Normalizing Menstrual Irregularities

Published on October 16, 2017 by Dr. Jennifer Marion ND

For some women, that “time of the month” can be unpredictable, painful, long, short, heavy, and even debilitating to the point that time off work is required.  If you are one of these women, there are some natural things that can help to regulate your cycle and reduce pain.

Estrogen and progesterone balance is very important for promoting a regular menstrual cycle and fertility.

Chasteberry, also known as Vitex agnus-castus, is a herb that helps to normalize female sex hormones and specifically increases progesterone.  During the second half of a woman’s cycle, known as the luteal phase, progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum (remnants of the follicle from which the egg was released).  Progesterone prepares the endometrium for pregnancy by promoting the growth of additional blood vessels, as well as initiating lipid and glycogen deposits which will nourish the embryo while the placenta is developing.  Maintenance of the endometrium (what is shed during menstruation) is dependent on progesterone.  If a woman becomes pregnant, eventually the placenta takes over progesterone production.  If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone decreases and menstruation occurs.  Women who have low progesterone can experience irregular or short menstrual cycles, cyclic breast pain, premenstrual syndrome, painful periods, spotting before menstruation, difficulties maintaining pregnancy and infertility.  Chaste tree has been clinically shown to help with all of the symptoms described above and is one of the most potent herbal medicines for hormone balancing in women.

When we think about female hormones, estrogen is usually the one that comes to mind.  Estrogen also plays an essential role in regulating the menstrual cycle and fertility.  Estrogen is highest during the first half of a woman’s cycle where it promotes the growth of the endometrium.  After ovulation estrogen levels decline.  

For some women, estrogen is significantly increased compared to the other hormones and this is referred to as estrogen dominance.  Estrogen dominance has become more prevalent due to environmental exposures to estrogen like compounds, known as xenoestrogens.  Xenoestrogens mimic the action of estrogen in the body.  They are found in household cleaning products, personal care products, plastics and pesticides in our foods.  Estrogen dominance can lead to irregular periods, breast tenderness, fibrocystic breasts, mood swings, sleep issues and weight gain.

Though it is difficult to totally eliminate environmental exposures to xenoestrogens, there are some lifestyle choices a person can make to reduce exposure to these compounds.  Try and buy organic foods as well as natural cleaning and personal care products.  Reducing stress levels is also important.  When stress levels are high, the body produces cortisol.  Progesterone is a precursor to cortisol production.  During times of stress, cortisol wins the battle for what hormone is going to be made.  This leads to an imbalance of estrogen to progesterone,  resulting in estrogen dominance.

A compound called calcium-d-glucarate helps to regulate estrogen metabolism and correct estrogen dominance.  Calcium-d-glucarate inhibits an enzyme called beta-glucoronidase, leading to an increase in gulcoronidation.  Glucoronidation is involved in detoxification and excretion of toxic compounds.  Increased levels of beta-glucoronidase are associated with hormone dependent cancers like breast, prostate and colon cancer.  Calcium-d-glucarate can be taken as a supplement to help balance estrogen.  It is also found in high levels in oranges, apples, grapefruit, broccoli, cabbage.

Taking steps to regulate estrogen and progesterone could be the key to normalizing one’s menstrual cycle and eliminating some of the unpleasant side-effects of hormonal imbalance.

Select References:

Mirghafourvand, M., Mohammed-Alizadeh-Charandabi, S., Ahmadpour, P., Javadzadeh, Y. (2016).  Effects of Vitex agnus and Flaxseed on cyclic mastalgia: A randomized controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2016;24:90-95. DOI: http://www.sciencedirect.com.ccnm.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0965229915300303?via%3Dihub

Alternative Medicine Review. (2002)  Retrieved from http://www.altmedrev.com.ccnm.idm.oclc.org/publications/7/4/336.pdf

Silverthorn, D.U. (2010).  Human Physiology. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.