One thing that often frustrates me is hearing so many women who are taking hormonal contraceptives to manage their periods. I admit that there are some cases where this is appropriate, but in many cases there are lots of things we can do to get to the root of the problem. It is important to recognize that hormonal contraceptives are not fixing the problem at all, they are simply masking it.
If you have difficult periods, irregular periods, heavy periods or extreme PMS, these are simply signs that there is an imbalance somewhere in the body. Consider the idea that your body is trying to tell you something, rather than needing to get rid of a symptom quickly.
Interestingly, the naturopathic approach to treating period problems rarely has to do with adding more hormones. Your ovarian hormones are interconnected with many other systems: blood sugar regulation, thyroid function, adrenal / stress hormones, digestive function, liver detoxification, optimal nutrition and nutrient levels, sleep quality and more. In fact, by treating the underlying cause you are permanently fixing your periods, rather than temporarily covering up symptoms with hormonal contraception.
Here are top factors that may be addressed to balance your hormones:
1. Insulin / blood sugar regulation
Chronically imbalanced blood sugar levels, and a diet too high in simple carbohydrates and sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which is associated with hormone imbalances such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Imbalances in blood sugar levels will also make PMS symptoms worse (mood, bloating, food cravings especially), and cause irregular menstruation. A nutrition plan that supports optimal blood sugar balance can have a profound impact on hormone balance.
2. Inflammation and immune system balance
Inflammation in the body often leads to pain, and this is a key to addressing menstrual cramps and more severe mood changes with your period. Inflammation can be addressed by adjusting your diet especially, identifying food intolerances and anti-inflammatory supplements such as fish oils and turmeric.
Stress in interesting in that it can affect many hormones: lowering progesterone levels and causing more PMS, affecting thyroid function causing cycle length irregularities, reducing estrogen detoxification causing further estrogen dominance, and affecting the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis causing ovulation, and in extreme cases stopping periods all together. Addressing stress hormones is always an important step in restoring hormone balance.