When a woman comes to me experiencing missed periods and cycles and feels her only choice to get her body back on track is via the contraceptive pill, I often want to give her a great big HUG! Not just because I feel her frustration and fears, but because she’s often not told about the reasons why her period has stopped or what holistic alternatives are available.
I get it, it can be a scary and confusing time. Some may feel that going down the medical path is the fastest and best way to get their body back on track; some may even feel like giving up.
I’m living proof that through a holistic approach to healing, a good diet, a healthy lifestyle, mindset and spirituality, you can heal your own body. I have done mine (and fallen pregnant while doing so!) and so have many other women.
While the first steps can be confronting, there’s so much holistically you can do, and when you start learning and noticing the changes, it’s absolutely worthwhile!
Understanding your hormones
Your menstrual health is a pro at providing clues to the healthy functioning of your body and hormones. When periods or cycles are MIA, it can be an indication that your hormones are experiencing a crisis. When your period completely stops and disappears for six months or more (not due to pregnancy), this medical condition is called Amenorrhea.
Women’s menstrual cycles and ovulation can be tricky! They are carefully controlled by a section of the brain called the hypothalamus, which obtains information about how much we are eating, how much energy we are expending, how stressed we are, and whether or not we are ill.
Losing your period is the hypothalamus’ way of looking out and protecting your body, and preventing your body from getting pregnant when you’re not at your best. It’s as if your hypothalamus is saying, “she’s too skinny or stressed right now, let’s save her energy for other things and shut down her reproductive system.” This may sound scary, but I’m going to help you understand your body and what you can do.
Common shutdown reasons:
First of all, it’s good to know the reasons why your hypothalamus may be stopping a period occurring. Sometimes we are unaware of what is happening with our body and we miss the signals completely. Often, the underlying cause is due to a hormonal imbalance, but some other common reasons include:
- Oral contraceptive birth control pill
- Stopping the pill (post-pill amenorrhea)
- Low body weight
- Eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia)
- Exercising too much
- Stress (physical, mental and emotional)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Under-active thyroid function
- Premature ovarian failure (POF, early onset menopause)
So what can you do? Try these six steps to get your period back, naturally.
1. Eat nutrient-dense food
Yes, that’s right: eat, eat, eat! One reason for periods to stop is due to too little food or too much exercise, but the fact is, you need good food — especially fats, proteins, and carbs. Go to your local supermarket and grab the good fats like coconut oil, avocado, butter, and bioavailable protein. Animal protein is great, and if you’re vegan or vegetarian, opt for whole, plant-based protein such as legumes, quinoa, tofu and nuts. Try soaking your legumes and nuts before cooking / eating them, as this makes them easier to digest and absorb.
And don’t forget, carbs are your friend! Glucose is required in our bodies for insulin release and to help with thyroid function. The best types of carbs are whole, unprocessed forms, eaten sporadically. Low-carb diets are fine for some, but not for getting your periods back.
2. Reduce stress
Stress can have such a big impact on our reproductive functions and if you’re under chronic stress, your cortisol levels go up, while your sex hormones go down. And this is when your “it’s unsafe to make babies” siren will fire up. So what we want is a garden of zen to produce the hormones required for menstruating. Achieving your ultimate zen can be done by going for walks, attending yoga, meditating, singing, dancing, socialising… Pretty much whatever makes you smile and makes you forget about looking at your phone for a while!
3. Rest up!
Listen to your body and take rest when you need it. Our bodies are made up of a sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, which work by balancing each other out. When you push yourself too hard, the ‘sympathetic system’ diverts from the normal practice of healing, building tissues and eliminating waste and begins breaking down the body.
On the other scale, your ‘parasympathetic system’ works to decrease the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relax sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. Yet when both of these systems are not functioning well, it can cause your body to burn out and decrease the hormones working at their best. So, rest, rest, rest and take naps when required.
Acupuncture ties into everything and has amazing benefits for MIA periods by helping to regulate hormones and increase blood flow to your reproductive organs. Not only this, it relieves stress by increasing the release of beta-endorphins, the ‘happy hormones’ in the blood, thereby reducing stress levels and balancing your hyperactive sympathetic nervous system, and helping to prevent miscarriage.
5. Exercise, but not too much!
As you know, I’m all for exercise and while I don’t mind a little running, more gentle exercises are best for you during this time. Gentle options include things like yoga, walking, and even meeting up with friends to go for a stroll. If you love doing weights, keep them short. I’d recommend around 10 minutes only. If cardio is your thing, minimise this to 15 minutes.
Most importantly, only exercise if you have the energy. If you’re exhausted, sleep and eat instead! For more ideal classes, check out my Fertility Yoga Series.
6. Re-establish your HPA Axis
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is our central stress response system and one of the leading contributors to poor reproductive health and loss of periods or missed cycles. When our HPA axis is not running correctly, cortisol can be produced by the adrenals, which have the ability to affect your reproductive organs and decrease our sex hormone levels.
To ensure our HPA Axis is running correctly you will need to make time to destress. Things such as meditating, leaving a few minutes earlier so you don’t have to rush, practising deep breathing, and going for relaxing walks are great! You should also avoid excessive exercise, which can lead to brain fog, mood and irritability issues. If your cortisol levels are high from large amounts of exercise, you may want to consider a Chinese Medicine supplementation from an experienced practitioner to help.
It’s important to also get enough sleep and limit alcohol, as these can increase inflammation and decrease the protection and repair your HPA axis. You can decrease the risk of aggravating the HPA axis by eating anti-inflammatory foods and minimising pro-inflammatory foods. Pro-inflammatory foods include sugar, grains such as wheat, processed snacks and red meat. Anti-inflammatory foods are your wholesome plant foods, particularly green leafy veggies and colourful berries, as well as ginger, turmeric, extra virgin olive oil and oily fish.
Last but not least, get a good nights sleep. Sleep is one of the most important ways to implement fixing your brain, increasing mental function and reducing cortisol levels, and therefore repairing your HPA axis.
7. Be gentle with yourself
The amount of time it takes to get your body back on track varies for everyone, so be gentle with yourself. Some women take one month, some may take six. Everyone’s body is unique.
Imagine your body like a bank account, and everything in your lifestyle and diet is like constantly withdrawing and topping up this account. If for years you have had an unhealthy diet or too strenuous exercise or using the pill or other drugs, then your body is very much in debt and will need quite a lot of replenishing to get back on track. Each step you take is about restoring the balance, allowing the body to heal and restore healthy hormonal function.
If you’re finding you’ve tried all these tips and are still not seeing results, please do get in touch. I specialise in helping women get their period and fertility back, so please feel free to contact me.
I hope you found this helpful. Remember that the sooner you find out why you’re missing periods and cycles, the easier it will be to fix. I’m not saying it will always be easy, but I’m I know it’s worthwhile — and I’m here to help you on that journey if you need it.
If you haven’t had your period since coming off the contraceptive pill, read this article to better understand what’s happening to your body. Think it might be adrenal fatigue or PCOS? Here are seven signs of AF and our writer’s experience healing herself from PCOS.
If you’re concerned about your hormones or lack of menstruation, seek professional advice from a medical practitioner.