Update December 24, 2013: See also the post on methionine.
My 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.
Illustration: 1940s American Airlines travel poster by E. McKnight Kauffer. Remix by MRhea.