Reusable Menstrual Products

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February 20, 2018
reusable menstrual products, toronto naturopathic doctor, toronto naturopath

I made the switch to reusable menstrual products back in 2015 and have not looked back. I wish I could say that I was frustrated with the amount of waste associated with period products, but my main reasons for switching over was that I kept on forgetting to repurchase tampons and pads and I was worried I was losing too much blood!

Today I’m discussing a few options for reusable menstrual products if having a greener period has been on your mind and you are looking to make a leap!

Menstrual Pads

Replaces: Pads
Sits on: your underwear
$11+ for a single pad, depends on absorbency 
Flow Type: Heavy to Light
Absorb or Collect:
LunaPads, HannahPads, TreeHugger, FoxyCloth, GladRags 
Rinse + toss in washing machine
Lifespan: Around 3 years
Kid-friendly?: Yes

These are exactly how they sound. Some brands are a two part system (pad base and insert) and others are simply one part. Basically, the pad will fasten around the gusset of your underwear. The gusset will be lined with extra padding to absorb menstrual blood. Across brands, there will be different styles – from pantyliners to overnight pads.  

This option can be also paired with menstrual cups, for added protection. Depending on how long your period lasts, you may want to pick up a kit which might be the most cost effective. If you use disposable menstrual pads, keep track of how many you use per day, as you’ll probably use the same amount of reusable ones.  

Period Underwear

Replaces: Pads
$16+, dependent on underwear style and brand
Dependent on brand
Flow Type: Heavy to Light
Absorb or Collect:
Amount of flow: 5-10mL dependent on pair
Knix, Thinx, LunaPads, TreeHugger
Rinse + toss in washing machine
Lifespan: Maybe forever?
Kid-friendly?: Yes

This was my next foray into reusable menstrual products. I found that on my heavy nights I would fill my menstrual cup and leak. Along with purchasing some hydrogen peroxide, I went ahead and purchased two types of period underwear. I found that for nights, I preferred my Thinx pair because it was lined throughout. Whereas I could use the Knix pair on my regular days with my cup (check out my review on two popular brands here!).

Most period underwear is simply lined at the gusset, however Thinx is an exception as it is lined throughout. Depending on your cycle, you can purchase multiple pairs and styles which have different absorbencies. This option can also be paired with a cup (my preferred way to use them) for added protection!

Menstrual Cup

Replaces: Tampons
Sits in: the vaginal canal
Usually medical-grade silicone
Flow Type: Heavy to Light
Absorb or Collect:
Amount of flow: Averages of 30mL, depends on brand
When to empty: 8 – 12 hours, shorter during heavy flow days
DivaCup, Lunette, MoonCup, Lena, Intima
Empty and wash
Lifespan: Around 1+ years
Kid-friendly?: Maybe not

As mentioned in the intro, this was my first foray into reusable menstrual products. I chose this product because at the time it was the only option I knew about and it could tell me how much blood I was losing per cycle (because it turns out I was iron deficient!). 

To be perfectly honest, insertion and removal was NOT easy the first few times I used it. While I didn’t time it, it felt like it took 40min each time! Luckily for me, this was just a learning curve and it’s much better now. I should mention for the cup I use, it says that I should rotate it to get suction and keep it in place, and I don’t think I do that. Nevertheless, I don’t experience any leakage. 

I had mentioned that this might not be a kid-friendly option, only because of the insertion and removal process. But perhaps as kids get older, they may be more comfortable doing so. Also, this is a good option for swimmers! Lastly, the cups usually come in a few sizes. Some brands differentiate them by turning 30 or having a vaginal childbirth. 

For more information on how to choose a cup, check out Put A Cup In It!

Final Thoughts

Are you thinking of switching over to reusable menstrual products or have you done so already? I’d love for you to share your story!

Most importantly, if you found this information helpful, please sign up for my monthly newsletter called The Flow for great and informative content like this!

Understanding Period Pain

February 12, 2018
period pain, menstrual cramps, period pain relief, toronto naturopathic doctor, menstrual pain

Talking about period pain isn’t easy – especially when most women believe that it’s a normal part of the experience. I remember when I first learned about periods, I was told that experiencing menstrual cramps were to be expected. Luckily, there are things that provide period pain relief!

What is period pain?

Dysmenorrhea is a fancy word for painful periods. In fact, painful periods are the most common gynecological symptom affecting almost 45-95% of women! While many women think that pain is a normal part of their menstrual cycle, it can have negative effects on their daily activities (forcing them to stay home from school and/or work). 

When you’re on your period, the lining releases prostaglandins which causes the uterine muscles to contract. Too many prostaglandins will ultimately cause period pain – like menstrual cramps and feelings of pressure. 

Types of dysmenorrhea

Primary Dysmenorrhea

Primary dysmenorrhea is pain without a pathology (ie. a structural cause), and can be due to prostaglandin production, nutritional deficiencies, and diet and lifestyle factors. This usually happens after a woman first experiences her period that has ovulatory cycles. It may be present right at the beginning of her period and will improve over time. 

Secondary Dysmenorrhea

Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain due to an underlying condition which increases during menses. Causes can include: endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids and cysts, infection, and even IUDs. This usually occurs in a woman’s 20s to 40s, and worsens over time. Not to mention, she might be experiencing her pain before, during, and after her period. 

For the purposes of this post, I’ll be focusing on primary dysmenorrhea

Is PMS the same thing as period pain?

Dysmenorrhea isn’t quite the same as PMS. Dysmenorrhea occurs during your period (typically on your heaviest days). Symptoms can include abdominal and lower back pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and dizziness and headaches.

Whereas, PMS (premenstrual syndrome) occurs a few days before your period and may continue a few days in. It’s an mix of psychological and physical symptoms that may encompass dysmenorrhea including: depression, anxiety, irritability, bloating and painful breasts. In order to ‘diagnose’ PMS we should be recording our symptoms for at least 2 cycles using a symptom chart.

Period Pain and TCM

You know I love bringing in Traditional Chinese Medicine into the mix of things. Here are some causes of menstrual cramps from a TCM perspective:


When the body is cold, it can cause the blood to stagnate. Think of it this way, when you’re freezing you want to curl up with a wool blanket and not move. You may find that warmth relieves period pain and gravitate towards warm foods and drinks. 


Similarly, when women are experiencing heat signs like early, bright or dark red periods, a yellow-coated tongue, and constipation, they usually find relief with cold foods and drinks. 

Period Pain Remedies

Remedies are wide ranging, and would best be tried after exploring the root cause of why the cramps are happening. Nevertheless, we may want to begin by reducing prostaglandins. 


Cow dairy may cause inflammation within the body that leads to feelings of pain. While it is recommended to avoid cow dairy – have no fear, goat, buffalo and sheep dairy is just as delicious!


Too much histamine in the body may result in an increase in estrogen (resulting in a deficiency of progesterone) as well as inflammation. Increased inflammation in the body can translate into pain. Reducing histamine would be indicated, which means limiting histamine producing foods (dairy and alcohol) as well as histamine containing foods (bone broth, cheese, fermented foods like kimchi and red wine).  


Magnesium is one of the body’s most essential nutrients. It reduces prostaglandins and relaxes the smooth muscle of the uterus. There are many forms of magnesium, but my favourite is magnesium bisglycinate. It doesn’t cause loose stools, and it’s absorbed by the body to help promote muscle relaxation. 


Whenever I’m having trouble with my period (thanks to stress!), I immediately book an acupuncture appointment. Acupuncture helps get the qi and blood flowing smoothy throughout the body and is a calming treatment which focuses on the mind and spirit.  


Ginger can be used in a variety of ways – supplements, teas, tinctures, etc. By nature it’s a very warming herb and can help with blood circulation and inflammation. Most of all, if you experience nausea with period pain – this is the herb for you! With menstrual cramps, ginger is primarily used a few days before the menstrual cycle and a a couple of days into it. This is because it targets the prostaglandin production, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. 


This is the one herb that I always have diffusing in my home. A study showed that women who inhaled lavender essential oil experienced significantly fewer symptoms of dysmenorrhea.  


Sometimes you just need to stretch it out. Because menstruation is part of the ‘yin’ phase of the cycle, it’s recommended that you take it easy. Going for a walk, or even doing a couple of yoga poses can help promote pelvic circulation and decrease pain!

Final Thoughts

Yes, this post was jam-packed with info! But, I hope it gave you an idea of the difference between period pain and PMS, as well as gave you some options to help manage your period pain. Like always, I would recommend working with a Naturopathic Doctor, so they can help you figure out why your period pain is happening and the most appropriate treatments for you. 

Lastly, if you found this information helpful, please sign up for my monthly newsletter called The Flow for more informative content like this!

Understanding Heavy Periods

January 29, 2018
heavy periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, toronto naturopath, toronto naturopathic doctor

Let’s talk about heavy periods. I don’t know any woman who loves changing a tampon or pad every 2 hours. Do you? Today I’m focusing on the signs of heavy periods, what causes them, and what some natural treatment options to consider. 

Symptoms of Heavy Periods

Menorrhagia is the official name for heavy periods – of course no one ever (aside from docs) use this term, but it’s important to know it. You might have heavy periods if you experience:

  • Losing more than 80mL of blood during the cycle

  • Bleeding that lasts more than 7 days

  • Bleeding that soaks through one or more tampons/pads less than two hours or for several hours in a row (see chart below)

  • Needing to wear more than one pad at a time to control menstrual flow

  • Waking up at night to change pads or tampons

  • Blood clots that are as big as a quarter or larger

  • Periods that interfere with daily activities (aka. standing up from a chair might be terrifying)

  • Iron deficiency (ie. cold hands and feet, hair loss, overall feeling fatigued, dizziness and lightheadedness). 

Ideally, we should be losing only 20mL to 60mL of blood per cycle. If you’re losing more than 80mL then this could severely affect your iron status

Use this chart to keep track of how many pads and tampons you are using throughout your cycle:
heavy periods, heavy menstrual bleeding

Risk factors of heavy bleeding

Risk factors include:

  • Relative with bleeding disorders/has been treated for excessive bleeding

  • History of anemia (aka. low iron)

  • Period longer than 7 days

  • Frequent brusing/nosebleeds/gum bleeding

  • Recurrent miscarriages

  • Bleeding during pregnancy

Causes of Heavy Bleeding

Hormonal Causes

These include: HPO axis immaturity, stress, PCOS, and hypothyroidism.

Bleeding Disorders

These include: Von Willebrand disease, platelet function disorders, hemophilia and thrombocytopenia

Structural Changes

These include: adenomyosis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, endometrial cancer, endometrial hyperplasia, endometriosis, fibroids, uterine infections, and uterine polyps


These include:  Anticoagulants /blood thinners, antidepressants, antipsychotics, corticosteroids, herbs, hormonal contraceptives, tamoxifen

Heavy Periods from a TCM perspective

Liver Qi Stagnation

Liver qi stagnation is incredibly common in women, as it usually stems from stress. Basically, qi (life force/energy) is no longer able to flow unobstructed throughout the body. The liver, whose main job it is to store blood is also no longer able to do so. The tongue may be dark in colour (ie. blue or purple), abdominal distention may be present along with breast distention, frustration, irritability and pain. Other period-related symptoms might occur such as irregular periods, no periods, and PMS. 

Blood Stagnation

If liver qi stagnation has been occurring for a while, this may lead to blood stagnation. Because the qi is not able to move smoothly throughout the body, the blood is also unable to do so. This may also be due to cold and heat in the body. Symptoms may include nose bleeds, heavy bleeding during periods, pain with periods (ie. a sharp stabbing pain), a darker flow and clots. 


When the body is cold, it creates stasis. Think about it this way – when you are freezing, you are likely to snuggle in a blanket and curl up in a ball, rather than start exercising or being active. 


Heat can often be drying and create difficulty in movement. This may result in early, bright red periods, constipation, nosebleeds, dry mouth, etc.  

Treating Heavy Periods

Treating the Cause

Obviously there are many reasons why someone may be experiencing heavy periods. As a naturopathic doctor, one of my primary jobs is to discover the root cause of the problem and treat based on that. 


As anemia can be a common occurrence in women with heavy periods, it’s essential to investigate iron and ferritin levels and use that information to supplement if needed. I like supplementing with iron, rather than increasing iron rich foods because blood changes will happen more quickly this way. Nevertheless, eating your fair share of leafy greens will have it’s own healthy benefits. 

Vitamin C

This vitamin helps to increase iron absorption, especially when you’re eating iron-rich food sources. A really easy way to incorporate greens and vitamin C together is by eating a salad! Add some red pepper, lemon juice, cabbage and even parsley to a salad can help increase iron and help with absorption!

Supporting TCM Theories

The reason why I love integrating traditional Chinese medicine into period-related conditions is because it really focuses on the mind-body connection. As you saw above, stress can greatly affect how our energy moves throughout the body. And if it’s not moving as well as it should, it can result in a variety of other symptoms. 

That’s not to negate the importance of making sure you have enough ferritin in your body, but we are more than just our blood work and the foods we aren’t eating. 

To support your body from a more holistic perspective, I would recommend visiting with a Naturopath to see how your symptoms fit into the bigger picture. 

Final Thoughts

Heavy bleeding can happen for a variety of reasons and while everyone would prefer to use Dr. Google to figure out the right supplement to take to stop it, it’s incredibly important to get some blood work done to find out why it’s happening. Once you have that piece of the puzzle figured out, then you can choose the right treatment to get you back to feeling 100%. 

If you found this information helpful, please sign up for my monthly newsletter called The Flow for great and informative content like this!