Lifestyle Changes to Manage and Treat Menstrual Disorders
Lifestyle changes for managing and treating menorrhagia include:
- Change your contraceptive.
- Increase or maintain healthful levels of dietary iron.
- Consider taking iron supplements.
Lifestyle changes for managing and treating amenorrhea include:
- Balance the intensity of your exercise routine (if necessary).
- Maintain an appropriate weight and level of body fat.
- Get treatment for an eating disorder (if diagnosed).
- Reduce your stress levels.
- Reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Menorrhagia (Heavy Bleeding)
Lifestyle changes for menorrhagia are focused on the prevention of anemia, which can occur due to heavy bleeding.
Change Your Contraceptive
Increase or Maintain Healthful Levels of Dietary Iron
To reduce your risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia, eat foods high in iron on a daily basis. The most absorbable source of dietary iron is called heme iron. It is found in organ meat (such as liver), beef, pork, poultry, and seafood (such as clams and oysters).
Another form of dietary iron (nonheme iron) is not absorbed as well by your body. Nonheme iron is found in dried peas and beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, bread, iron-fortified cereals, pasta, and dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach). You can enhance the absorption of nonheme iron by increasing your intake of vitamin C-rich foods, such as broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, citrus fruits, melons, and strawberries.
Consider Taking Iron Supplements
Iron supplements are very effective but should only be considered if dietary measures have failed. You should talk to your doctor first before taking any iron supplement. The preferred form of iron supplement is usually ferrous sulfate. Other supplements include ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate, polysaccharide-iron complex, and carbonyl iron.
Common side effects of iron supplementation include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Black stools
- Aggravation of existing gastrointestinal problems, such as colitis and ulcers
Amenorrhea (Lack of Menstruation)
Lifestyle changes for managing amenorrhea depend on the cause of the condition and may include reducing exercise, eating a proper diet, gaining or losing weight, reducing stress, getting treatment for an eating disorder, and preventing bone loss. Amenorrhea may take over six months to reverse.
Balance the Intensity of Your Exercise Routine (if necessary)
Excessive and intense exercise can cause you to stop having menstrual periods. Treatment for amenorrhea may be as simple as cutting back on your exercise routine. If you exercise compulsively due to fear of gaining weight, you may have an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. It is not uncommon for women with eating disorders to exercise 2-6 hours a day. If you have an eating disorder, you need to see your doctor to get proper treatment and help reduce the compulsive nature of your exercising.
On the other hand, if you exercise intensely because you are an athlete, it may be difficult for you to cut back. Because amenorrhea puts you at risk for osteoporosis and infertility, you should talk to your doctor about getting more calcium, staying close to your recommended body weight, and developing an appropriate exercise schedule.
Maintain an Appropriate Weight and Level of Body Fat
Amenorrhea is often related to levels of body fat—either too much or too little. Your doctor can help determine your appropriate weight and body fat levels.
If you are overweight, your doctor or dietitian can help you make changes in your diet and activity levels so that you can achieve an appropriate level of weight and body fat. Your problem may be that you have lost too much weight or lost weight too quickly.
In this case, your doctor or a dietitian can help you make adjustments so that your diet is well-balanced and adequate in calories. If you have an intense fear of gaining weight or feel that your eating is compulsive and out of control, you should also be assessed for eating disorders.
Get Help for an Eating Disorder (if diagnosed)
Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, often lead to amenorrhea. Eating disorders are serious disturbances in eating behavior, such as extreme and unhealthy reduction of food intake or severe overeating. They are accompanied by feelings of distress or extreme concern about body shape or weight.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which you have an obsession with dieting and exercise that leads to excessive weight loss.
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which you eat large amounts of food (called bingeing) and then use inappropriate means (vomiting, laxatives, water pills, excessive exercise) to rid your body of the food eaten (called purging). You eat compulsively and feel unable to stop, then purge to prevent gaining weight.
If you think you may have an eating disorder, seek help from your doctor immediately.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
High levels of stress can disrupt your menstrual periods. In addition to reducing your overall stress level, you should get more rest and relaxation. You may also benefit from relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, yoga, and biofeedback. These techniques help you pay attention to tension in your body and release it with exercises that help quiet your mind and relax your muscles. Regular enjoyable activities can also help you relieve stress.
Reduce Your Risk of Osteoporosis
If you have amenorrhea for a prolonged period of time, you have an increased risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.
To help protect your bones and decrease your risk of osteoporosis:
Last reviewedSeptember 2013by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.