Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • June 2017
Written by 

Healthy menstruation for all seasons

Enjoyable, symptom-free menstrual cycles are something most women wish for, but few experience. Many factors of daily life can contribute to an imbalance in monthly cycles, including: stress, changes in daily and nightly light exposure, sleep patterns, diet, exercise, travel, illness, etc. These disruptions affect the sensitive endocrine system, which is responsible for healthy hormone levels, and can result in menstrual discomfort or disorders. Even so, a few small changes and with the support of a few herb allies, most women can prevent these discomforts.

A healthy menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman, with the average cycle lasting 26-34 days. Day 1 of the menstrual cycle starts with the menses — ovulation occurs around day 14. The cycle ends with the beginning of the next menses. Bleeding lasts about 3-6 days for most women. It is normal for young girls starting to menstruate to have irregular cycles for the first several years until reaching a regular length and duration. Likewise, menstruation for women in their 30s and 40s will also start to become irregular as they approach menopause. It is also normal to have an irregular cycle periodically during a woman’s lifetime, especially when she is exposed to high stress levels or while traveling. Raspberry leaf, partridge berry, motherwort and cramp bark are herbs well known for their uterine tonic benefits, and can be used as tea or tincture to promote a healthy cycle.

Maintaining a healthy body weight with a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 is ideal, as well as stabilizing blood sugar and ensuring adequate intake of healthy fats. A whole foods diet focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, vegetarian sources of protein, cold water fish, nuts, good quality olive oil, and essential fatty acids is beneficial. Consuming less refined flour products, junk food of all types, sugar, caffeinated products, red meat, and dairy products is correlated with a reduction in premenstrual symptoms, as well as menstrual disorders.

Moderate amounts of exercise can be very beneficial for the body, and specifically for menstrual irregularities. Stretching and movement can prevent pelvic discomfort or tension associated with dysmenorrhea, or painful menstruation. Yoga, dance, tai chi, as well as many other forms of exercise will bring circulation to the pelvic area and improve overall health. In contrast, strenuous or excessive exercise is associated with amenorrhea, or absence of the menses. Rapid weight loss and excessive exercise should be discouraged. Replenishing the body’s normal caloric needs through a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight, will reduce the risk.

Stress and negative attitudes or beliefs about menstruation need to be addressed individually as they will affect menses. Stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, light exercise, adequate rest and relaxation, along with adaptogen and nervine herbs can improve stress resistance. Some of these herbs, which can be incorporated as teas into your diet, include: ashwaganda, rhodiola, eleuthero, reishi, holy basil, lemon balm, milky oats, skullcap, chamomile, etc. Additionally, a positive attitude and belief system about the female body, and maintaining a positive body image, can also reduce menstrual disorders. Finding creative outlets and a professional to talk with are essential when dealing with a negative self-image. Setting time aside during the first few days of the cycle to enjoy a bath, a cup of tea, journaling, reading, hiking or any enjoyable activities helps replenish the spirit. A healthy attitude and knowledge about self-care will make an enormous difference in menstrual discomfort alone.

Finally, an abundance of chemicals in our environments called endocrine disruptors, act like estrogen in the body and contribute to hormonal imbalance. To reduce your exposure, eat organic whenever possible, avoid plastics, phthalates, fire retardants, BPA, etc. Furthermore, be mindful of the menstrual products on the market. Avoid perfumes and high absorbency products that can contribute to menstrual discomfort. Small, simple changes in diet, exercise, attitude, and environment can make an enormous impact on menstrual health, which will benefit overall health and vitality as a result. 

References: Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. Aviva Romm.

Dana Schlies

Dana is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator and Community Herbalist. She is passionate about educating women about the many botanical and alternative methods to bring the body into balance and create vibrant, healthy living. She utilizes a comprehensive approach including environment, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and botanicals to bring support to the whole body. She is part of the team at Sweet Willow Naturals, and can be reached at 920-530-1188 or [email protected]

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