Yes, you can use natural treatment for very heavy periods but you need the right treatment for your cause of heavy periods.
There are three main causes of heavy periods: 1) thyroid disease, 2) low progesterone or “unopposed” estrogen, and 3) endometriosis or adenomyosis.
Let’s look at each cause (and possible treatments) and then I’ll provide the top five ways to generally lighten flow. (You still want to treat the underlying cause, if you can.)
Heavy periods from thyroid disease
According to a recent study, thyroid disease is the most common and treatable cause of heavy menstrual bleeding. Experts say that thyroid function should be evaluated in all cases of heavy menstrual bleeding and doing so “would avoid unnecessary surgeries and exposure to hormones.”
Ask your doctor to test your thyroid and then ask to see the results. If your TSH is higher than 3 mIU/L, it could be a sign of subclinical hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Also, if you have thyroid disease in your family, look at the test “thyroid antibodies” or “TPO antibodies,” which is the marker of autoimmune thyroid disease or Hashimoto’s disease. Autoimmune thyroid disease affects one in four women and can cause symptoms of underactive thyroid (including heavy periods) even when TSH is normal.
Natural treatments for thyroid disease:
- Thyroid hormone (T4, T3, or thyroid extract).
- Natural treatment to correct autoimmunity. See Chapter 11 of Period Repair Manual.
If you’ve suffered heavy periods all your life, ask your doctor to screen for coagulation disorders such as von Willebrand disease. The condition accounts for up to 20 percent of all cases of heavy menstrual bleeding which is sometimes the only symptom.
Heavy periods from low progesterone or unopposed estrogen
If your doctor says your heavy periods are the result of “hormone imbalance,” she means you’re having anovulatory cycles and are not making the progesterone you need to thin the uterine lining and prevent heavy periods. In other words, you have estrogen that is “unopposed” by progesterone and so develop a thickened uterine lining. For more information about anovulatory cycles and progesterone deficiency, read 3 Signs Your Period Is not Really a Period.
👉 Tip: Uterine polyps can occur with unopposed estrogen or endometrial hyperplasia. They can be a cause of heavy bleeding.
The only way to make progesterone is to ovulate, so, if you don’t have progesterone, it’s because you’re not ovulating. The next question is “why are you not ovulating?” Here are some possibilities.
- You have PCOS, in which case, your best treatment is to reverse PCOS so you can ovulate and make progesterone and prevent heavy periods. Read Treatment for 4 Types of PCOS and Period Repair Manual.
- You have thyroid disease or high prolactin.
- You’re a teenager so too young to ovulate regularly. It’s a temporary situation that you will probably outgrow. In the meantime, you can lighten your flow with a dairy-free diet, turmeric, and iron (see below).
- You’re in perimenopause or “second puberty,” which is when ovulation starts to wind down and you lose progesterone. This type of heavy bleeding is also called dysfunctional uterine bleeding or endometrial hyperplasia and is tough to treat. You may need almost every period-lightening treatment listed below.
👉 Tip: Your doctor might not be able to figure out if you’re ovulating or if you have enough progesterone. You can test yourself by tracking your basal body temperatures. Read The Right Way to Test Progesterone.
Heavy periods from endometriosis or adenomyosis
Endometriosis or adenomyosis are two gynecological conditions that can cause pain and heavy bleeding. Your doctor might be able to pick them up with an ultrasound, or she might refer you to a gynecologist for further assessment.
Natural treatments for endometriosis and/or adenomyosis:
- Anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial treatments including zinc, turmeric, and a dairy-free diet. Read Endometriosis? Treat the Immune System.
- Calcium-d-glucarate (see below).
- Natural or micronized progesterone (see below).
👉 Tip: Fibroids are rarely the cause of heavy bleeding because most fibroids are located inside the muscle or on the outside of the uterus where they do not affect flow. Only ten percent of fibroids grow into the uterine cavity where they can cause heavy bleeding.
The best natural treatments for heavy periods
The following treatments are in addition to the core treatment of fixing the underlying cause of your heavy periods. For example, if have thyroid disease, then take thyroid hormone, and that will lighten your periods.
Avoid cow’s dairy
Avoiding cow’s dairy (A1 casein) is a way to make periods lighter and it could be because avoiding dairy reduces mast cell activation which has recently been identified as a cause of heavy periods.
A dairy-free diet works particularly well for the heavy periods of teenagers.
👉 Tip: You can still have butter, goat and sheep milk products because they don’t have A1 casein.
Turmeric or curcumin is one of my favorite treatments for heavy periods. It works by reducing prostaglandins and lowering estrogen (by blocking the enzyme aromatase). You can take turmeric every day of the cycle and then increase the dose during your period. Turmeric can also relieve period pain and endometriosis.
Iron corrects the iron deficiency caused by heavy periods, AND it lightens periods by increasing blood viscosity. If you’re deficient in iron, take 15 to 50 mg of a gentle supplement such as iron bisglycinate. The best food sources are red meat and eggs.
👉 Tip: Can’t get your iron up? It could be because you’re consuming too much dairy. Dairy inhibits the absorption of iron.
The active part of this supplement is glucarate (not calcium). Glucarate makes periods lighter by reducing estrogen. It promotes estrogen detoxification both in the liver and in the gut where it inhibits beta-glucuronidase (a bacterial enzyme that causes estrogen to be reabsorbed).
Natural or body-identical progesterone
Progesterone makes periods lighter by thinning the uterine lining. In that way, it’s similar to synthetic progestins such as norethisterone (PrimolutⓇ) and medroxyprogesterone (ProveraⓇ), but progesterone is a far nicer treatment because it’s better for mood and does not cause breast cancer.
The standard treatment is to take a micronized progesterone capsule (PrometriumⓇ) at bedtime during the last two weeks of the cycle. If you’re having trouble convincing your doctor to prescribe Prometrium, refer her to Professor Jerilynn Prior’s document “For Healthcare Providers: Managing Menorrhagia Without Surgery.”
Ibuprofen to reduce menstrual flow
Natural treatments work to prevent heavy periods. They cannot stop a heavy period once it’s underway. If you want an easy fix during your period, try ibuprofen. It reduces menstrual flow by half, and so is a good first step while you work on the other treatments. Take it on your heavy days, and take it with food to decrease the risk of stomach irritation.
My experience is that most women can find an effective natural solution for heavy periods. Please comment to share your story or ask me a question!