Niagarrhagia

Update December 24, 2013: See also the post on methionine.

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyMy ob/gyn has only two treatment suggestions for menorrhagia, or heavy menstrual bleeding. Or, as I call it, Niagarrhagia. The first treatment is a prescription NSAID that can reduce output by 40%. Since my body freaks out at every Rx besides antibiotics, it not an option for me.

The second treatment, ablation, was probably thought up by Torquemada and involves cauterizing the lining of the uterus. The resulting scar tissue prevents or at least severely hinders the accumulation of blood. In theory, I’d then have a pleasant, light period, instead of having to trot off to the loo every 20 minutes for three days a month.

My particular brand of Niagarrhagia started 20 years ago. It was neither painful nor prolonged but was still a PIA. Three years ago it developed a nails-on-a-chalkboard quality that sent my insomnia to near-total levels. Dr. Ob/gyn explained that if the flow gets to a certain point, you can actually feel the pressure on the cervix, which makes you want to hiss and grind your teeth. There was also an increase in pain, but I’m assuming that was just a subset of the lovely abdominal pain that started three years ago.

Once again, multiple tests say I’m perfectly healthy in the affected regions and the usual culprits have been ruled out: endometriosis, thyroid or hormone wackiness, etc.

Over the years I have found three things to help considerably and reliably. First of all, getting my calcium and magnesium levels up to what I assume is normal helped by about 30 percent for a while. But it eventually crept back.

From Sandy Simmons’ site I got the idea of increasing my vitamin K intake. She recommended lots of leafy greens, but most of them are goitrogenic (affecting the thyroid, usually by lowering iodine levels) so I went for alfalfa tablets instead. After six weeks of 9 tablets a day, (3, 3x day) I had a normal, manageable cycle and continued to as long as I took them, about 18 months. Eventually I got tired of the flipping things and quit, and after six weeks the old status reigned again.

I was about one month away from scheduling the ablation when for other reasons I decided to go crazy with the vitamin B12. I read Sally M. Pacholok’s book Could it Be B12? An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses and discovered that a newer form worked better for some people and that the old recommended dosages weren’t really very helpful for repleting deficiency.

After one month taking 25,000 mcg of methylcobalamin a day (that’s 5 5,000 mcg lozenges a day), I had what for most people would be a light period. Then I had another one 13 days later. The two together were still only 20 percent of the usual, but you see the problem. After three months of the B12 it started lowering my iron levels (everything lowers my iron levels), so I quit it. (The B12 also ended the headaches that niacin, iron, and B6 used to cause, and they still haven’t returned.)

Not only does Niagarrhagia cause low iron, it can also be caused by low iron. But since I couldn’t raise my iron levels if I ground up a cast-iron pan and free-based it, there is no point in speculating.

I finally learned that vitamin K comes in supplement form and that the amount in the alfalfa tablets was smaller than in a serving of kale, so I probably wasn’t repleting vitamin K so much as just barely getting by. How I missed the supplements before, I don’t know. I started experimenting with much larger dosages. At first I was confused by all the choices — K1, K2 M-4, K2 M-7 — but finally just went with whatever K2 was on the shelf at the health food store.

Anyway, I started at 500 mcg, which might be the equivalent of one large serving of kale, depending on who you ask, and saw a definite difference the next cycle. I went up to 700 and there was even more improvement. When I realized that some people take 15 mg a day to prevent osteoporosis (vitamin D needs vitamin K to move calcium into bones, I think), I became emboldened, ordered the liquid stuff, which gives you 1 mg (milligram) in a tiny drop, and started at 2 mg/day. Much better than swallowing 20 flipping capsules and all that magnesium stearate. (Update 12/24/13: I’ve found that taking 15 mg once a week is just as effective.)

My cycles since then have been like a normal person’s, finally, although I’m still sick of the whole damn thing. Those health class teachers in junior high who tell girls that menstruation is a beautiful thing and a sign of nature’s power, yada yada, can go #$@!& themselves. Or as my Ob/gyn put it, “They’re full of shit.”

(Here are two lists of the vitamin K content in foods which differ quite a bit: Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and The World’s Healthiest Foods site.)

If this turns out not to resolve the issue permanently, I will seriously consider ablation. I have hesitated to resort to that because I don’t like the idea of concealing a symptom without actually solving the problem that created the symptom. The cause of this particular symptom undoubtedly has other symptoms, too, that I just haven’t connected yet. To put it another way, if wasps keep getting in the parlor, I want to know where the nest is.
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Illustration: 1940s American Airlines travel poster by E. McKnight Kauffer. Remix by MRhea.

20 thoughts on “Niagarrhagia

  1. Michelle

    I am headed to Whole Foods to purchase some vitamin K for my heavy periods. Not sure which one to purchase or how to get started. Is it an every day thing or just during your period??

    Reply
    1. Marjorie Post author

      Apologies, Michelle. Your comment got lost in my inbox. You’ll need to take the vitamin K2 every day (or a bigger dose once a week) to get your levels up. After a few months you can experiment with lowering the dose. You might be able to, you might not. I used 2,000 mcg of vitamin K2 a day. In addition to the liquid mentioned in the post, I also used Country Life’s vegan K2. I don’t remember noticing a difference between them. Please also look at my August 11, 2016 comment about mold and menorrhagia.

  2. Renee

    I love you right now. Going through my heaviest period to date (emptying a menstrual cup every hour) and breastfeeding the day after getting a “yo, you could, like, die from your B12 deficiency” diagnosis (more of a “there is something VERY wrong here, but it is similarly VERY easy to fix” response from the doctor.) Niagrarrhaghia, indeed.

    Reply
  3. Zoe Bosveld

    I am flabbergasted! Ready this was like reading my own journey. Mine started 3 years ago and although I have had a slight improvement. I still find that I am ‘on’ for 2.5-3 weeks & ‘off’ for approx 2 weeks. Which is better than a year ago which saw me bleeding for 3+ weeks, with roughly 3 days that I couldn’t leave my house. And then I’d only be clear for about 7-10 days! Nevertheless, it f@#*ing sucks! I have just started Magnesuim and have already noticed a difference, and I hope it doesn’t reassert itself as was your experience. I had a Merina in the early days and by the time it started working it sent me absolutely BATSHIT crazy with my anxiety, and I had to have it removed…post haste! And I’m advised an ablation will not work on my ‘surprisingly large uterus and excessively thick uterine wall’. Yay for me! I also wanted to agree with you that it is indeed frustrating that no one provide a cause, as I.have had all the same things ruled out as you….including PCOS.
    Anyway, I wanted to thank you for sharing. You have given me hope that there are still options for me before going to the extremes.

    Reply
    1. Marjorie Post author

      You’re welcome, Zoe. I really need to update this post — this problem ended for me a month after I moved out of my moldy apartment, except for two times a year later when I started a new detox binder (one for mold, one for lead) and was rewarded with a four-week monster period each time. So if the magnesium turns out to work only temporarily, you might want to check out the mold toxicity angle. “Menstrual flooding” is a common symptom. Also common is searching for months/years for a solution for XYZ symptom (there are dozens of them), and when you find it it only works for a few months. I started with Ritchie Shoemaker’s books.

      For me, I felt like the doctors I saw not only could not come up with a cause, they didn’t care. They weren’t curious and didn’t feel it was their job to try to figure it out.

  4. lizzy

    pls I really do have heavy menstrual flow , I visited a pharmacist and he gave me vitamin k tablet, Will this vit k reduce the heavy flow?

    Reply
    1. Marjorie Post author

      It did for me, although I was not using a prescription. I think it took a full cycle to see an effect.

  5. JD

    Thank you for your reply. I did read your methionine post, but I thought I’d missed something, my apologies!
    The Mirena IUD is recommended for women with meno-rage-uh, as I think of it as. In some cases, periods stop altogether, so it’s an appealing option in that regard. It is not, however, without its potential drawbacks. Sorry to hear of your recent episode–it can be so isolating and frustrating to say the least.
    I have personally found that as my anemia slowly (!!!) lessens thanks to heme iron supplements, my life is a tad more bearable.

    Reply
    1. moxie

      Ok, so your post is like me to a T. (LOL at “I couldn’t raise my iron levels if I ground up a cast-iron pan and free-based it”) I was diagnosed with adenomyosis, since when they examined me my uterus was about 3x the normal size and the cancer biopsy was negative. Even though I didn’t want to do it even one little tiny bit, I acquiesced and went the route of the Mirena. Because I’d had 2 blood transfusions in the previous year, plus was beginning what is now a regular basis iron infusion schedule of about every 5 months (in the states they gave me one kind of iron, now in Canada, I get one called Venofer. I need three doses in as many weeks and I go to the hospital for a 2-3 hour infusion). My anemia is so horrid but often my Hemaglobin levels will be low normal while my serum ferritin is almost zero. At those times, I cannot even climb the stairs without starting to black out. The mirena helped me immensely, that is, until the hormonal overload, weight gain and mood swings sent me into a spiral of self loathing that pretty much turned my life into a heap of stinky doo-doo. New to Canada, I wasn’t yet approved for medicare and the only appointments I could get with private Gynos were all about 3 months out and they were going to cost me about 300$. Fuck that. I did some online research, screwed up my courage, went into the toilet and practiced some hardcore kundalini/yoga postures and managed to extract that foul beast of a torture device. No thank you Mirena. I mean, thanks for making my life better in the menstruation realm ( I stopped soaking 13+ ultra sized (think toddler thighs) OB tampons per day and the pain was gone) but it gave me ovarian cysts and made me entirely un-sexy in every way. I learned about vitamin K when I was entering the “mirena crash” phase of the rapid loss of progestin and attempting to quell the reaction. I used vitex tincture and vitamin K along with having friends give me deep uterine massage, externally, and that really helped the bleeding. Weird thing was, I continued to the same cycles of severe anemia, despite 18 months of zero periods. Now, I am back to the drawing board. I have read a lot about adenomyosis and discovered that many women who have it, like msyelf, suffered horrendous lower back, hip and leg pain. Miraculously, after going to the ends of the earth for relief, many of them opted for surgical removal of their uteri and, lo and behold, the back/leg/hip pain VANISHED. I can’t fathom having my precious, though cantankerous and obviously emo, really so misunderstood uterus ripped out just yet. Having just started my cycle again this evening, I resigned myself to another opportunity to experiment with vitamin K and am grateful for having discovered the diva cup and menstrual sea sponges. They are both FAR superior to any tampon on the market (because tampons can’t work when a clot envelops them, food for thought). Via this experiment, I discovered, thanks to DC’s handy 1oz measurement line, that I often bleed about 8 oz per day for the first 2-4 days, then tapering to 3 oz, 2 oz and brown dribble in the 2-3 days after. Cotton tampons were increasing my cramps to like a defcon 5 situation. Narcotics didn’t even touch them. I was absolutely debilitated. Strangely, now that I’m using the Diva/Sponge combo, I can hit it with some extra strength ibuprofen, sometimes mixing with acetamenaphen for a kick and it totally works. Thanks for posting your experience, I’m going to up my K doses now and keep on with the Vitex tincture, which I highly recommend.

    2. Marjorie Post author

      I am so sorry to hear about your experiences. I am glad you found relief. Thanks for the Vitex/chaste berry recommendation. You definitely have a better support network than I do — I cannot think of anyone I’d ask to give me a deep uterine massage. Masseuses here are 65/hour and that would add up. Also noticed the tampon issue you mention. And just to make our lives more miserable, the tampon companies decided to shorten the strings to save money after the Financial Debacle and now it’s like a carnival game trying to get them out.

  6. JD

    Marjorie, what is the latest for you? (Sorry if I missed that post). I can unfortunately relate to your experience–the doctors I’ve seen recently seem utterly convinced that an IUD is a perfect answer for menorrhagia, and while that may be true, I remain convinced that my years of self-neglect (lots of stress, terrible diet…) are major contributing factors. How can they not be? When I asked one doctor if she’d ever seen a woman correct this problem on her own through diet and exercise, her response was “No.” Thank you for sharing your experience! (And the wasp analogy cracked me up!)

    Reply
    1. Marjorie Post author

      I have been controlling this problem with daily methionine (that was another post) and a big dose of vitamin K2 once a month or so, but it returns if I quit for several weeks. I did have a nightmare episode six weeks ago where it was worse than it’s ever been. I couldn’t leave the house for more than 30 minutes, for two weeks. I had started eating unfermented soy for the first time in my life several months before, every day, and thought maybe soy’s estrogenic effects were to blame. So I quit soy and the horror tapered off and stopped in 2 days. It’s also possible that was a coincidence and this is a quirk of early menopause. FYI I’ve read recently in various books on mold toxicity, including Ritchie Shoemaker’s Mold Warriors, that “flooding” is one in a long list of things that can go wrong when your body can’t filter mold toxins out. I haven’t fully investigated that angle yet but I found it intriguing. Anyway…. I hope this info helps. I hadn’t realized IUDs were used for menorrhagia.

  7. Yasmina

    Hi Marjorie

    I found your posting very informative. Ive been going round and round in circles with my heavy menses issue for over 15years. Its mentally and physically draining and Im afraid of the surgeries. I bought the vit k2 and some kale which im going to freeze and make smoothies with. I’ll take 4/100mcg vit k’s per day and see if it works for me. Il definately let you know how things go. :)
    Thanks so much for this info.
    Yasmina

    Reply
  8. Julie Venne

    Hi,

    Your blog is fantastic. One question : what is the liquid vitamin K2 that you take? (name of cie, where you buy it)

    Thank you,

    Julie Venne

    Reply
    1. Marjorie Post author

      Thank you, Julie! I use Thorne Research’s vitamin K2, which I order from iherb.com. It doesn’t actually say “liquid” on the bottle. Here’s the product link:
      http://www.iherb.com/Vitamin-K2-1-fl-oz-30-ml/21592?at=0

      Each drop is 1 mg. The recommended dosage on the bottle says 15 mg, but I only do 2-3. I believe the product was designed for people whose doctors told them to take vitamin K for osteoporosis. The bottle is $61.00 but at 2 drops a day it will last about 18 months.

    2. Julie Venne

      Thank you very much for answering.
      I read in many papers (e.g. http://kerryg.hubpages.com/hub/Treating-Heavy-Periods-with-Vitamin-K) that vitamin K corrects menorrhagia only if you don’t have blood clots when you have your menses. I have plenty of blood clots. And you?
      I will try the K2 therapy 2 mg/day on me and my 2 daugthers, all menorrhagic and let you know at the end of summer if it helped (I’m praying it will!)
      Have a nice day,
      Julie Venne

    3. Marjorie Post author

      I definitely do! Or I did before starting the vitamin K. I’ve never read that before. I see that one of the commenters to that article had clots but found the vitamin K helpful. I also never had excessive bleeding from cuts as a deficiency symptom. Good luck.

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