What Your Period Can Tell You About Your Hormonal Health
For as long as I can remember, I've been slightly obsessed with what's going on with my period. After learning about the fact that I would have one, I promptly established the “Period Club” with my three best friends in sixth grade.
But I realize the vast majority of women aren't quite as passionate about their periods. In fact, most women don't like their periods—and that's putting it mildly. The biggest problem is likely not that you have symptomatic cycles, it's that you believe a bad piece of mythology that has you believing that suffering is part of the deal.
No one teaches us to truly understand and respond to the sometimes subtle (and sometimes blatant) signs our body gives us. And those of us who receive any education about menstruation beyond proper tampon insertion are lucky; most women ride the unpredictable ups and downs of their periods without even considering what each monthly flow means about their overall health.
But it's true: Your period can provide valuable clues about not only what your hormones are doing in real time each month, but they might also help identify your risk for disease after menopause. Studies1 show that PMS is associated with higher levels of inflammation, which is a driving factor behind many conditions, such as heart disease.
Many of you may want to shut your eyes and avoid facing the less-than-pretty reality of how your period looks and feels, but confronting the signs head-on is the key to unlocking your hormonal health and overall well-being. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently declared the menstrual cycle to be a vital sign—similar to your blood pressure, temperature, breathing rate, and heart rate—in determining your overall health.
What Your Period Can Tell You About Your Health
There are many reasons your cycle can get thrown off—from what you eat, to how much you stress, to the cleaning products you use. So consider your period your monthly barometer of how well your diet and lifestyle are supporting your hormones. If your period indicates something is wrong, you have the power to make the necessary diet and lifestyle changes to get back to a healthy flow.
You can take the free V-Sign Type quiz to help you determine your unique period type. Then, find out what it might mean for your hormonal health:
Period Type #1: Red
This is the baseline reference for a normal, ideal flow.
Lasts: 5 to 7 days
Color: Begins and ends with a bright, cranberry shade
Consistency: Jell-O mix that hasn't yet set, medium viscosity
Occurs: Every 28 to 30 days
Consider this your textbook version of the ideal period. Maybe you've even read that description in an actual textbook. But what you haven't read (and what may be the most important thing you've never heard about menstruation) is that your period can change month over month, and you can absolutely change the color and texture of your bleed with diet and lifestyle changes within one to three cycles, depending on the severity of your issues.
Period Type #2: Brown
What it looks like: Brown, spotty stains to start. That brown stuff is actually old oxidized blood that didn't make it out of your uterus during your last cycle.
You might have: Low progesterone levels, a trigger for many period-related problems. You may also struggle with ovulation issues, irregular cycles, or PCOS.
Period Type #3: Blue
What it looks like: Heavy bleeding with clots. You're soaking through pads or tampons every hour and you're seeing dark clots.
You might have: Elevated estrogen levels. If your diet prevents your liver from breaking down estrogen, it can build up and cause a slew of hormonal problems like endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or fibroids.
Period Type #4: Pink
What it looks like: Very short, light periods. Your period lasts three days or less.
You might have: Low estrogen levels. You may have a vitamin or nutrient deficiency from extreme dieting and adrenal burnout.
Period Type #5: Irregular
What it looks like: Very short cycles or skipped periods. You bleed twice or more within a 28- to 36-day cycle, or it doesn't show up at all. It seems like you're constantly getting your period or not knowing when it will come.
The majority of period problems can and should be healed with diet and lifestyle changes, and you can heal yourself by taking the necessary steps—your hormonal health is in your control! You know your blood type, your personality type, your love language, your astrological sign, and your Myers-Briggs type—all of which you use to make informed and important decisions about how you handle your life. Now you know what your period type might mean for you, too.
Alisa Vitti is a women's hormone and functional nutrition expert and pioneer in female biohacking. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Vitti has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, and Women’s Health. She is the founder of The FLO Living Hormone Center, the world's first menstrual healthcare platform that has helped hundreds of thousands of women around the world put their period issues like PCOS, Fibroids, Endometriosis, and PMS into remission naturally using her highly effective FLO Protocol and the FLO Balance Period Supplements, and the creator the MyFLO period app—the first and only functional medicine period tracker. She is also the author of the best-selling book WomenCode. She has presented at SXSW, TEDx, Talks@Google, Summit Series Outside, and SHE Summit and regularly trains women in the workplace on how to use her Cycle Syncing Method for greater creativity, productivity, and wellbeing at work.