Here's a bizarre development on my Paleo progress: I've had two extra "mini" periods in between my standard cycles. The first one was the first month I started Paleo and I had at least two weeks where I had "breakthrough" bleeding before my actual period. The second one just started today, and I just finished my last period two weeks ago.
My questions is: WTF? My periods have always been pretty regular, even when not on birth control, so to have random cramps and light bleeding between cycles is more than a little annoying. I am currently on very low-dosage hormonal BC, and have had problems in the past with hormonal mood swings and breakouts. I've also severely struggled with cutting out sweets on Paleo, so I've cheated more often that I should, but the extra periods only seem to pop up when I'm being super-strict.
Are these extra periods just my hormones trying to exercise their autonomy? Has this happened to anyone else? If so, what did you do?
asked bygrrleigh (250)
Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!
on April 27, 2011
at 07:02 PM
Whoo! Sit down with a nice hot cup of tea. I've got a big answer. Pardon me, while I dust off my soapbox. ;)
DISCLAIMER #1: If you want to have children some day, then you should seek specific professional guidance (ie someone who deals specifically with reproductive health) when dealing with reproductive hormones. What you do today could have serious consequences years from now. That said, most women can correct years of hormonal imbalance in just a few cycles and still conceive.
DISCLAIMER #2: It's hard to say what's "normal" for someone doing paleo while on the pill, because I don't think being on the pill can be considered paleo. As people following a paleo diet, we're basically trying to regulate our hormones by eating quality food and getting quality sleep. Unless we have a real medical condition that requires prescribed hormones (the use of which usually tends to follow natural rhythms); we should not be messing with our body's natural monthly hormonal rhythms by using the pill.
So here's another situation where it's important to understand how the hormones are working and how they affect your body.
Abridged from "Taking Charge of Your Fertility":
Every cycle, under the influence of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), about two dozen eggs start to mature. Each egg is encased in a follicle. The follicles produce Estrogen. Estrogen is the hormone necessary for ovulation to occur. Eventually, when Estrogen reaches a threshold that is high enough, one eggs bursts out (ovulation!). This usually takes about two weeks from the beginning of menses but can take anywhere from 8 days to several months!
Following the release of the egg, the follicle that held the egg begins to release progesterone (typically for only 12 to 16 days). This is known as the Luteal Phase. Progesterone prevents the release of all other eggs and causes the uterine lining to thicken in prep for a fertilized egg. In 12 to 16 days, if a fertilized egg has not been implanted into the uterline lining, the follicle (corpus luteum) disintegrates and its flow of progesterone stops. The uterine lining begins to shed (menses) and the cycling begins again.
So that's the natural progression of things. But when you take a low-dose pill, it is pumping progesterone into your body for three weeks out of four, thus making your body think it's in the luteal phase (or think it's pregnant!). On the fourth week, when you stop the pill (or take the "other" pill), you stop the flow of progesterone. Your body responds by shedding the uterine lining (menses). Also in that placebo week, your body thinks, "Finally, we get to release an egg!" And it prepares to release an egg by upping the production of estrogen and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). But after seven days, you start taking the progesterone again, before your body has released an egg! And your body is confused!
Here's a few potential situations given the information you've shared:
Ovulation (even though you're taking the pill, you could still be ovulating - ovulation is also associated with spotting, dull aches and cramps). Your body is still trying to up it's estrogen production, even while you're pumping it full of progesterone (especially on low dose!). And eventually it makes enough to ovulate (So, yes! You could get pregnant while on the pill!). Or...
Sudden drop in estrogen. Your body fights the progesterone with estrogen for a week and then gives up. This sudden drop in estrogen, often causes some mid-cycle spotting which is common and is nothing to be concerned about; but isn't often associated with cramps. Or...
Implantation (a fertilized egg has implanted into the uterine wall). You may actually have released an egg, and it may have burrowed into the uterine wall...! Or...
Any serious reproductive problem. Having a period every two weeks is not optimal and could signal reproductive problems in the future.
Because the "extra periods" seem to pop when you are being "strict paleo" I would suggest that it's likely #2 or #1. Your body is fighting back with proper estrogen levels then falling off. Or if the cramps really are like a normal period, I would suggest that your lose dose pill is possibly ineffective and you may be at risk of getting pregnant! Your hormones may just be trying to exercise their autonomy, as you said!
All other health concerns aside, I recommend getting off the pill and leveling out your hormones to really determine the health of your reproductive cycle, in consultation with your healthcare professional, of course!
Instead of using the pill, I highly recommend using Fertility Awareness Method. I've used fertility awareness method (FAM) with my husband for 4+ years and it's been effective thus far! You just have to get used to taking your temp every morning (or just during your fertile phase) and to checking your vaginal fluids. It's super easy! We just avoid sex when I'm fertile (or we use a condom). And we have sex when I'm not fertile. Takes the guess-work out of it!!
Get this book: Taking Charge of Your Fertility
And visit this website: Taking Charge of Your Fertility
The information in the book will blow your mind. I was sooo mad that I hadn't been taught any of the information found therein while I was in biology class or sex ed in high school. We should all know this stuff!! And if you're serious about ensuring that you're regulating all your hormones effectively (via the paleo diet), then you should seriously consider, allowing all your hormones to do their thing naturally!
And please... GET OFF THE PILL!!
P.S. If you were consume soy products and have recently stopped because of paleo, you're getting a much lower dose of estrogen than you were previously. Something to consider.
on April 27, 2011
at 07:06 PM
How long have you been paleo? It can take months for a person's body to regulate properly on paleo. I'm 6 or 7 months in and still regulating. What I find now is that the slightest gluten will f#ck me up for a few days. In order to really figure out the balance of your body, you need to get rid of the cheats for at least 30 days - no exceptions. Sucks, sure but hey, double periods suck waaaay more.
Another component to review is your level of physical activity as well as the rate of your weight/body weight loss.
Finally, your BC could be playing a role. You may need a new one. Are you having more painful periods? There is a lot of info to consider so it is impossible for anyone to provide you a definitive answer.
Search this form for the elimination diet or go to Whole 9 for guidance. This could help you pinpoint the cause.
on April 27, 2011
at 05:19 PM
Have you lost weight? Losing fat can affect estrogen levels and thus your cycle. The same thing happened to me my first few months on Paleo, but the "extra" periods have slowed as my weight loss slowed.
on April 28, 2011
at 12:15 AM
i dont typically get a period because im on mirena (without hormonal birth control, my cycles vary WIDELY- can be anywhere from 19 days to 56 with no rhyme or reason and one of my ovaries ovulates just sort of whenever the hell she feels like it) but when i was following the robb wolf fish oil calculator and taking pretty high doses of omega-3, i had quite a bit of breakthrough bleeding. i actually didnt realize that omega-3 is a blood thinner. as soon as i cut back to just three pills a day, it stopped.
how much fish oil are you supplementing with?
on June 29, 2012
at 11:24 PM
I also had this problem while doing strict VLC--sort of half a period for 4 months straight!! Not Fun! Another friend of mine experienced a 2-month mini-period when she was doing VLC.
I did a bit of research on the internet and found a few forum posts suggesting that the reason for this phenomenon is that hormones (estrogen, progesterone) are fat-soluble, and therefore build up in fat cells. If you're burning lots of fat, you release some of these stored hormones into circulation.
No idea if this is true or not, but 6 months prior to starting my VLC eating, I got the birth control shot (terrible experience, btw!!), and I could imagine that injections of 3 months' worth of synthetic progesterone all at once could cause higher levels of hormones to enter your fat cells. My friend with the similar experience was also on hormonal birth control.
Again, I have no firsthand knowledge here. I'd love to hear the opinion of someone with enough medical knowledge to comment on this hypothesis!
on March 04, 2012
at 07:37 PM
When I used a low-dose birth control I had break-through bleeding almost all month (the wonderful 4 week period!). My OB/GYN thought I was still ovulating while on the pill, and because I still wanted to use the pill for birth control we upped the dose and the break through bleeding went away entirely. Changing your diet can have an effect your hormone levels, so maybe yours changed to the point where I was- and it's a little scary b/c it meant that you could possibly not be protected from pregnancy while this break-through bleeding is occuring.
If you want to continue using hormonal birth control without the breakthrough bleeding, I've had very positive experiences so far with the Nuvaring. None of the side effects I experienced on the pill, I'm no long ovulating, and it helps me regulate my cycle. When I am not on hormonal birth control my cycle varies wildly from just 20 days to up to 50 sometimes- has done since I was a preteen. Due to this, plus the fact that I am 20, in school, and can't afford the risk of pregnancy, I do not think that tracking my fertility would be the right option for me.
on March 04, 2012
at 05:23 PM
Fibroids and polyps can bleed at any time, so you might want to get tested for these. Otherwise, it might just be that your body is still adjusting to Paleo.
on February 11, 2012
at 04:50 AM
Your hormone sensitivity improves w/ reducing carbs/MegaTrans fats. So depending how your body adapted to the reduced sensitivity, you may experience different effects of the improved hormone function.
The effects on estrogen are particularly unpredictable, as far as hormones go, because unlike many other hormones estrogen levels are subject to both negative and positive feedback cycles. This is why improved estrogen sensitivity can both increase breast tenderness (through a positive feedback loop) and hot flashes (through a negative feedback loop).
(If you don't know what MegaTrans fats are, they're a kind of oxidized trans fat. Very bad. They come from all vegetable oils.)
on August 01, 2013
at 10:11 PM
I'm on my 5th day in and spotting 7 days before my period is due. This never happens to me. I will monitor but having read the above am thinking it is likely to be diet related. Cheers. Am going to read more on oestrogen dominance.
on January 27, 2013
at 03:48 PM
I am in my first month of strict paleo and my breakthrough bleeding began one week in and continues now sporadically. My doctor said it is common when making dietary changes that affect your hormone levels, which paleo does.
on November 08, 2012
at 01:07 AM
Take a look at your diet to see if you've added a lot of phytoestrogens. They can be found in flax and chia for example, also soy (soy is not paleo!).
I started to have spotting which turned into bleeding which turned into near hemorrhaging over the course of 8 weeks--it made me anemic, I bled so much. Turned out I was eating a lot of flax. As soon as I stopped the flax, the bleeding stopped too.
on November 08, 2012
at 12:40 AM
I'm having the same problem. Break through bleeding in between periods, and now one long period that is lasting almost a month long. I'm wondering if I should up my carbs or fat. I don't have fibroids, I'm not on birth control, and I'm not pregnant. As soon as I began being stict with this paleo diet, the inter-menstrual started. I did a search and found out that the low carb diets cause inter-menstrual bleeding and spotting. All I can think is maybe uping the carbs or fats or both a little bit until I find a happy medium that my body likes. It said that it has something to do with the body being in ketosis.
on May 01, 2012
at 06:00 AM
I also have experience this. I'm 43 and 5 weeks into the paleo. 18 days after my last period i had a day and a half of spotting and it happened right after intercourse with hubby, so I thought maybe that's what caused it, but I also suspected the diet, so that's why I searched on this site to find info and sure enough i'm not the only one who has experienced this. I too was a vegan before I started paleo. humm...
on March 04, 2012
at 04:47 PM
I started a strict paleo diet 7 days ago, and had breakthrough bleeding on my low dose BC pill for the first time in over a year. Definitely a link. I'm sure it will sort out, just as it did before. The body makes adjustments as needed.
I could not believe how quickly I lost my sugar cravings and how quickly my appetite levelled out. I used to become ravenously hungry and now I just eat at appropriate times with very little hunger panic.
I'm adding some of my paleo/primal experiences to my blog as I go: ThisBlogIsForWomen
on February 13, 2012
at 07:38 AM
My 17 year old daughter (A) has been blood type o diet heading toward Paleo. Due to Hashimoto's, an autoimmune disorder wherein her body attacks her thyroid resulting in hypothyroidism, she takes synthroid. 5 months into diet change and 21 lbs lighter, she had break through bleeding but for the one month so far. I appreciate the info you have all provided. In an effort to give back, I'll share what I found very interesting. When A had the breakthrough bleeding, I started to wonder about a gluten connection with menses. (the gluten-free has been my family's most faithful part of the diet.) sure enough I found a connection between gluten and secondary ammenorhea. At 5.5 months of being on diet and 11 months since last period, another daughter (B) had a flood of a period. (prior to that doctor wanted to put her on pill!) Athlete daughter A also finding good info in Paleo Diet for athletes by Cordain and Friel. And (B) who loves to cook and has great trouble living without the carbs has found Paleo Comfort Foods by the Mayfields to be a blessing. Perhaps it will help some of you with "cheating". They have a nice almond flour (no grain) based bread.
on April 28, 2011
at 12:44 AM
I don't want to hijack the thread, but since the topic is up.... I am looking into using Wild Carrot (dauco) seeds as birth control. There is some really good information at http://www.sisterzeus.com/qaluse.htm (there is a .pdf at the end with a lot more info as well) and many other places online if anyone is interested. Ruger
on April 27, 2011
at 08:29 PM
I'm also having this problem, although I've only been eating a strict Paleo diet for a month (I was about 75% for several months before that, and a strict vegetarian for 17 years before that!). I just assumed there were some hormonal changes going on, so I'm going to wait a few months and see if it lines out. It really is quite an annoyance, so I hope you find some answers.
on April 27, 2011
at 05:46 PM
This happened to me also.. i was very strick in my eating and cut everything out cold turkey... I was a major sweets eater and stopped it all at once... I was totally at a loss as to why this was happening. Im 37 and this has never happened before.... Maybe there is some link...
on April 27, 2011
at 05:40 PM
Actually mine is the opposite case, the heavier I got the more break thru and full double cycles I had, with increasingly painful cramping. Since I've gone Paleo and lost weight I've actually normalized and very little cramping.
HOWEVER, in my case I found out I had some fibroids and this, they told me, was why as I gain and loose weight it affects my cycle. Doesn't make sense to me but I'm at normal weight and normal cycles again. Whens the last time you had a check up?