An introduction to periods and dizziness
Do you ever find you feel dizzy or lightheaded around the time of your period? This can be uncomfortable and a cause for concern. However, understanding some of the causes of this is a useful first step in managing your symptoms.
It is also important to properly understand when your symptoms are at their worst. If you experience similar symptoms around the same time each month it suggests that these are indeed likely to be related to your menstrual cycle. Keeping a symptoms diary can be useful to keep a record of your symptoms and identify any emerging patterns. However, if your symptoms are more persistent and fall outwith your cycle, it might be worth paying your doctor a visit.
On this page I discuss some reasons why menstrual periods can cause dizziness and some useful home, herbal and conventional remedies that can help you.
How can your period cause dizziness?
There are several explanations as to why your menstrual period can give rise to dizziness.
- Hormones – Fluctuating hormones are what give you your period in the first place and they are thought to be responsible for many of the associated symptoms. In the lead up to your period oestrogen and progesterone levels drop considerably. Changing levels of oestrogen in particular are thought to potentially have effects on your circulation, neurotransmitters, blood vessels and your blood pressure; all of which can affect your balance
- Heavy periods – Heavy periods could contribute to feelings of dizziness. Firstly, particularly heavy periods could result in temporary changes in your blood pressure. Losing blood quickly can cause a drop in blood pressure which can make you feel lightheaded. Very heavy periods could also result in anaemia. Anaemia can affect the oxygen saturation of your blood and if blood going to the brain is lower in oxygen than normal you can feel dizzy as a result of this. Heavy periods could also be a sign of uterine fibroids. With fibroids you are more likely to suffer from heavy periods every month which puts you at a greater risk of anaemia
- Period cramps – Very painful periods could make you feel lightheaded and dizzy. Some people have a better tolerance to pain than others and the root cause of the painful period, such as excess prostaglandins, could also affect your head
- Prostaglandins – Prostaglandins initiate the contractions of the smooth muscles of the uterus wall to give you your period and are therefore often responsible for the period cramp. Prostaglandins can diffuse out of the womb, into surrounding areas and even into your bloodstream. If prostaglandins circulate and eventually reach your head they can give rise to headaches or dizziness
- Other symptoms of periods – Other symptoms of your period could be indirectly contributing to your feelings of dizziness. For example lack of sleep or mood swings. If you are suffering from a lack of sleep as a result of particularly heavy or painful periods, you may find you experience spells of feeling light-headed the next day. Certain mood swings can also affect your balance, for example if you suffer from an anxiety attack. Anxiety can exert physical effects on the body and feeling dizzy could be a result of this.
Dietary and lifestyle factors
There are some simple home remedies that could help to quell your feelings of light headedness or dizziness.
- Stabilise your blood sugar – Wobbly blood sugar can easily make you feel lightheaded or dizzy. Try to eat three substantial meals per day, healthy snacks in between as necessary, in order to stabilise your blood sugar. Include a source of protein in every meal and try to avoid refined sugar as much as possible. Although sweet cravings are often more likely to crop up around the time of your period, giving in to these cravings can be problematic. Sugar will cause your blood sugar to spike initially but this is often followed by a crash. Low blood sugar can make you feel light-headed and is best avoided
- Include enough iron in your diet – If you have heavy periods it is important to ensure you are getting enough iron in your diet. Include lots of green leafy vegetables, beans, fortified carbohydrate sources, meat and fish in order to meet the recommended daily amount
- Drink enough water – Ensuring you drink enough water can help ward off feelings of dizziness. If you become dehydrated, your blood pressure can drop and this can make you feel light-headed or dizzy. Ensure you drink plenty of fluids which should help to keep your blood pressure stable
- Practice breathing techniques – Depending on the cause of the dizziness, practicing breathing techniques could be beneficial. Breathing techniques are a well known coping strategy for helping you deal with pain, for example if you suffer from period cramps, or in the instance of certain mood swings. Feeling particularly angry or anxious, for example, can often be brought back under control with some deep breathing.
If diet and lifestyle fail to help with your dizziness it might be time to try introducing a herbal remedy.
- Gingko – Gingko biloba is a traditional herbal remedy which helps supports your circulation to the extremities such as your hands, feet and head
- Soy isoflavones – If fluctuating levels of oestrogen appear to be giving rise to feelings of dizziness, soy isoflavones may be of use. Women nearing the menopause often suffer from symptoms as a result of low levels of oestrogen, and light, irregular periods are often a tell-tale sign.
Please note, if you are taking hormonal contraceptives such as the pill, hormone-balancing herbal remedies may not be suitable for you.
How can my doctor help?
If home or herbal remedies are failing to help with your cyclical dizziness then it may be worth seeking some medical advice.
Depending on the cause of your dizziness there are a number of options your doctor could offer. Your doctor could provide you with iron tablets if it turns out you are anaemic as a result of heavy periods (beware of any side effects and possibly consider a gentle iron tonic instead).
Anti-inflammatory medication from your pharmacist or doctor could also help to alleviate headaches and dizziness as a result of excess inflammatory mediators such as prostaglandins.
Finally, if a hormone imbalance is likely to be the cause of your dizziness your doctor might suggest trying a method of hormonal contraception such as the pill.