Nutrition tips for women who have heavy periods

Heavy periods, also known as menorrhagia, occurs in one in every four women.  With menorrhagia, you can’t maintain your usual activities as a result of your period.  

Signs that you may have menorrhagia include:

  • You soak through your pad or tampon at least once an hour for several consecutive hours
  • You need to use double sanitary protection 
  • You bleed for more than seven consecutive days
  • You pass clots of blood
  • You have to change your sanitary protection overnight.

Losing so much blood may put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies.  Additionally, nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate your menorrhagia.  Consequently, if you’re experiencing heavy periods, it’s worth considering your nutrition intake.  Try these nutrition tips:

  1. Get your iron levels checked – Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency associated with heavy periods, and severe cases can even result in iron deficiency anemia (a deficiency of healthy red blood cells).  Symptoms of iron deficiency include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, dizziness, cold hands and/or feet, brittle nails and paleness, and it can lead to a weakened immune system, heart problems, difficulty concentrating and difficulty conceiving.  Iron deficiency can be easily diagnosed by a quick blood test, so if you have heavy periods, it’s beneficial to have your iron levels checked periodically and ensure that you consume an iron-rich diet including foods such as sesame seeds, lentils, rice, fish and green leafy vegetables. 
  1. Ensure you are consuming adequate amounts of dietary Vitamin A – Vitamin A is an important nutrient for reproductive health.  Emerging studies suggest that vitamin A deficiency may be associated with an increased risk of menorrhagia.  Although vitamin A deficiency is rare, it is more commonly seen in young women experiencing growth spurts who aren’t meeting dietary vitamin A requirements.  Good sources of vitamin A include salmon, cheese, eggs, orange vegetables such as carrots and pumpkin, and green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach. 
  1. Consider boosting your omega 3 intake – Omega 3 is well known for its blood thinning properties.  If you’re regularly experiencing menstrual blood clots, you may find that boosting your omega 3 intake may help.  Consuming oily fish such as salmon 2-3 times each week is one of the best strategies that you can implement to boost your omega 3 intake. 
  1. Speak to a dietitian about vitamin E supplements – Emerging research suggests that commencing vitamin E supplements during your menstrual period may help to lighten bleeding in some women, particularly those who are using Inter Uterine Devices.  Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant which may go some way to explaining its benefit.  Studies are small, but if you experience heavy menstrual bleeding, a course of vitamin E supplements may be worth a try. 

Heavy menstural bleeding may be a symptom of a health condition such as Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometriosis or Uterine Fibroids, so don’t put up with it, but seek the expert advice of your doctor and dietitian so that you can optimise your health. 

Author: Melanie McGrice  – Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Melanie McGrice is a highly respected Australian dietitian, passionate about working with women to improve nutrition and dietary issues. Melanie is also the director of Nutrition Plus,  a dietetic company which specialises in fertility, pregnancy and women’s health.