How many of us consider our menstrual health a central pillar to overall female health? Compare that answer to your average North American woman who uses 16 beauty products per day or the number of women who've tried intermittent fasting or CrossFit this year (guilty).
We’re uber conscious of our food and exercise regimes, and we’re finally taking our mental health seriously. So why is menstrual health left off the daily health check list? It seems most of us have been taught to keep this central aspect of our femininity under the hood, so to speak.
As a high school gymnast, I was a late bloomer to say the least. My first period came at 16 years old and my second cycle about eight months after that. Always irregular, I never knew when it would spring up on me - sometimes every two months, sometimes every four. You can imagine how embarrassing this was as a perennially under-prepared teenager.
Fast forward a decade and the issue continued. For many years throughout my mid twenties, I only menstruated twice a year, and I simply considered this irregularity lucky except for the mind-numbing period pain that came with it. Without a mom to guide me on this oh-so-secretive aspect of my life, I had always been a little clueless as to what is considered normal, but I knew my intense period pain was not. I would spend all of day one in bed, coping with an over dose of over-the-counter painkillers and sleeping pills to get through the day.
During my late twenties, I finally knew I had to take this pain and irregularity seriously if I wanted to have children one day. I tried various types of the contraceptive pill for regulation and period pain management, but ruled it out as a viable solution for me early on because it played havoc with my emotions. I was looking for a natural approach.
My doctor had ruled out polycystic ovaries and other underlying medical conditions (sigh of relief), but I had discovered that hormonal-imbalances are often a major cause of irregular and painful periods.
In my new pursuit to “get balanced”, I made sure to maintain a healthy diet, exercised regularly and took up meditation to relieve stress and bring down cortisol levels. These changes definitely helped with my period pain, but the biggest change came about after an inconsequential meeting with a naturopathic doctor in Belize.
After a bizarre experience having my "womb realigned" (a story for another day), the Belizean naturopath recommended an herb called chaste tree berry to help with menstrual regulation and PMS. It took me 3 months before I revisited this piece of life-changing advice and found the herb in dried powder form in the back of a dubious looking herbal shop.
Having been in a relationship with the ultimate rationalist (read: cynic) for many years, I wanted more research to back up these claims. As it turns out, this herb is widely used in Europe to assist with premenstrual symptoms, and is even prescribed by doctors in Germany. Its properties are believed to help the body regulate the key hormones associated with menstruation, progesterone and oestrogen. I sourced over 30 different studies that supported its belief as a helpful herb in menstrual regulation and PMS management, so I ought to at least give it a try, right?
I mixed a teaspoon of the dark-green herbal powder in hot water, morning and night. Truthfully, it tasted all kinds of gross, but with a stubborn desire to fix what was broken, I continued with this routine. Within three months, my body found a regular 36-day period cycle, and within 6 months I had a regular ‘textbook’ period cycle for the first time in my life.
I’ve maintained this regular 28-day cycle for over 2 years. What's more, my agonizing period pain has decreased dramatically and my emotions are in control. I can’t express what an impact this has had on my life.
I now use Bootsy Health's Hormone Balancing Elixir, a formula I developed so that I could easily incorporate the herb into my regular health routine. Now it's as easy dropping 1-2ml of liquid into a glass of water, and what’s more, the formula is sweet and tasty.
For me, it took over ten years of experiencing irregular, heavy and immensely painful periods before I even looked into possible solutions, and ultimately took action. For young women with similar issues, please don’t wait a decade to seek help. It’s not worth it - trust me.
My plea to women is to take our menstrual health seriously; to think about it with the same vigour we do our exercise or beauty regimes. After all, it’s a central part of what allows us to bring life into this world, and an unavoidable part of life for every woman. And shouldn’t that warrant more than a concealed after-thought?
(2) Women's Health Network: Causes of Irregular Period and Hormone Imbalances.
(3) Roemheld-Hamm B., M.D, PH.D. "Chasteberry." American Family Physician. September 2005.
This article is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose any condition or act as a replacement for a medical consultation.