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What Causes Irregular Cycles? {PCOS + more!}

What Causes Irregular Cycles?

What Causes Irregular Cycles? {PCOS + more!}

You might be asking….are irregular cycles normal?

Are irregular cycles normal?

Irregular cycles aren’t normal if you are in your reproductive years of age. Irregular cycles can be normal if you’re in peri-menopause or menopause. But if you are in your baby-making years, irregular menstrual cycles are NOT normal. You can have irregular cycles when breastfeeding though, especially in early postpartum. Hormones are trying to recalibrate to before pregnancy and prolactin (hormone that is associated with lactation) also can affect your estrogen and progesterone.

Are irregular cycles dangerous?

They aren’t dangerous, but it’s a BIG red flag that something is not right in your body + it’s time to investigate! Your period is like your monthly report card + when irregular cycles happen, it feels like you are the girl that just got a ‘C’. Freakin’ out with all the thoughts of WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME or WHAT IS HAPPENING?! Another worry women have is they ask….can irregular cycles cause infertility?

Having an irregular cycle can make getting pregnant HARDER because you have no idea when you are dropping that egg, girl {aka ovulation}! You could be trying for a baby when you aren’t even ovulating. So yes, irregular cycles can affect fertility! Now if you’re trying to NOT get pregnant, you can’t rely on your irregular cycle to prevent pregnancy. Babies can still happen!

What are irregular period cycles?

Irregular cycles are basically when you have NO idea when your period is coming.

28 days..maybe..that’s usually my normal.

33 days…a little bit longer, but it was like that last cycle.

40 days…where the hell is my period?!

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It doesn’t get any simpler than that!

What causes irregular cycles?

There are many reasons why an irregular cycle can happen + while your neighbor might be also having this issue, the root cause could be COMPLETELY different and approached differently. Do not guess why your cycle is irregular – become your own detective + get the right testing done if necessary, so you can squash this problem once + for all! 

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Irregular cycles + PCOS

Irregular cycles are one of PCOS’s big red flags, along with acne, heavy periods, higher testosterone levels, excess body hair, etc. The hormonal imbalances of having higher levels of testosterone and other androgens, along with high levels of the luteinizing hormone stop a follicle from releasing an egg.  Not ovulating throws your body out of sync, hence irregular cycles. 

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Now this could be a whole other blog/episode, but with PCOS we really have to look at what drives PCOS? A big driver is blood sugar dysregulation (insulin resistance that we talked about a couple episodes ago), which also is your diet and lifestyle. Inflammation is another driver with PCOS.

A big heads up: birth control WILL NOT REGULATE YOUR HORMONES. I repeat, birth control will not regulate your hormones. The moment you get off of birth control the problems will continue. I find that many PCOS women can successfully utilize food + supplements to support hormone balance. I will dig more into this in another episode, as it’s more complex and various things we can look at with PCOS, such as inflammation, adrenals, etc. But, just note that PCOS is a large reason for women to have irregular cycles.

What about irregular cycles, but not PCOS?

Can Hypothyroidism Cause Irregular Cycles {Including Hashimoto’s} ?

The thyroid is a huge part of your metabolism and helps regulate the whole endocrine system. When our thyroid slows down (aka hypothyroidism), many other functions do too, including ovulation and reproduction. When someone has hypothyroidism, they have a higher TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) because it does exactly what it sounds like – stimulates your thyroid to make MORE! In addition to our thyroid getting stimulated, this process also increases a hormone called prolactin. Prolactin interferes with estrogen and progesterone, which leads to wonky irregular cycles.

Hypothryoid Irregular Cycles, Hashimoto's Irregular Cycles

Irregular Cycle from Stress

Stress is one the BIGGEST factors for irregular cycles and if you want me to keep it simple, think of it like this. Our monthly cycles have the purpose of reproducing a baby. If our body senses that the environment is not safe, why would your body want to drop an egg to bring a baby into the “unsafe” world? Scientifically,  too much cortisol downregulates reproductive hormones and leads to irregular cycles.

Overexercising is another form of stress. Used acutely, exercise is an awesome form of stress and helps us build resistance, but overdoing it often can lead to being very inflammatory and a source of too much stress. A lot of women are also combining too much exercise with not enough food.

Can Diet Cause Irregular Cycles? {Undereating Can!}

Undereating is another form of a stressor to the body. Not only is it a stressor, but it also increases your risk for nutritional deficiencies, which can all mess up hormone balance. We have to understand that our body requires a certain amount of calories for the normal processes to occur: breathing, digesting, heart pumping, maintaining temperature, etc. As adults, we need to stop consuming small amounts of calories because ya’ll 1200 calories is what TODDLERS need. We are not toddlers. If you aren’t eating enough, the body will prioritize your bodily functions that you need to survive versus reproduction (aka your cycles).

Nutritional deficiencies can stop the very foundational process of MAKING hormone inside our mitochondria of our cells. The mitochondria and making energy is a very nutrient dense process. If you kink up one place of system, there is bound to be a lot of backup.

How to deal with irregular cycles?

We have to figure out your root cause, as listed here in this article! More resources are coming your way all these topics, but if you’re ready to start working with a qualified professional, we got you! Request your free appointment today + let’s get your cycles regular!

P.S. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for more resources on hormonal balance!

Lahana Vigliano, CCN

Avatar for Lahana Vigliano
Lahana Vigliano

Lahana Vigliano is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and CEO of Nuvitru Wellness. She has her Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition Science and Masters Degree in Nutrition Science and Functional Medicine. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition. Lahana and her team help support women who struggle with weight loss, hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, chronic fatigue, and many other lingering issues that leaves women not feeling their best. She uses food as medicine, as well as herbs and supplements when needed, to support her clients. She looks at the whole body holistically making sure women are understanding how nutrition, sleep, stress, and their environment impact their health. Connect with her on Facebook + Instagram (@nuvitruwellness).