Author: Dr. Maryam Mahanian, DTCM, RAc
Audio Broadcast of the article is available below:
Most women don’t necessarily complain about having light periods or even think to mention it to me in my Chinese medicine clinical practice. However, when I ask women about their menstrual cycles, the volume of blood is a very important piece, particularly for those trying to conceive. Even for those who aren’t trying to conceive, the menstrual blood tells me so much about the state of one’s health and whether there is proper circulation of energy and blood to the various systems of the body.
A light period is a noticeable reduction in blood volume that lasts only 1 to 3 days regularly every cycle. Light periods very often accompany delayed periods (menstrual cycles that are longer than say 32 days).
As women approach menopause, they do notice a reduction in the amount of blood. This is normal and isn’t of concern to health practitioners. Also, if you’ve always had a light period since puberty, then this may be just fine and is your normal state.
Periods should be bright red, should last 3 to 5 days; can start a little light..get heavier…and then lighter again towards the end of the period. A woman typically will need to change her pad/tampon every 4 hours or so. If you find that you could go most of the day without having to change your pad/tampon or only need a liner, then you most likely are having light flow.
Light periods are commonly due to low estrogen, a thin uterine lining, a diet lacking in nutrients, hormonal imbalance and poor blood circulation in the pelvic region.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, light periods have an aspect of insufficient blood or blocked blood flow or both. Here are some of the causes:
Insufficient blood could be due to a diet lacking in nutrients, excessive thinking and worrying, overwork and fatigue, congenital deficiency, having children too frequently or close together, prolonged exhaustion and even too much sex.
Blocked blood flow is due to prolonged emotional stress & frustration, trauma & previous abdominal surgeries and prolonged use of the birth control pill. In addition, phlegm and dampness can obstruct the free flow of blood (this is usually due to a faulty diet consisting of a lot of dairy, sugar and greasy foods and aggravated by lack of exercise). It is also possible for cold to obstruct the free flow of blood – we call this a “cold uterus” in Chinese medicine.
Your Chinese medicine practitioner will be able to figure out the underlying reason of your light periods (one of the above). When they treat the cause, the effect is magical. Treatment is usually given for about 3 menstrual cycles. Women respond well to Chinese herbal medicine and dietary & lifestyle changes.
Diet and lifestyle changes help light periods. I believe the combination of an appropriate chinese herbal formula with diet and lifestyle changes is the fastest and most effective way of increasing the volume of menstrual blood.
Acupuncture is also extremely helpful if there is blocked blood flow. Find a qualified acupuncturist in your area.
- Focus on increasing protein – need amino acids to regulate hormones and support estrogen
- Eat healthy fats such as butter, avocado and coconut oil. These help to stabilize hormones.
- Drink lots of water
- Eat foods high in iron (high in blood)
- Beets, beans, apricots, prunes, free range organic protein, eggs, spinach and carrots are great to include in your diet
- Many vegetarian women have light periods. Vegetables and grains are not proportionately particularly high in blood content. You need to have a good blood nourishing diet. Animal protein is very rich in blood. If you are vegetarian and can’t stomach the idea of adding red meat to your diet, please consider bone broth. Over the years, I’ve had conversations with many of my female vegetarian patients about adding some red meat to their diet. It is incredible the difference adding it has made in terms of increasing the menstrual blood and more warmth and energy in their bodies.
It’s important to move your body every day but it is also just as important to not over exercise. With too much exercise, there is a risk of hormonal imbalance and depleting your body’s energy and blood. Try to exercise the right amount for you and not overdo it.
Castor Oil Packs
Castor oil packs are helpful to increase circulation to the pelvic area.
Try to find tools that resonate with you through your stressful times.
Find time every day for stillness, relaxation and joy.
Thanks so much for reading!
Yours in Health,