses, jaggery, and honey.
- Hydrate the body well with herbal teas. Use herbs such as Cardamom, Ginger, Fennel, Saffron, and Cinnamon. This will nurture your body and mind and also balance the hormones. It will also support digestion and relieve symptoms of bloating and indigestion.
2. List of Herbs and Spices for Irregular Periods
Herbs and Spices are an integral part of the Ayurvedic Diet. They promote digestion, provide one with essential nutrients and antioxidants, and relax your senses.
Following herbs and spices would support a healthy flow and pain-free menstrual cycle. They should be included in the diet during and after the menstruation, some on a regular basis and the rest during the periods.
- Aloe Vera: This herb has been used to aid the reproductive system in many ways for ages. It is useful during all stages of the menstrual cycle.
- Ashwagandha: Reduces stress and increases our body’s strength. Regular consumption of Ashwagandha elevates the brain chemicals, helps to relax, and establishes hormone balance.
- Shatavari: A uterine tonic, Shatavari is extremely important Ayurvedic herb for women health. It increases level of Progesterone, flushes excess Estrogen and nourishes the uterus.
- Ginger: It is one of the best common herb that acts as a natural pain killer. It reduces intensity of PMS symptoms and elevates the level of brain chemicals. Take it as ginger tea.
- Turmeric: Reduces inflammation and helps to detox naturally and relieves pain. Turmeric also helps to balance Vata dosha and establishes regular flow during periods. Caution should be taken, if you have heavy bleeding problems.
- Black Sesame Seeds: Provide nutrients such as Magnesium, Iron and Calcium. Reduce inflammation, establish menstrual flow and regulate the periods.
- Symplocos racemosa: It reduces heavy bleeding during menses. The bonus point here is that it reduces abdominal discomfort before and during menses.
- Saraca indica: It is the reliever of grief and can help offset depression and mood swings. Furthermore, it directs Vata to be healthy. What’s more, it is a general detoxifying agent.
- Centella asiatica: This improves cognition but also helps in providing better energy to the mind.
3. Ayurvedic Health Regime for Scanty Periods
- Eat warm, well-cooked meals, e.g. soup,. Ensure you eat at regular times.
- Use spices generously. Some excellent choices of spices include cinnamon, fennel, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, basil.
- Stay away from cold and raw foods, salads, excessive salt.
- Include healthy oils in your diet, and massage yourself daily with oil.
- Practice yoga, tai chi, and meditation. This encourages internal calmness.
- Eat foods rich in Progesterone. Some examples are egg yolks, seeds, sea weed, spirulina, and banana flower.
- Increase your intake of B Vitamins such as Folic Acid, B12, and Healthy fatty acids.
4. Health Regime for Heavy Bleeding
- Eat fresh, cool, and soothing foods. For example, cucumber, coconut, and melons make for good choices.
- Use bitter, sweet, and calming herbs. These include fennel, coriander, mint, dill, skullcap, etc.
- Avoid hot, oily, and spicy foods and pungent foods, e.g. a green chili hamburger.
- Reduce stimulants (like coffee), cool your mind, and encourage relaxation.
- Take aloe vera to detoxify liver so it can help break down excess estrogen.
- Uterine massage to decongest uterus and reduce clotting.
- Staying hydrated.
- Take cooked leafy greens to support your hormones and avoid nutritional deficiencies.
5. Health Regime for Absent Periods due to Excess Weight (PCOS)
- Focus on warm, stimulating, light, and nourishing foods
- Use spices in everything- food and beverages. Black pepper, cloves, cardamom, ginger are some spices to try.
- Avoid dairy products. You can take goat cheeses and soft cheeses moderately, however.
- Practice stimulating exercise, eat less, and regulate your sleep.
Check out Hormone Balance with Ayurveda, a holistic health programme. Receive personalized Ayurvedic treatment and step-by step guidance on diet and lifestyle to balance hormones and find relief from irregular menstrual cycle.
Takeaway before you go
- First, you need to change that mindset that menstrual cycle is a curse. No, it is not. It is part of what makes you a woman. A regular menstrual cycle is as a natural detoxification system that you have. Really, menstruation does clean you out.
- Don’t wait till you start experiencing irregular periods before you practice these healthy ways of diet and lifestyle. You should take good care of yourself round the month. Exercise, eat healthily, and you will have less struggle with period problems.
Now we want to hear from you. Have you tried any of these natural remedies for irregular periods? How was your experience? What worked and what didn’t? Do let us know your questions and suggestions in comments. We will get back to you the soonest
Wishing you vibrant heatlh!
Normal Menstrual Flow