Excessive menstrual bleeding or menorrhagia is a typical female condition that can be avoided most of time if proper nutritional measures are in place. Just like any other disease, determining the cause in the first place is crucial for effective treatment.
Physicians oftentimes believe they can figure out a person’s blood loss by asking them the amount of tampons or pads they use each period and how long the period usual last. However, studies have shown that there is an interrelationship between “measured” blood loss and these evaluations. A woman’s evaluation of her blood loss is greatly subjective, as shown by one study finding that 40 percent of women with a menstrual blood loss that is greater than 80 ml considered their periods only to be heavy or meager, while 14 percent of those with a measured loss of less than 25 ml ruled their periods to be heavy.
So how is a huge amount of menstrual blood loss determined? Menstrual blood loss should be a concern if a woman is bleeding heavily for longer than seven straight days or more frequently that every 21 days, and is changing her pad or tampon every hour for more than half a day. Women who are changing their pads and/or tampons every half hour generally require critical, maybe emergency, attention. Symptoms such as a feeling of lightheadedness, dizziness, and fainting should also raise a red flag.
The cause of menorrhagia includes anomalies in the biochemical processes of the lining of the uterus (endometrium). Things that may contribute to menorrhagia are iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, deficiency of vitamin A, IUDs, polyps, thickening of the uterine lining, and infections.
Another factor that causes menorrhagia is anomalies in arachidonic acid metabolism. This fatty acid is transformed to hormone-like compounds known as prostaglandins. The lining of the uterus of a woman with menorrhagia concentrates arachidonic acid to a much greater magnitude than normal resulting in a greater production of series 2 prostaglandins, which are believed to be the major cause for both the excessive bleeding and menstrual cramps.
The first problem to address is iron deficiency because a menstrual blood loss that is greater than 60 ml per period is associated with a negative iron balance in the majority of women. A negative iron deficient equates to more iron being lost than taken in. Women who are suspicious of having menorrhagia should get a blood test for serum ferritin (the first variable to display decreased iron levels). In one study done, women who had menorrhagia had far less serum ferritin levels than controls, but other iron signs such as hemoglobin were not far different between the two groups. Yet the analysts in this study falsely stated that such women do not need prophylactic iron supplementation, because no hematological anomalies came into view despite significantly reduced iron stores. Actually, a lower serum ferritin levels is a good sign for iron supplementation.
Capillary frailty is believed to play a part in some cases of menorrhagia. In a study from the early part of the 1960s, supplementing with vitamin C (at least 200 mg three times daily) and bioflavonoids was shown to decrease menorrhagia in 13 out of 16 patients. While vitamin C is known to greatly increase iron absorption, its therapeutic effects could also be due to enhanced iron absorption.
Although heavy bleeding and clotting is associated with women who have menorrhagia, the use of vitamin K (in the form of crude chlorophyll preparation) has a long history of use and some clinical research support.
Vitamin B deficiency may be correlated to menorrhagia. It has been shown in many studies that the liver, of those who are deficient of the B vitamins, loses the ability to inactivate estrogen. Some cases of menorrhagia may be the result of the effect of excessive estrogen in the endometrium. For that reason, supplementing with a complex of B vitamins may normalize estrogen metabolism. A study administered in the mid-1940s showed that a B-complex preparation that included thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin was effective in the treatment of menorrhagia.
Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) is no doubt the best-known herbal medicine for the treatment of hormonal imbalances and abnormal bleeding in women. It has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks for just about every menstrual disorder, including heavy periods. Clinical studies have shown chasteberry extracts to be beneficial in various types of menstrual abnormalities that also include menorrhagia. While chasteberry extract is the most valuable herbal medicine for normalizing menstruation, it can take up to four months to show any improvements.