Your period has been AWOL for a while and you really just feel that you want a period but it isn't coming. You know you don't have an underlying reason for this such as pregnancy, post partum, menopause, the pill, medications or illness. So what is a girl to do?
There are a number of reasons you may not be having periods, so it is hard to right a catch all blog post, however, there are some thing that you can start to get your body in a better position (and may just bring your period back).
A quick note, if you have not had a period for 6 months or longer and you can't figure out why, you should see your doctor or primary care provider to get things checked out.
1. Start Charting Your Cycle
OK, so this won't bring your period back but it is useful to know whether your cycle is getting shorter, are you getting any signs of ovulation such as cervical fluid? Maybe you are tracking your Basal Body Temperature (BBT), and you have yet to see a temperature shift confirming ovulation. There are many ways to track your cycle, and I have a free cycle charting toolkit that starts you off with cervical fluid that you can get into your inbox at the top of the screen.
I find this is the first step to body literacy and understanding your cycle. You may even get the cycle charting bug (in which you tell everyone how amazing your menstrual cycle is and how to chart it ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME).
Charting your cycle is so freeing as you are not reliant on constant testing to see what your hormones are doing or whether you have ovulated. You can see what your body is doing just by following her cues.
2. Bust That Stress!
I feel like every time I mention stress everyone rolls their eyes, but if you have high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), low levels of cortisol (you have been under extreme stress for a long period of time, are tired and feel 'bleugh" all the time) and the wrong cortisol pattern at the wrong time of day. Your cortisol levels should be high when you wake up so you feel alert and ready to start your day and decline throughout the day so you are tired at night.
When you have been under prolonged periods of stress, sometimes this cycle reverses and you feel tired in the morning, and need caffeine and sugary carbs (think cereals and baked goods) to get you going. But at night, you are tired, wired and just can't sleep.
Cortisol tells our body to turn off reproduction and prioritise the body systems essential for life such as breathing, moving blood around your body, releasing sugar from your reserves and slowing down everything that isn't needed.
This means it will shut off our periods, or interrupt our cycles in a big way. Stress can be caused by many things but there are several key things you can start doing: get enough sleep, keep your blood sugar levels stable, learn to say "no" to what doesn't nourish you, get rid of any tasks you don't need to do. You can also add in stress buffering activities that leave you feeling renewed such as walks in nature, getting a massage, art and crafts, hanging out with your friends, earthing, gardening, meditating, whatever floats your boat.
The rest of the tips are about finding your balance.
2. Eating Healthy Fats
You need to eat fat on a daily basis to make hormones. If you eat no fat, or have no body fat, you will not be able to make hormones in order to have a menstrual cycle. Additionally, if you are overweight, your excess fat will produce oestrogen leading to oestrogen dominance, however, eating fat won't make you fat, and you still need to eat healthy fats every day in order to get your hormones going. One sign you are not getting enough fat is feeling hungry after your meals, this will be familiar to anyone who eats a lot of vegetables and still feels hungry. Another sign you are not getting enough healthy fats is dry skin and hair and flaky nails.
We have been mis-sold the story about fat being the big bad food we should avoid and the majority of women I work with do not consume anywhere near enough.
What is a healthy fat? First of all think healthy fruit based facts such as avocado, olives and coconut. These are great sources of fats and their oils are the only ones I will consider cooking with. Next think nuts and seeds. I cover seed cycling below but if you want to learn about which seeds are inflammatory and anti-inflammatory, then check out this video based post on inflammation and periods. Some key nuts seeds you want to include are flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
Finally there are healthy animal fats such as fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring. Fish is another one of those complicated subjects as so many are contaminated by mercury and other issues, so you go organic, wild (not farmed), and avoid anything tinned or canned. If you are in the states you want to make sure that any animal fat is anti-biotic free as this is added to the cattle feed to fatten them up and prevent disease.
3. Green Leafy Vegetables
I feel that these are greatly maligned veggies accused of tasting bad, and concerns over thyroid issues. Green leafy vegetables are a great source of B vitamins (which are essential for our hormones), minerals and many other essential nutrients. The only thing they are guilty of is not being prepared and cooked properly.
Most of my clients with thyroid problems see great improvements with increasing green leafy veggies in their diets. I recommend cooking them to decrease their goitrogen content if you are concerned about thyroid issues but most women could do with two portions of cooked dark green leafy greens a day.
If you are not used to eating these, build up to this slowly or you may find you get some interesting gastro-intestinal symptoms if you catch my drift.
Not sure how to make these taste delicious? I love blanching them with garlic and sometimes mixing them in with egg and scrambling them. Throwing in good quality bacon can help make them delicious too.
4. Eat The Rainbow
In addition to green leafy vegetables, we need a good variety of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) from other foods too for optimal periods. Rather than give you massive lists of foods to work through, there is a good way of guaranteeing that you get most of these in your diet: eat a good variety of coloured fruits and vegetables. Each colour has different nutrient qualities so by ensuring you eat a good variety of colours every day, you are going to be getting a variety of nutrients.
Isn't that much easier than trying to research, calculate and measure your nutrients for each meal. Need some guidelines? I know there is a lot of advertising to get your five a day, but unfortunately, with our mineral and bacteria depleted soils, this isn't nearly enough. Most people need 10-12 portions of plant based foods being mostly vegetables and then beans, seeds, fruit and nuts. One portion being a cup full (imagine a cup full of berries or chopped carrots). Again, if you don't eat this quantity normally, you will need to increase the amount you eat slowly and gradually.
5. Balance Your Blood Sugar
This can be a huge issue for hormonal disruption and is the start of insulin resistance and Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Imbalanced blood sugar levels can also cause cortisol spikes and increase inflammation.
How do you know if your blood sugar is imbalanced? Do you get a dip in energy 2-3 hours after eating, say mid morning or at 3pm and need a pick me up? Maybe you get faint and dizzy if you miss a meal. You may also have fat building up around your middle, the classic "apple" shape that you just can't shift.
The best way to measure your blood sugar levels is to buy a blood sugar testing kit from a pharmacy. In there it should give you instructions on how to test your blood sugar and when. It should also provide a chart on the normal ranges of blood sugar levels after eating for your country. (Different countries use different units).
There are ways of stabilising your blood sugar such as ensuring you eat adequate amounts of fat and protein with each meal (including breakfast) and looking at low to moderate Glycaemic Index (GI) foods. Of course, if you suspect you have serious blood sugar issues, this is a precursor to diabetes and PCOS, so you should absolutely see your primary care provider first.
6. Do A Basic Elimination Diet
There are a number of things that can really upset hormones and, if I'm honest, some of them are likely to upset you. Here are the ones I recommend cutting out for at least a month just to see if it makes ANY difference to your health: caffeine, alcohol, gluten, dairy, soy and refined sugar.
I know this is painful and if you need help, you can take one of my cleanse programmes. However, the only true way you will know if these foods cause sensitivity in you is if you cut them out for a month add one of them back in for 3 days and come back off it for 4 days.
Whilst I enjoy the odd glass of wine and freshly baked bread and cheese, these cause symptoms in most people that result in many health issues and period problems.
7. Move and Groove
Many of us are far too static these days and our bodies need regular movement, especially in our pelvis to ensure good flow. Now with exercise and vegetables, if you go overboard and detox your hormones before you even get your cycles going, so build it up gradually.
If you are inwardly groaning at the thought of going to the gym or a public exercise class like yoga, there are so many more options. You can go for a walk, find yoga videos on youtube to follow along with or even just dancing to the radio in your home. Movement should be fun and joyful, if you truly want to get your your menstrual cycle into tip top shape.
8. Get A Pre-Natal
Before you panic and say "but Rachel, I have no intention of getting pregnant any time soon", hear me out. I hate to say it, but our foods are so depleted that we sometimes need to top up with supplements, although they should not be our primary source of these nutrients. There are a huge list of nutrients required for healthy periods and guess, what, they are the same ones we need for a healthy pregnancy and baby.
This shouldn't really be a surprise considering our periods and fertility are linked. Rather than take a generic women's health supplement (these can be very variable in quality) or start taking a bunch of supplements and quickly assigning them to the supplement graveyard, you can get a good quality pre-natal.
As a matter of fact, I frequently recommend women take the pre-natal as a good starting point or most women, also when they are trying to conceive, throughout pregnancy, post-partum recovery and also for a longer period of time afterwards too. Some great ones include Designs for Health, Thorne Research and Metagenics Wellness Essentials Pregnancy.
9. Reconnect With Your Womb
Spending some time getting used to your body and reconnecting with her may sound woo woo for some, but I find when this is the reaction, this is a sign that someone is disconnected from her womb. There are a number of mediations and visualisations I do with my clients to help them reconnect, but one of the simplest things you can do is to lie with your hands on your womb area before bed for 10 minutes and just be aware that she is there under your hands.
So there you have it, my top steps for getting your period back by yourself. Of course these are just a top level of things you can do. And if you are still finding your period is missing, you can book with me and we can look at what is going on more specifically in your case.
Want To Know More
Read about How To Get Your Period Back After Being On The Pill
Read about What To Do When You Come Off The Pill
Read about Where Did My Period Go?