How I Improved My Menstrual Cycle

photo credit wikimedia
photo credit wikimedia

Three years ago, I read the book The Red Tent which enlightened me on some aspects of a woman’s menstrual cycle that I would never have thought to consider. The book is biblical fiction, but the ideas surrounding the red tent in the story were based on fact. I learned that  before modern times, women would always menstruate together. That wasn’t really a surprise, I guess, since I knew that women who lived together often cycled up together. But this wasn’t just women who lived together, but all women. How the heck did that happen? I also didn’t know that their periods only lasted three days and they always occurred during the new moon. I was envious about the three-day part of the deal, and I thought the new moon part was cool, but strange. How did the moon make a woman’s period come? I wondered if the moon had some kind of pull on us women like it did the tides. I wasn’t sure if I believed that though. Maybe moonlight affected us somehow? Seemed strange…

It was interesting to me that women would only bleed for three days. My first couple of periods were short like this, but then they got longer and longer. I’d typically bleed for seven days when I was in my teens. I had read (probably in a woman’s magazine or something) that most women bleed for 5-7 days, so I thought this was normal. But when my period started stretching out to nine days long, I knew I wasn’t normal anymore. Having a non-hormonal IUD placed when I was 25 only made my period worse (longer and heavier).

Maybe a year into motherhood, I learned that some women were shortening their periods to 3-4 days by switching to cloth pads. This sounded too good to be true, so it was a couple years before I finally decided to give up tampons for cloth. It was surprisingly comfortable to wear cloth pads (as opposed to the nasty disposable ones–made me feel kind of bad for putting disposable diapers on my son for his first nine months). Switching to cloth has had some surprising benefits. For one, I started becoming more in tune with my body and with my cycle. Hard to explain, but this was a good experience, as I got to know myself better and accept this part of my womanhood more fully. It took some time, but I did notice an improvement in the quality of my period, although if it shortened, it only shortened barely. It did get a tiny bit lighter, but mostly it just kind of looked better. I was disappointed it didn’t improve more, but it was still worth the change, and two years I haven’t wanted to go back.

What did really improve my menstrual cycle was diet. I used to get terrible PMDD before my periods. Changing my diet to a traditional one, especially eating more red meat and getting more omega-3s in the form of cod liver oil, helped a lot with my mood. When I started taking a magnesium supplement, not only did my mood improve more, but my periods started looking better. They were a little redder, a little lighter, and a little shorter. Just a little, but any improvement was welcome. Then when I started the GAPS diet a year ago, I saw more noticeable improvement in all of the above. After only a month or two on GAPS, I had a five-day period, the shortest one since I was 11. I rejoiced.

The longer I was on GAPS, the better my period was looking, and the better my mood was. PMS was totally gone. Then in September, I decided to have my copper IUD removed to see what it did. In October, my period was only four days: One heavy day, one medium day, and two light days. I was still spotting a little before and after as I have for years, but this was like a miracle for me. Even the heavy flow day wasn’t all that heavy. In November I was sick with a cough leading up to my period, and this gave me a longer period, but besides that, my periods have been pretty much like the one in October. Even the before and after spotting is getting lighter and barely noticeable. When I first got my cloth pads, I would have to wash them all halfway through my cycle because I would have soiled them all already. Now, I only use half of them. I’ve cut my pad use to one quarter of what I started (granted, I’ve gotten better at running to the toilet when I’m about to bleed, but not that much better).

So, in review, things that have improved my period are: Switching to cloth; Diet–particularly more red meat, fish oil, and magnesium, followed by greater improvement with the GAPS diet; and, Removing IUD. Now, I’ve learned of another way to improve one’s menstrual cycle!

Remember how I said that pre-modern women would menstruate with the new moon? I’ve just learned about something that makes a lot of sense to me, and it is called lunaception. Lunaception is based on the idea that pre-modern women would ovulate during the full moon. When I read this, a light bulb popped on in my head–of course, if we menstruate during the new moon, then we would ovulate during the full, if our cycles are regular. According to lunaception, the white light of the full moon stimulates ovulation. If you sleep in total darkness except three nights a month when you sleep with a small white light (or actual full moon light) then your cycle will regulate. You can align it with the moon’s cycles if you wanted to. Doing this helps balance the hormones.

A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have understood this, but now that I know that light affects our hormones in a variety of ways, it makes a lot of sense. Women can use this method to lengthen short cycles or shorten long cycles. It can help stimulate ovulation in women who have anovulary cycles. I’m thinking it may even help shorten menstruation to a normal length. Since I just learned about it, I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but I am excited to see what it can do for me.

Herbs can also help regulate menstrual cycles, but I do not know enough about them yet. The book Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year lists some herbs that can bring on menstruation. I’ve just come across this article about fertility herbs that looks promising.

I believe it’s important to remember that a healthy body is a fertile one. If your menstrual cycle is out of whack, it’s a sign that your health is off. My menstrual cycle saw the most improvement as I made changes that improved my overall health.

Have you found something that improved your menstrual cycle? What was it?

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16 thoughts on “How I Improved My Menstrual Cycle

      1. You might check out sea sponges, also ~ they are especially nice on a low flow day. After years and YEARS of using diva cups, I have found that sea sponges or cloth pads or a combo are all I want to use. Our bodies are largely salt water, maybe the sea sponge feels at home in there ? 😉 Have fun in the moonlight !

  1. Hi Lisa, Great post! While I have always had short periods (2-3 days, so thankful!) I used to have really long cycles, 40-55 days between periods. I know that sounds wonderful but I’m not sure it was truly healthy. I also used to frequently have them during the full moon which was a pain because at a certain time in my life I liked to go to full moon parties which were not as much fun while bleeding. I read Thomas Cowan’s book the Fourfold Path to Healing a few months ago (in preparation for my first appointment with him) and he also mentions that our periods should align with the cycles of the moon with the first day of our cycle (ie. the day after your last day of bleeding) arriving on the new moon. Side note: he recommends spending time observing the moon each night which I thought was cool. Anyway, I went through my journal after reading the book and noticed that over the past year since I started my real/traditional/paleo/gaps food journey, my periods have gotten amazingly regular. For the past 6 months, I’ve been completing my period exactly in time with the new moon. It’s so nice to know when it’s coming and going, I love the regularity. I’ve also noticed a reduction in pms symptoms like bloating, cramping and intolerance. And I too notice the color has improved, more red, less muddy since I started eating more meat (I was veggie for 20 years). Good luck with yours. I think there is something to paying attention to the moon and I love the idea of sleeping in the full moonlight although I find the full moon makes me restless and those are often nights where I stay up super late, sometimes all way to morning. Best, Jen

    1. What interesting experiences you have had and interesting info you have shared! I’m now intrigued about completing one’s period with the new moon instead of starting. Also, I wonder if you are restless during the full moon as nature’s way of trying to get you to reproduce…makes sense doesn’t it??

      1. Re: restlessness during the full moon – definitely makes sense, I generally feel a bit friskier around that time too!-)

  2. Lisa this is so fascinating. I really have to read on this more! My son is 16 months now and my period still hasn’t returned. With my first 2 children I was around 8 months when it returned. I have a hunch it’s some sort of deficiency in my diet but I haven’t worked it out yet. I started taking fermented CLO about a month ago but have yet to see anything significant happen in my health (taking 1/2 t, 2 or 3 times a day).
    Oh, and I’m also still nursing my son about 3 times a day, as well as in the night. – Victoria

    1. Maybe your body is trying to make you space your children further. I think having lactational amenorrhea may be normal at 16 months though. I know there are things you can do that help prolong it. I must have done things wrong after having my son–I didn’t get lactational amenorrhea at all! Full time breastfeeding AND menstruating every month is great way to wear your body down fast, let me tell ya.

  3. Hey Lisa! Interesting post! I am having 26-day cycles and sever cramps. This time only 24 days and the doctor said I might have endometriosis. I hope it is not true and I am searching online for cure. It seems that omega 3 and red meat can help reduce the pain also. I am gonna try it! Besides, your explanation on lunaception is inspiring. I always stay up late at night with light on. It is time to change! For a healthier and more fertile body!

  4. Lisa,

    After reading in Carl Sagan’s “The Dragons of Eden” that the Moon “may even be the ultimate reason for the timing of the human menstrual cycle,” I Googled the topic and found your page among others. I was very interested by the following two paragraphs.

    “Remember how I said that pre-modern women would menstruate with the new moon? I’ve just learned about something that makes a lot of sense to me, and it is called lunaception. Lunaception is based on the idea that pre-modern women would ovulate during the full moon. When I read this, a light bulb popped on in my head–of course, if we menstruate during the new moon, then we would ovulate during the full, if our cycles are regular. According to lunaception, the white light of the full moon stimulates ovulation. If you sleep in total darkness except three nights a month when you sleep with a small white light (or actual full moon light) then your cycle will regulate. You can align it with the moon’s cycles if you wanted to. Doing this helps balance the hormones.

    A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have understood this, but now that I know that light affects our hormones in a variety of ways, it makes a lot of sense. Women can use this method to lengthen short cycles or shorten long cycles. It can help stimulate ovulation in women who have anovulary cycles. I’m thinking it may even help shorten menstruation to a normal length. Since I just learned about it, I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but I am excited to see what it can do for me.”

    I always read the comments since they’re often more informative than the articles due to different minds contributing what they know. Jen’s comment that she now completes her cycle in phase with the Moon’s cycle, and that this seems to have produced “a reduction in pms symptoms like bloating, cramping and intolerance,” is fascinating.

    Have you tried this out yourself? If not, please update the post once you’ve done so. The science is fascinating.)

    Kind Regards

    1. I have not! I had gotten pregnant before getting a chance to try it. After that pregnancy, and after my cycle came back, it started to become irregular (I had stopped sleeping in total darkness because my baby slept next to me). I would have loved to try this, but I became pregnant again! So….maybe when my cycle returns once more. Hopefully I will remember to post the results…but that won’t be for a long time from now.

    1. I know someone who had lighter periods from eating only (raw) meat! lol Hers were heavy with grains. But she had intolerances to so many foods. Everyone is so different! Mine were the best when I was on the GAPS diet, which has no starches. I think our periods can help us figure out what kind of diet is good for us. 🙂

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