The Essence of Women: What is Normal Menstruation?
So many women suffer with reproductive problems, whether it's PMS, infertility, menopausal symptoms or wanting to run over small animals during those few days each month. I want to spend some time really explaining the issues of women's cycles and giving you natural suggestions for balancing that monthly time, whether heaven or hell! There are more than 137 million women in the United States, and very little attention is paid to the health of a women's cycle. Both cardiovascular disease and cancer are the top two causes of death in women in the United States. In order to reduce risk, it is important for women to balance their menstrual cycles and hormone levels as they age. Start with your menstrual cycle. This is the essence of your health. It involves all your glands, all your energy, your blood and your emotional balance. If you are experiencing issues early in life, you will have greater problems later in life.
The first thing to realize is that it is not normal to have pain, excessive bleeding or clotting, emotional distress, fluid retention, painful breasts or no period at all. Each of these symptoms indicates an imbalance in your body's normal cycle. Most of these symptoms can be corrected, and 90% of the time without resorting to oral contraceptives, muscle relaxants or anti-anxiety medication. Try our natural suggestions first, and for at least three months before considering stronger alternatives.
Let's begin with a normal cycle...
So before we go any further, let me say that you MUST have a period. Currently the trend is to choose oral contraceptives that actually eliminate your period or reduce its frequency. This is not healthy ladies. Your body cycles around menstruation, and there are many indicators that your body uses the bleed as an additional pathway of elimination for toxins. By disrupting this, you are blocking an essential pathway that your body needs. You can see how true this is simply by the changes that take place in the pH of the vaginal tract during menstruation. Often women may even develop symptoms of a yeast infection during their period from the toxic material that is eliminated in the blood of menstruation and the acidic elements that are being released.
Typically the normal menstrual cycle is 28 days beginning with the first day of menstruation, which clears the uterus of the endometrium, unfertilized egg and excess hormones. After the menstrual shedding, Follicle Stimulating Hormone is released from the anterior pituitary gland and stimulates the growth of the follicles, which now begin to secrete estrogen. By about the sixth day, whichever of the follicles is the largest becomes the dominant follicle and levels of estrogen start to inhibit the release of additional FSH. The dominant follicle becomes mature and ready for ovulation, while the minor follicles atrophy. If the follicles do not atrophy, particularly if the hormonal signals are imbalanced, they can become functional cysts. During this final maturation, the dominant follicle continues to increase its estrogen production under the influence of an increasing level of Luteinizing Hormone, and small amounts of progesterone will be produced by the mature follicle a day or two before ovulation.
The estrogens that are released into the blood by the growing ovarian follicles stimulate the preparation of the endometrium, including repair. The estrogen levels determine the thickness of the developing endometrium tissue, which means that estrogen dominance will cause excessive thickening and development of endometrial tissue.
When estrogens are high enough in concentration, they stimulate the hypothalamus to release additional gonadotropic releasing hormone, and the anterior pituitary gland produces a surge of LH. This causes the dominant follicle to rupture and the egg is released. This usually occurs on day 14 of the cycle. If progesterone levels are too high at this point, it will cause suppression of LH and FSH. The blood that is released with the ruptured follicle causes a clot which is then absorbed by the remaining follicular cells. They then enlarge forming the corpus luteum under the influence of LH and the corpus luteum now begins to secrete increasing quantities of progesterone and estrogens. This is called the luteal phase. The hormones produced by the corpus luetum promote the growth of the endometrium a process which peaks about one week after ovulation. In this phase, progesterone should be the dominant hormone. Estrogen levels will remain higher than in the Follicular phase, but still secondary to progesterone. If the egg remains unfertilized, the corpus luteum will degenerate decreasing the levels of progesterone produced. Eventually it drops below estrogen levels and menstruation begins around the 28th day.
So sit down and compare your symptoms and menstrual history with what normal really is. Then it will be easier to identify where the disruption is occurring in your cycle. Check out the rest of The Essence of Women series for more information.