Brazen's Healthy Period Handbook

Brazen’s Healthy Period Handbook

September 06, 2019

1 minute read Throughout this guide, we’ll unpack what a healthy cycle looks and feels like and we’ll teach you how to read your own. As we explain the causes for abnormal flow, blood color, symptoms and more, you’ll begin to understand what these markers are telling you not only about your cycle but also about your overall health.

September 05, 2019

September 04, 2019

6 minute read If you read our article about duration and frequency, you already know that a normal/healthy period lasts for four days. But even if everyone had a normal four-day bleeding phase, what that phase looks like (literally) can be very different for different people, and it can even vary for the same person.

September 03, 2019

5 minute read It may sound a little crazy, but checking out the color and clottiness of your menstrual blood can be super interesting and empowering. It’s one of the reasons we love using a cup!

September 02, 2019

4 minute read PMS can make us feel a little rundown or full-on sick, bringing even the most powerful people you know to their knees. But things aren’t hopeless. You’re not stuck with your symptoms and you don’t need to “just deal with it.”

September 01, 2019

7 minute read It is extremely common that people with periods have menstrual cramps and many of us were taught to expect and accept them. But cramps are not part of a normal, healthy period.

August 31, 2019

1 minute read We hope that this guide serves as a starting point and that you choose to move forward with the changes needed to improve both your cycle and your overall health.

An Intro To This Guide

You’ve heard it before, and it’s true: everyone’s cycle is different. Because of that, people tend to think that what is common for them is normal. But despite the range in people’s menstrual cycles and symptoms, there actually is such a thing as a normal period and cycle, and that standard doesn’t vary person to person. In this case, normal means healthy, and a healthy cycle is shaped by these factors:

Throughout this guide, we’ll unpack what a healthy cycle looks and feels like and we’ll teach you how to read your own. As we explain the causes for abnormal flow, blood color, symptoms and more, you’ll begin to understand what these markers are telling you not only about your cycle but also about your overall health. You might be tempted to Google ways to ‘fix’ whatever you’ve identified

A word of caution: there is no miracle cure and self-diagnosing can be dangerous if you don’t have complete information. We are confident that you can improve your cycle (our founder has helped over ten thousand women do so!) but we know that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and requires behavioral changes, not just popping a pill. At the end of each article in this guide, we’ll provide recommendations as per what you can do to improve your cycle – but the first step is knowing where you currently stand and why.

Afterward: What Comes Next?

If you’ve been reading the articles in this guide in order, congrats, you’ve made it through to the last one! By now, you should have a better understanding of what all your key period markers are telling you. Reflecting on your cycle frequency, duration, blood color, clots, flow, PMS symptoms and cramps, you should be able to draw some links between some of the underlying issues. For example, maybe you observed that your blood color is darker than what’s considered healthy, your period is longer than four days, you have clots AND you have cramps. If that’s the case, you can deduce that your body is having a hard time shedding your lining. That’s not bad news, it’s good news – because once you have identified an issue, you can begin working to solve it.

7 Tips to Improve Your Cycle – For All People With Periods

Throughout our guide, we’ve shared specific tips, tailored to what your cycle looks and feels like – ways to improve the flow, color and clottiness of your blood, the length and frequency of your period, PMS symptoms, cramps, and more. While it’s key to work on each of the individual underlying issues that shape your cycle, you also have to work on your overall cycle and health. Everything is interconnected.

These tips will help all people with periods:

  • Manage your stress.
    Stress affects both your overall health and your cycle as it causes constriction, which leads to issues like cramping and clotting. There are countless ways to reduce stress. Whether it’s meditation, surfing, cooking, doing yoga, walking, spending time with friends, painting, or something else, find something that works for you and stick with it. Consistency is key.

  • Track your period.
    If you’re not already doing it, start – you can do it in a journal, on your calendar, or on one of the period tracking apps. If you’re already doing it, keep going and be sure to reflect on the data, not just record it. Keeping tabs on the length of your period, your flow, the color of your blood, the symptoms you experience, and how much it varies (if at all) will help you better understand what’s going on in your body. If you identify irregularities or issues, you can work to fix them.

  • Get more sleep.
    This may sound too general, but it’s one of the most important things for your health and, by extension, a healthy cycle. Make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night. If you’re currently getting less than that, try getting into bed 15 minutes earlier. It’ll make a difference.

  • Monitor your energy.
    If you’re awake, your energy should be seven out of ten or higher. If you had to down five coffees to get there, it doesn’t count. Fatigue of any kind is an indicator that something is awry. If you notice your energy level is lower, take note of that and act accordingly. You shouldn’t, for example, do strenuous exercise, like CrossFit, when your energy is lower than a seven. (More exercise isn’t always better.)

  • Exercise regularly.
    You already know that exercise improves your overall health, but did you know that it directly affects your cycle too? When your blood is flowing, your body will have an easier time shedding the uterine lining, which means less need for cramps. While you should make it regular, you don’t need to go hardcore. Research has shown that moderate, regular exercise is effective at significantly reducing cramps associated with menstruation. Even daily walks mixed with some yoga can get your blood pumping enough to improve your cycle and reduce cramps.

  • Talk to your doctor.
    If there’s something irregular about your cycle, talk to your OB-GYN about it at your annual check-up, even if it seems like no big deal. We know that there are many doctors who will tell you that issues like cramps and clots are normal, but there are also doctors who, like us, know that nobody should have to suffer because of their menstrual cycle. If your doctor is not helping you manage your cycle or your pain in a way that you find acceptable, you might want to look for another doctor – one who knows that a healthy cycle is a symptom-free one.

  • Ask us questions.
    We are not a substitute for your doctor, but our founder is a women’s health expert and reproductive acupuncturist with over twenty years of experience fixing periods. She’s a wealth of knowledge and she’s committed to answering every question we get. So, if you’re left with doubts about your cycle, ask away.

We hope that this guide serves as a starting point and that you choose to move forward with the changes needed to improve both your cycle and your overall health. If you need help along the way, we’re here to answer your questions and cheer you on. Feel free to reach out to us via email at connect@foreverbrazen.com or follow us on Facebook.

And stay on the lookout, our next guidebook will be coming soon!

Part 1: Frequency and Duration

Two of the most straightforward things to track during your cycle are how often you get your period and how long it lasts. Knowing this is an important first step to decoding your period – but your period is just one phase of the cycle. In this section we’ll explore the three phases of your cycle and answer the following questions:

  • How long is a healthy cycle?
  • What happens during each phase of your cycle? 
  • How long does a healthy period last and how frequent should it be? 
  • What does it mean if your period is shorter or longer than normal?
  • What does it mean if your cycle length is longer or shorter than normal?
  • How does cycle length and duration relate to fertility issues?
  • Why are fertility issues relevant to everyone, including people not interested in having kids?
  • What can you do to achieve a normal, healthy period?

What does a healthy period look like in terms of frequency & duration?

A normal, healthy cycle is 28-30 days long, with four days of bleeding, and it doesn’t vary much from month to month. While a 28-30 day cycle tells us that everything is working as it’s supposed to in terms of how your body is responding to hormonal signals, cycles outside that range tell us that there’s room for improvement. 

Cycles that are 26-32 days long are not cause for alarm, but the closer to 28 days, the better. Throughout this article, we’ll use the 28-day cycle as the standard, as that’s what’s considered optimal. 

A 28-day cycle is important because your menstrual cycle has 3 phases and each phase is carefully timed to produce different effects in the body. If your cycle is less than 28 days, it means that one or more of the phases is being cut short. If it is longer than 30 days, something is taking too long. Short cycles, long cycles, and cycles that vary widely from month to month may indicate health problems. 

What happens during each phase of your cycle?

  1. Bleeding Phase – 4 Days
    The bleeding phase begins (you guessed it) on the first day of your period, which is also Day 1 of your cycle. During this phase, the uterine lining is dissolved and expelled from the body.
  2. Follicular Phase –10 Days
    The follicular phase is when estrogen and follicle-stimulating hormones work together to help your egg develop before ovulation. It takes 10 days for a high quality, ready-for-fertilization egg to be produced. This takes place during day 5 through day 14 of a healthy cycle.
  3. Luteal phase – 14 Days
    The luteal phase is the final phase of your cycle. It begins with a surge in luteinizing hormones that trigger ovulation (which is instantaneous, by the way) and it lasts until your next period begins. This phase takes up the whole second half of your cycle, normally day 15 through day 28. During this time progesterone helps build and stabilize the uterine lining so that it’s ready for implantation.

What does cycle length have to do with fertility? And what does fertility have to do with our overall health?

Research shows that cycles that don’t fit the 28-day pattern are associated with fertility issues, in some cases decreasing the chance of delivery by up to 50%. Even if you’re NOT trying to get pregnant, not now and not ever, fertility issues are still relevant to you and your overall health as they indicate that something isn’t working right.

Essentially, fertility issues are a sign that your reproductive system isn’t responding well to the hormonal cues that your body is sending. There are two key causes for this, which relate to the length and frequency of your cycle: 

  1. Your ovaries aren’t as receptive to hormones as they should be.
  2. The blood supply to your reproductive organs isn’t optimal. 

 

If your ovaries aren’t as receptive to hormones as they ought to be, your body will produce MORE hormones to get your ovaries in line. This increase in hormones can lead to hormone-related symptoms that may affect your mood, give you acne, mess with your body’s temperature regulation, and even increase lifetime hormone exposure risk. Blood supply issues, on the other hand, can cause bleeding issues like scanty bleeding, clotting, and cramping. 

What does it mean if one of the three phases is shorter or longer for you?

  • The length of your period is a good indicator of the health of your uterine lining, and a healthy uterine lining is what allows for the implantation and nourishment of a fertilized embryo. Both short and long bleeding phases are associated with a decreased chance to conceive each month AND menstrual cramps, but the underlying causes and implications are different. Short bleeding phases can indicate that your uterine lining is too thin. Long bleeding phases may mean that your lining is very thick or that your body is having issues fully expelling it after each cycle.  
  • Both short and long follicular phases indicate that something is off in your reproductive system and you might be experiencing fertility issues, but once again their causes are quite different. If the follicular phase is too short, egg quality can suffer. If you have an abnormally long follicular phase, it could mean your ovaries aren’t responding to hormonal signals your brain is sending. 
  • When it comes to your luteal phase, there isn’t much to sweat in terms of duration. In part that’s because it’s uncommon for someone’s luteal phase to be shorter or longer than 14 days – it’s much more likely that your follicular phase length will vary. If your luteal phase is longer, it actually doesn’t change much. If your luteal phase is significantly shorter, it may decrease chances of conception, but probably won’t affect much else.

How can you improve the length and frequency of your cycle?

Even if your cycle really doesn’t line up with a ‘normal’ cycle in terms of duration and frequency, improvement is possible. That said there is no easy fix – everything that’s going on in your body is interconnected and you have to work on the whole to achieve optimal health and a perfect period. What is going on with your cycle is just one piece of the puzzle – you need to look not only at your menstrual symptoms but also at your day-to-day symptoms and habits.

Here are some tips to help you on your way to a ‘normal’ cycle in terms of frequency & duration:

  • Track your period.
    If you’re not already doing it, start – you can do it in a journal, on your calendar or on one of the period tracking apps. If you’re already doing it, keep going and be sure to reflect on the data, not just record it. Keeping tabs on the length of your period, the length of your cycle, and how much it varies (if at all) will help you better understand what’s going on in your body. If you notice one of the phases of your cycle is longer or shorter than normal, you can come back to this article to unpack what it means.

  • Try taking our PMS Support formula.
    It is designed to regulate hormones and keep your period on track. (Shameless plug, but we wouldn’t be making it if it didn’t work.)

  • Work on improving your cycle and overall health.
    Regardless of the length and frequency of your cycle, there are steps you can take to improve it. Because everything is interconnected, addressing your overall health will help you achieve a healthier period. Here are the key tips we recommend for all people with periods.

  • Talk to your doctor.
    If your cycle or your period is shorter or longer than what’s considered healthy, be sure to mention it to your OB-GYN about it at your annual check-up.

  • Ask us questions.
    We are not a substitute for your doctor, but our founder is a women’s’ health expert and reproductive acupuncturist with over twenty years of experience fixing periods. She’s a wealth of knowledge and she’s committed to answering every question we get. So, if you’re left with doubts, ask away.

Tying it all together

Now that you understand what the length and frequency of your cycle and period are telling, it’s time to look at the bigger picture. Your cycle has lots more to tell you. The color, clottiness, and flow of your period are important, as are the cramps and PMS symptoms you may be experiencing. Our goal is to help you feel empowered to take charge of your cycle and your health, not to overwhelm you with information. That’s why we’re breaking it all down into different sections. In the next article, we’ll decode what your flow is telling you. Are you ready to get to know your flow?

Part 2: Know Your Flow

Period blood (formally referred to as menstrual blood) is not just blood — it is made up of thickened endometrial cells that slough off monthly if you’re not pregnant, together with arterial blood from the arteries that feed the uterus and, sometimes, blood clots.

If you read our article about duration and frequency, you already know that a normal/healthy period lasts for four days. But even if everyone had a normal four-day bleeding phase, what that phase looks like (literally) can be very different for different people, and it can even vary for the same person. Those variations give us critical information about how your body is functioning. 

How much do you bleed? What does your blood look like? What color is it? Do you have clots in your blood? What does it all mean? Let’s skip past any “gross” reactions (reminder: your period is as natural as it gets) and start decoding all the messages your period blood is sending you. 

This article is all about flow and the volume of your period blood. In it we’ll cover:

  • What is a healthy flow?
  • What determines how light or heavy your flow is?
  • What does it mean if you have heavy flow?
  • What does it mean if you have a light flow?
  • What can you do to achieve a healthier flow?

What’s a normal flow?

Would you say you have a heavy period or a light period? 

For the sake of comparison, someone with a normal healthy flow bleeds steadily and soaks a regular tampon or pad about every four hours (if you use a menstrual cup, it should fill about half-way in the course of 4 hours). It’s normal for your flow to vary slightly throughout your period (maybe your flow is a little heavier the first couple of days, for example) but you should experience steady bleeding throughout and stay close to the four-hours-to-soak-a-tampon standard.

What does your flow tell you?

Like duration, the volume and flow of your period blood tell you how thick or thin your uterine lining is. A normal flow means you have a healthy Goldilocks lining – not too thick, not too thin, just right. 

Volume and flow can also tell you a lot about the quality of your diet and how well your current diet is supporting your body.  When you’re not getting the nutrients you need to make a sufficient amount of high-quality blood, your flow can let you know.

What does it mean if you have a lighter or heavier flow?

  • If you’ve got a lighter flow and it takes you all day to soak a tampon, this is an indication that your uterine lining is thinner than normal. Lots of people with periods think that a light flow is a blessing, but (sorry to spoil it) like short periods, this type of light bleeding means that your body is having a hard time building a healthy uterine lining.

    This could happen for several reasons, but the most common is that you’re short on nutrients – either your current diet is not giving you enough nutrients or your digestive system needs a tune-up so that you can do a better job converting the good stuff you are eating into usable nutrients.
  • If you’ve got a heavy flow and soak a tampon in less than four hours, you should have a nice thick uterine lining. Sounds good, but unfortunately thick linings can come with some issues too. Women with thicker linings sometimes have a hard time shedding it as it takes your uterus a lot more work to get rid of a thick lining.

    The extra work your uterus puts in leads to more bleeding (hence the heavy and/or long flow) and more resources lost. Women with thicker linings are more likely to experience cramps, clotting, inflammation, and fatigue. 

How can you achieve a healthier flow?

There is a handful of seemingly general but incredibly powerful things you can do to improve your cycle and overall health, regardless of what your flow is like. You can find those tips here. In this article, we’re zeroing in on advice specifically related to your flow.

 

If you have a lighter flow, these tips are for you:

  • Improve your diet to increase blood flow. 
    Your body needs more nutrients. Steer away from processed foods and opt for nutrient-rich whole foods, especially ones rich in iron and protein – those are essential nutrients for creating blood.
  • Tune-up your digestive system to improve access to nutrients.
    If you’re already eating whole, healthy and protein-rich foods but still have a light flow, it means your body is having a hard time processing the nutrients you’re eating. This can be a sign that your body is dealing with digestion or absorption issues. To tune up your digestive system, eat some congee. It’s a slow-cooked rice porridge that significantly improves your digestive system’s ability to break down food and use it for energy. (Here’s a recipe from our founder’s clinic.) Note: Sometimes food sensitivities, like gluten or dairy, can screw up the process of turning food into building blocks for the rest of your body. If you’re dealing with food sensitivities, avoid the foods you’re sensitive to!
  • Take it easy.
    Regardless of whether you need a diet change or a digestion tune-up, if you have a light flow, your body is likely asking you to get some extra rest and focus on taking care of yourself. 

If you have a heavy flow, these tips are for you:

  • Reduce inflammation.
    You can reduce inflammation by incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet (like turmeric, leafy greens, blueberries, oranges, fatty fish, olive oil, almonds, and walnuts) and cutting back on ones that cause inflammation (like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, refined carbs and alcohol). Our Cramp Support Formula contains powerful anti-inflammatory herbs that will also help on this front.
  • Use herbs to promote healthy bleeding
    We know, it may sound counter-intuitive that people with heavy flows need to promote bleeding (aren’t you bleeding enough?). But by promoting healthy bleeding early on, you’ll be helping your body shed the lining earlier. Once you’re able to get rid of it, bleeding will normalize and you should have a less painful period as a result.

    The only way we know how to promote healthy bleeding is with herbs. The whole concept is rooted in Chinese medicine and our Cramp Support Formula is designed specifically to help with this. (Shameless plug, we know, but we wouldn’t be making these supplements if they didn’t work.)

Tying it all together

Now that you’ve identified whether you have a heavy, light or normal flow and unpacked the signs your flow sends you, it’s time to zoom out and reflect on the bigger picture. How does your flow relate to the length and frequency of your cycle? What insights do the color and clottiness of your blood reveal? How does all of this relate to the symptoms you’re experiencing and what does that tell you about your overall health?

Understanding the complexities of your inner workings is no simple thing. There’s a lot to consider, which is exactly why we broke this manual into sections. The next one focuses on the bloody world of colors and clots. 

Part 3: Blood Color and Clotting

It may sound a little crazy, but checking out the color and clottiness of your menstrual blood can be super interesting and empowering. It’s one of the reasons we love using a cup! It’s not uncommon for your period color to change from month to month, and (surprise?) period blood isn’t always red. It can also be black, blue, brown, rusty, or pink. Sometimes you’ll notice a clot or two, sometimes it might be super clotty and sometimes it’ll be smooth and clot-free.

This article will teach you to decode the messages that the color and clottiness of your blood send. In it, we’ll answer the following questions:

  • What color period blood is considered healthy?
  • What do the different blood colors mean?
  • What is healthy in terms of clotting?
  • What do clots in period blood tell you?
  • How can you improve the color and clottiness of your period blood?

What does healthy period blood look like?

Red is what most people think of when they think about period blood and, indeed, a healthy period is a red one, with no clots or just a few small ones. Let’s paint a clearer picture: a healthy period is bright red, like strawberry jam or the blood from a fresh cut. 

Bright red period blood is an indicator that you’re shedding a fresh uterine lining. In other words, your lining isn’t sticking around from previous cycles and your body is producing a new healthy lining every month. This is great news because a healthy uterine lining indicates that your digestive system, immune system, and endocrine (hormone) system are all functioning as they should be. 

Not red? What do the other blood colors and clots tell you?

Note: When we talk about reading your blood color, we’re talking about fresh blood or blood from your menstrual cup. If you’re looking at your pad or tampon, there’s a chance the blood you’re seeing has dried up to a certain degree, which affects its color. To read your blood color accurately, look at the fresh blood on your toilet paper.

If your (fresh!) period blood and it isn’t bright red, you’re not alone and there’s no need to freak out. You should, however, take note of the color and see what you can learn from it. 

  • Pink, pale and watery periods tell us that the quality of the uterine lining is somewhat lacking. Like periods with a lighter flow, this usually means that you’re not getting or producing the nutrients that your body needs to create a healthy uterine lining.
  • Darker blood and anything more than just a little clotting tend to indicate that blood is stagnating in the uterus. Since it’s taking longer to get pushed out of the uterus, it essentially becomes old and stale, which can make the blood clotty and darker in color (think about what happens to blood as it dries on a bandaid or pad, it gets rusty brown as time passes).

    Here comes the worst part: since your uterus is having a hard time shedding the lining, you end up getting cramps. Menstrual cramps essentially exist to help push the old lining out of the uterus. (More on cramps here.)

There’s a whole range of hues when it comes to ‘darker blood’ and while all generally indicate stagnated blood, there are some differences to keep in mind: While rusty brown reads ‘stagnated blood, old lining’, black, blue and super dark purple blood are more extreme and indicate even more stagnation.  Blue and purple periods may also be a sign of poorly oxygenated blood or colder than normal body temperature, which could be a result of something like hypothyroid disorder. A black period tells you that your uterine lining is really stuck and it is sometimes associated with endometriosis, fibroids, or other blood clotting issues. If black periods are common for you, you should mention it to your OB/GYN at your next appointment. (Keep in mind a black period DOES NOT mean that something is definitely wrong– just that things are working as well as they could be.)

How can you work towards a healthy, bright red, clot-free period?

There are certain things that will help you improve your cycle and overall health, regardless of the color of your blood (see here). The tips below are tailored based on the color and clottiness of your blood:

If you have light-colored period blood, these tips are for you:

  • Opt for a more nutrient-rich diet.
    If you’ve got a light-colored period, your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs. Try to improve your diet. Steer away from processed foods and opt for nutrient-rich whole foods, especially ones rich in iron and protein (essential nutrients for creating blood). 

  • Give your digestive system a tune-up.
    If you’re already eating whole, healthy and protein-rich foods but still have a pale, pink or watery period, it means your body is having a hard time processing the nutrients you’re eating. This can be a sign that your body is dealing with digestion or absorption issues. Sometimes food sensitivities, like gluten or dairy, can screw up the process of turning food into building blocks for the rest of your body. You need to avoid foods that cause you issues and give your digestive system a tune-up (eating congee can help with that!). 

  • Get more rest.
    Regardless of whether you need a diet change or a digestion tune-up, if you have a light-colored period, your body is asking you to get some extra rest and focus on taking care of yourself. 
If your period blood is dark and/or clotty, these tips are for you:

  • Decrease inflammation.
    Decreasing inflammation will help with the cramps and inflammatory symptoms that come along with a thick lining. You can decrease inflammation by incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet (like, leafy greens, blueberries, oranges, fatty fish, olive oil, almonds, and walnuts) and cutting back on ones that cause inflammation (like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, refined carbs, and alcohol). Our Cramp Support formula will also help – it’s proprietary anti-inflammatory blend includes powerful inflammation-fighting herbs like corydalis, turmeric, frankincense & myrrh.

  • Up your Omega-3 intake.
    Omega-3s, like fish oil, reduce clotting and inflammation while also improving blood flow. As if that weren’t enough, they also decrease prostaglandin production, which is tied to cramping (and period poop!).

  • Promote healthy bleeding.
    Remember how dark clotty periods are caused by stagnated blood? Promoting healthy bleeding will help get that thick uterine lining out of you sooner. The concept of promoting bleeding is based on Chinese medicine and the only way we know how to do it is through herbs. Our Cramp Support formula was blended with this in mind. (Shameless plug, we know, but we wouldn’t be making these supplements if they didn’t work!)

Tying it all together

If you’ve been making your way through our handbook in order, by this point you should be a master of reading your period – you know what the length and frequency of your period means, you know what your flow is telling you, you know what’s up with blood color and clotting, and you’ve started to draw connections between them. (Isn’t it empowering to understand what’s going on in your body?)

Now it’s time to take things a step further and look at the symptoms that commonly go hand in hand with menstrual cycles: PMS and cramps. Following the natural order of things, we’ll start by tackling the complex web of PMS symptoms.