Get Your Flow Back: 19 Ways to Regulate Your Period


Aunt Flo always dropping by unexpectedly? If you never know when your monthly frenemy is gonna show up, how TF can you regulate your periods?





Irregular periods are frustrating, but they’re also pretty common. A variety of factors, such as stress and overexercising, can mess with your cycle.





Good news: There are at least 19 tricks for getting flaky flows back on track! Here’s how to finally regulate your periods.






What exactly is a normal* period?






Some people have a heavy period with more than a week of PMS symptoms. Others have a short period that’s super light (#jealous). Then there’s everything in between.





The average menstrual cycle can range from 24 to 38 days, and the average period can include 2 to 7 days of flow.





You’ll want to talk with your healthcare provider if your flow falls outside these ranges for more than a month or two.







Okeykat/Stocksy United

Hack your diet





Did you know that overeating, undereating, and nutritional deficiencies can mess with your hormones?





Eating certain foods and avoiding some others may help you get those hormones — and your period — back on track.





Rethink your low carb plan





Super low carb or no-carb diets can mess with your cycle. Carbs are partially processed by your thyroid, which influences the hormones related to menstruation.





Depending on the cause of your irregular flow, a low carb plan can be helpful or harmful. Some research suggests that low carb diets can help regulate weight and hormone levels in folks with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).





But in general, the health experts behind the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend getting 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbs. That’s 225 to 325 grams per day if you’re eating a standard 2,000-calorie diet. 





Still interested in tweaking your macros to help regulate your menstrual cycle? Talk with your doctor to see how a low carb diet will affect any other health conditions you may have.





Go light on the fiber 





Some research from 2009 led scientists to suspect that eating too much fiber could affect ovulation (which might change up your cycle length).





That’s because fiber contains low-level concentrations of these hormones that are important for your cycle:






  • estrogen

  • progesterone

  • luteinizing hormone (LH)

  • follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)


But take this research with a grain of salt — the findings are a little thin, and not all experts agree that fiber affects your cycle. 






How much fiber *should* I eat?






The FDA’s recommended daily fiber intake is 28 grams.







Eat more healthy fats





Avocado toast FTW! Healthy doses of nourishing fats are good for your health in general. But research from 2016 suggests that eating polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) is good for reproductive hormones and ovulation.





You can find PUFAs in:






  • walnuts

  • flax seed

  • plant-based oils (avocado, canola, olive, peanut, etc.)

  • fatty fish (like salmon!)



PSA






The Dietary Guidelines for Americans says 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat.







Fill up on folate





Folate — aka folic acid or vitamin B9 — is considered an essential vitamin. That’s because it helps support healthy progesterone levels and regular ovulation. Basically, it’s a great way to start regulating those wacky periods.





You’ll find folate in these foods:







What about a folate supplement?






The CDC recommends a baseline of 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate per day (as well as eating folate-rich foods) if you’re of reproductive age. But your doc might supercharge that to 800+ mcg if you have a deficiency.







Pick up a pineapple or papaya





Tropical fruit to the rescue!





Spiky sugar bomb pineapple is full of bromelain, which *might* help regulate your periods by softening your uterus. There’s also preliminary research to suggest that it could help relieve cramps





Papaya contains carotene, an antioxidant that supports healthy estrogen levels. Happy hormones = punctual periods.





Try nutritional supplements 





Sometimes it’s tough to get all the nutrients your body needs. If that’s true for you, talk with your doc about taking dietary supplements. Getting your nutritional intake on track could also help regulate your periods. 






Supplement safety PSA






The FDA actually *does* regulate dietary supplements. But it’s done differently than food and drug regulation, and the supplement manufacturer is responsible for product safety and proper marketing.





Because of this, it’s always a good idea to run supplements past your doctor before starting them. Even “all-natural” pills can interact with prescription meds or worsen underlying health conditions. 





And if you’re preggo or hoping to be, hold off on the supplements for now.







Inositol





Your body makes inositol — a type of carbohydrate — but sometimes it needs a boost. Inositol plays a role in how your body uses hormones like insulin and FSH, which influences ovary function.





Research suggests that inositol supplements can be especially helpful for folks with PCOS. PCOS can cause irregular periods, skipped periods, and other hormone-related probs, and inositol seems to alleviate some of that.





Studies have found that inositol supplements can also boost ovulation and pregnancy rates in people dealing with infertility.





Not so sure about supplements? You can find inositol in these foods:






  • citrus fruits

  • cantaloupe

  • beans

  • some meats


Cinnamon





Research suggests cinnamon could help regulate insulin levels in your body. Insulin can affect other hormones, in turn affecting your periods, so balancing insulin is good news for your flow.





Like inositol, cinnamon has been found to help folks with PCOS take back control of their cycles.






Bonus!






Some research has found that popping cinnamon supplements (usually a 500-milligram dose) helps soothe period pain.







Turmeric





Ah, turmeric. It’s one of those all-star herbs known to reduce inflammation, boost your mood, and — yep, you guessed it — help with period probs.





Turmeric’s magical component is curcumin, which provides health benefits *and* gives turmeric its signature yellow hue. There’s some evidence that curcumin also influences estrogen and androgen, which could help regulate periods.





Wanna give it a whirl? Most curcumin or turmeric supplements suggest taking 100 to 500 milligrams twice a day.





Evening primrose oil





Evening primrose oil (EPO) is packed with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an anti-inflammatory superstar. This soothing compound is used to relieve everything from tender boobs to hot flashes. 





2010 study suggests that supplements containing EPO, vitamin B6, and vitamin E can alleviate PMS symptoms. But the jury’s still out on whether it’s the EPO or the vitamin combo that helps regulate a flaky flow.





Most folks who use EPO take 3 to 6 grams per day. Talk with your doctor to find out which supplement is best for you.





Castor oil





Some people swear by castor oil for relieving period cramps. It’s widely known as an emmenagogue, which just means that it kick-starts period flow. 





Here’s how to use castor oil to relieve cramps and *potentially* get your flow on track:






  • Soak a clean rag or flannel cloth in castor oil.

  • Squeeze out the excess.

  • Drape the oil-soaked cloth on your lower belly. 

  • Cover the cloth with plastic wrap.

  • Put a heating pad or hot water bottle on top of the wrap.

  • Lie back and relax for up to an hour.

  • Repeat daily as needed.


Snag some herbal supplements





Friendly reminder: Always run supplements past your doctor before adding them to your daily routine.





Black cohosh





This little flowering plant is frequently used to ease menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and vajayjay dryness





But the low levels of estrogen, LH, and FSH mean black cohosh might also help regulate periods





Most folks take 20 to 40 milligrams per day.





Chasteberry





This Mediterranean plant is known for soothing all the PMS symptoms. That’s because it might raise your progesterone levels, which is key to a regular flow.





If shopping for the supplement, note that chasteberry may also be labeled “Vitex agnus-castus” or “chaste tree.” And chasteberry design depends on how the product was prepared. Read labels carefully and follow the recommendations on the back of the bottle. 





Mugwort





Mugwort is a tale as old as period time. It’s been used as a flow regulator for centuries, but evidence of its effectiveness is mostly anecdotal.





If there’s any chance that you have a baby on board, skip the mugwort. Otherwise, you can consume it in tea or in supplement form. Doses vary wildly, so stick with this mantra: Start low, go slow.





Keep a healthy weight





Rapid weight loss or weight gain can mess with your menstrual cycle. Other factors, such as high body weight or health issues like PCOS, can also influence your flow. 





2017 survey of almost 5,000 women found an association between weight loss or gain and an increased risk of irregular periods. And other research suggests that having particularly high or low body fat can influence your hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian system (aka the HPO axis), which regulates your reproductive hormones.





Bodies come in all sizes and shapes, so there’s no perfect weight for regulating your flow. Instead, focus on settling into a stable, healthy weight for your body.





Move your body 





Regular exercise has all kinds of health benefits, including regular cycles and period pain relief. Getting your blood pumping = fewer cramps and a potentially more predictable flow. 





The CDC recommends aiming for 30 minutes of aerobic activity (aka cardio) per day. That includes:






Just remember that super-intense exercise can delay your period. (The available research on this is older, but it’s still true.)









Catch some Zzz’s





Cramps, period pain, and even irritability (hello, PMS!) can make it hard to sleep. But when you don’t get enough sleep, your hormones get wonky.





Regulating your periods could be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep.





Some pro tips:






  • Keep the TV (er, Netflix and Hulu apps) out of your bedroom.

  • Avoid screen time in bed.

  • Skip the naps in favor of an earlier bedtime.

  • Avoid caffeine after lunch.

  • Swap your evening sweat sesh for a morning workout.

  • Train your body to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.


Zap stress





When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol and progesterone. That’s all part of the plan, but progesterone plays a pretty significant role in your menstrual cycle.





Reducing your stress level can keep progesterone in check, which can help regulate your flow.





You could try:






Give acupuncture a shot





Turning yourself into a pincushion for the sake of your cycle? Well, yes.





Research suggests acupuncture can decrease FSH levels, jump-starting periods in people who have stopped having them. Some folks say acupuncture reduces their cramps and other period-related probs.





Consider going on birth control





Hormonal birth control — the pill, the patch, etc. — is commonly prescribed for folks with irregular periods.





Hormonal birth control works by doling out hormones in carefully measured doses. This could regulate your entire cycle, thus keeping your periods within the “normal” range. 





There are literally dozens of birth control options. Talk with your healthcare provider to figure out which one would work for your health needs, schedule, and lifestyle. 






FYI






Smoking and birth control both increase your risk of blood clots, so make sure to tell your doctor if you regularly light up!







Will my irregular periods keep me from getting pregnant? 





The short answer: Maybe.





It’s pretty common to have an off month once in a while. But when your cycles have no rhyme or reason, babymaking gets complicated.





You’re most likely to get pregnant before or during ovulation. This window of opportunity lasts just a few days. The more irregular your periods are, the more difficult it is to pinpoint your fertile window. 





If you have irregular periods or a health condition that affects fertility (like PCOS), you might have trouble getting pregnant. It’s best to talk with your doctor or a fertility specialist if you’re itching to make a baby soon.





When to call your doc





Anything from stress to diet can cause irregular periods. But if your flow has been on the fritz for months — or you’re bleeding far more often than usual — an underlying health problem could be to blame.






Hints that it’s more than a period prob






Make an appointment with your primary doctor or OB-GYN if you experience:






  • periods lasting longer than 7 days

  • periods more than once every 3 weeks

  • bleeding that soaks through a tampon or pad every hour

  • blood clots bigger than a quarter

  • no period for 3 months (or more)

  • periods spaced more than 35 days apart






Sometimes it takes trial and error to figure out what’s messing with your flow. Be honest with your doctor, be patient with yourself, and remember: This too shall pass!