Natural progesterone can work for heavy or flooding periods but you also need to consider the underlying cause of your heavy periods.
There are three main causes of heavy periods: 1) low progesterone or “unopposed” estrogen, 2) endometriosis or adenomyosis, and 3) thyroid disease.
Let’s look at each cause (and possible treatments) and then I’ll provide the top five general ways to lighten menstrual flow, including natural progesterone.
Heavy periods caused by “unopposed estrogen”
If your doctor says your heavy periods are the result of hormone imbalance, she means you’re having anovulatory cycles and 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 are a symptom of unopposed estrogen or endometrial hyperplasia and are another cause of abnormal 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’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.
- You have another medical problem such as thyroid disease or high prolactin that is preventing ovulation.
👉 Tip: The best way to know if you’re ovulating and making progesterone is to track your basal body temperatures. Read The Right Way to Test Progesterone.
Heavy periods caused by endometriosis or adenomyosis
Endometriosis or adenomyosis are 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 cause heavy bleeding.
Heavy periods caused by thyroid disease
Thyroid disease is a common and treatable cause of heavy menstrual bleeding. Experts say that thyroid function should be evaluated in every case of heavy menstrual bleeding and that 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, ask your doctor to test “thyroid antibodies” or “TPO antibodies,” which you may have to pay for privately. TPO antibodies are the marker of autoimmune thyroid disease or Hashimoto’s disease 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 thyroid autoimmunity. See Chapter 11 of Period Repair Manual.
👉 Tip: 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.
Natural treatment of heavy periods
The following treatments are in addition to the core treatment of fixing the underlying cause of your heavy periods. For example, if you have thyroid disease, then the solution is to take thyroid hormone plus look at one or more of the following.
Avoid cow’s dairy
Avoiding cow’s dairy (A1 casein) makes periods lighter and it could be because it reduces mast cell activation which has recently been identified as a cause of heavy periods.
A dairy-free diet can work 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 downregulating 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. Be sure to take it at a different meal from turmeric because turmeric can prevent the absorption of iron.
👉 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 the glucarate part (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.
Progesterone for heavy periods
Progesterone lightens periods by thinning the uterine lining. In that way, it’s similar to synthetic progestins such as norethisterone (PrimolutⓇ) and medroxyprogesterone (ProveraⓇ), but progesterone is better for mood and does not carry the breast cancer risk of progestins.
The standard way to take Prometrium is at bedtime during the final two weeks of the cycle.
👉🏽 Tip: If you’re having trouble convincing your doctor to prescribe Prometrium or Utrogestan, refer her to Professor Jerilynn Prior’s document “For Healthcare Providers: Managing Menorrhagia Without Surgery.”
Advil or ibuprofen to lighten periods
Natural treatments work to prevent heavy periods but they cannot stop a heavy period once it’s underway.
If you want an easy fix during your period, try an NSAID medication like ibuprofen or naproxen, which can significantly reduce menstrual flow and might buy you some time while you work with the other treatments. Take Advil as directed on your heavy days, and take it with food to decrease the risk of stomach irritation.