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The holidays can be wonderful, but stressful too! With routines different from our day-to-day lives, we eat differently, sleep different hours, drink more alcohol than usual, and are often overextended at the end of a busy year. It can be common to experience a late or irregular period in January as a result.
Any variation in routine can throw off your period, whether it’s eating more “junk” foods, drinking more alcohol, or getting fewer hours of sleep. This is because you’re disrupting regular homeostasis.
We need times of celebration, and so before you beat yourself up about it, recognize that you had a particularly heightened holiday season, and it may take some time for your period to bounce back.
Slowly begin re-introducing your regular habits and ease out the irregularities.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is time to rest and restore our bodies. This is how we recover from the day and regenerate resources for the days ahead. We call the parasympathetic nervous system our “rest and digest” mode because when we tap into this, during sleep or periods of relaxation, it allows our bodies to rest, digest the nutrition we’ve taken in, and assimilate it within the body for optimal functioning.
How What You Eat Affects Your Period
Changes in diet and activity levels can affect the menstrual cycle. For example, indulging in rich or high-fat foods and skipping workouts can cause weight gain, which can in turn affect our hormone levels and disrupt the menstrual cycle.
Delayed or irregular periods can be caused by the foods we eat, as well as what we don’t eat enough of. Food for enjoyment is necessary and healthy. But it’s what we consume the other 80% of the time that can contribute to the healthy production and balance of our sex hormones.
As hormones, estrogen and progesterone require adequate protein and healthy fat to be produced within the body. Without adequate amounts and a properly functioning digestive system, we’re less able to manufacture the necessary amounts to have a regular menstrual cycle.
If you struggle with heavy periods, you might also experience increased fatigue due to the increase in blood flow. Iron-loss anemia should be addressed with your medical doctor and supported through diet and supplementation.
Minimizing PMS Symptoms
Estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall throughout the menstrual cycle. This is required for ovulation to occur. We also need a correct ratio of each to avoid symptoms such as irritability, cramping, or heavy bleeding.
Eating to support hormone production helps to regulate our moods, avoid physical ailments like cramps and migraines, regulate energy levels throughout the day, as well as ensuring feelings of wakefulness in the morning and drowsiness at night. Hormones are the masterminds of our bodies.
Start swapping out “junk” foods, sugary foods, and alcoholic beverages for more whole foods and water. Get adequate daily protein, plenty of fibre, and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocadoes and healthy oils. Drink plenty of water alongside any increases in fibre to ensure bowel regularity.
Alcohol and Your Hormones
Alcohol consumption can affect and delay your period. Estrogen and progesterone, in optimal amounts, directly affect the occurrence of ovulation and then menstruation. When we consume alcohol, we throw off the ratios of these vital hormones, delaying or halting menstruation.
In addition, alcohol is a diuretic. When the body is dehydrated, muscular cramping can increase, including the muscles of the uterus and abdominals. Dehydration can also increase the thickness of the mucus of the uterine lining, making it harder to shed. This could be the cause of delayed menstruation.
How Stress Affects Your Period
When we experience stress, we produce a stress hormone called cortisol. High cortisol levels can throw off the delicate balance of our other hormones.
Stress may cause heavy menstrual bleeding or a lighter menstrual period. This is because stress can affect our ability to build up the lining of the uterus. It’s important to try to manage stress in order to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle.
Just because it’s the start of a new year, does not mean that we are entering it rejuvenated! Return to your regular routine but be mindful of incorporating more self-care this time of year. Putting your body under more stress to adhere to strict resolutions may not produce the results you are looking for.
How Long Can Stress Delay Your Period?
In order to regulate your period, it’s important to manage stress levels and provide the body with the nutrients and care it requires to return to homeostasis. While the holidays can be enjoyable and beneficial, busy schedules and overindulging are not conducive to long-term health.
So, how long can stress delay your period? Maybe a couple days, maybe longer. If your period was regular before the holidays, get back to normal routines and give it time to regulate.
If it was irregular before, use this time to develop new routines for your hormonal health. Going without a period for several months, although common, isn’t healthy, and requires further investigation.
Seek out the help of a medical professional for blood testing and diagnosis. With their assistance, you can achieve a more consistent menstrual flow to benefit your overall health now and into the future.