Written by Yoppie
31 Dec 2021
What makes a period light or heavy?
What can I eat to make my period lighter?
Is there anything else I should be doing?
Can the food I eat shorten the length of my period?
Is there anything I should worry about?
The food you eat can affect everything from your physical health to your productivity, but did you know it can also determine what kind of period you have? Light, heavy, short, long, we’re taking a look at what you’re eating that could be causing cycle issues, and what you may want to start consuming for a lighter period. Let’s go…
Whether you have light or heavy periods is determined by the balance of hormones, as too much or not enough estrogen or progesterone can affect the intensity and length of menstruation. For example, when you have higher estrogen and lower progesterone, it triggers the lining of the uterus to thicken, and the more imbalanced these hormones are, the thicker the lining can become.
When it’s time to shed that lining during menstruation, this can result in a heavier blood flow, called menorrhagia. Around 1 in 5 people with periods experience menorrhagia, and although it’s usually nothing to worry about medically, it can be frustrating to say the least.
What you want to hear is: “the more chocolate you eat, the lighter your period will be!”, and we would love to give you that good news, but unfortunately all we can offer are some science-backed foods that COULD work for you; it’s all about adding them to your diet and monitoring how they may be affecting your menstruation.
Let’s start with magnesium, a nutrient that many of us are deficient in. It’s thought to regulate the blood flow each month, and foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains, avocados and 80% cocoa dark chocolate (score!) are rich in magnesium, so include more of these in your diet to see how they affect you.
According to the Royal Women's Hospital in Australia, vitamin E is also thought to reduce blood flow, and is found in foods like vegetable oils, nuts (particularly almonds!), sunflower seeds, and green veggies like broccoli and spinach.
Unless you have allergies or intolerances, there is no harm in testing out some of these foods to encourage a lighter period, while also adopting a generally healthier diet to ensure you are in the best health during menstruation. If you experience heavy periods and want to look for alternative ways to reduce the flash flood of bleeding each month, don’t be shy about speaking to your doctor so they can rule out any underlying issues, and recommend possible medications, therapies, and even hormonal birth control.
As well as adding some of the above foods to your diet, there are a few other things you can do to encourage a lighter blood flow during your period:
Shortening the length of your monthly bleed isn’t always possible, but certain nutrients could help, specifically vitamin B6 as it’s known to increase progesterone, decrease estrogen, and improve pituitary gland function to balance hormones. You’ll find vitamin B6 in foods like eggs, fish and poultry, but you can take supplements too. There are also some herbal remedies that, although aren’t proven, have shown some promise in reducing the length of your period, such as fennel, ginger and raspberry leaf.
A light or heavy period isn’t usually a concern unless it has dramatically changed from your usual flow, but if you worry that your period is very light or very heavy, you can always speak to your GP to find out what’s going on.
If you have lost a lot of weight quickly, or are underweight, you may notice your period becomes much lighter or stops altogether if your fat level drops too low and ovulation halts - this can be dangerous and should be discussed with your doctor to return normal menstrual function. The same can happen to those who exercise excessively. If you believe this relates to you, talk to your GP to ensure you have a proper diagnosis, and the medication and support you need.
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