3. FlatulenceIt's normal to pass wind every now and again, but flatulence goes far beyond this. Passing excessive amounts of wind can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing.
- Swallowing too much air. You won't necessarily be aware of it, but swallowing more air than usual can contribute to flatulence.
- Eating foods that aren't easily digested. Some carbohydrates are difficult for the body to easily digest. Problem foods can include apples, beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, prunes and Brussel sprouts.
- Digestive problems like IBS. Flatulence can be one of the symptoms of IBS, so this can be the culprit if you have some of the other IBS symptoms.
SolutionsFlatulence isn't generally considered to be a cause for concern unless it's accompanied by symptoms like on-going abdominal pain and bloating, chronic diarrhea and/or constipation, weight loss and blood in the stools. These can be indications of a more serious bowel problem so it's a good idea to see a doctor in this situation.
4. Heavy and painful periodsHow do you know when to define your periods as "heavy"? If you're soaking through one or more sanitary pads or tampons every hour for a few hours in a row, you fall into this bracket. Passing large blood clots isn't uncommon.
Heavy periods are often very uncomfortable too. "Having painful periods (or dysmenorrhoea, as it's medically known) is a common problem, especially in younger women," says Philip Weeks, who is an expert in natural medicine, a master herbalist and traditional acupuncturist. "Mild discomfort is normal, but around 1 in 10 woman experience significant enough pain to prevent normal day to day functioning."
CausesSome of the causes of heavy periods can include:
- Endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the lining of the womb attaches itself to other areas like the pelvis. Diagnosis takes the form of a laparoscopy in which a camera is dispatched to examine the pelvic area.
- Uterine fibroids. Although they are not cancerous, these growths occur in the womb and can cause pelvic pain as well as heavy periods. A physical examination usually highlights their presence but an ultrasound can offer more detail and shape, size and location.
- Being fitted with an IUD device. Using an IUD contraceptive device can make your periods heavier and more painful, especially in the early months.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. This chronic infection affects the pelvic area and can encourage heavy, painful periods. Other symptoms can include pelvic pain, fever and "spotting" (mild bleeding) after sex and between periods but these won't always be present. It can be treated with antibiotics.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Literally meaning “many cysts”, this condition is characterized by multiple benign cysts on the ovaries. Sufferers tend to experience highly irregular menstrual cycles, including periods that range from heavy and frequent to light and almost non-existent. Acne and excessive hair growth are other common symptoms of PCOS.
- Hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid can also evoke symptoms of fatigue, constipation and sensitivity to cold. It can be linked to iron deficiency anemia, which is another potential cause of heavy periods.
- No obvious cause. For many women, there won't be a medical or hormonal factor at cause. "Severe pain can be caused by a number of conditions such as endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease -- often this is the case when periods become more and more painful the older you get," says Weeks. "However, the vast majority of woman who have regular pain have nothing medically wrong, with medical tests coming back clear."
- Medication. If there's no obvious medical reason for your heavy periods, this is the most likely form of treatment. Depending on the type of medication that's prescribed, your periods may become lighter or stop altogether. One option is the combined oral contraceptive pill (which contains the hormones estrogen and progestogen but you could also be prescribed oral progestogen by itself.
- Natural solutions. Weeks recommends a range of natural remedies to relieve painful periods. Essential fatty acids (think avocado, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and flaxseed oil) can be key. "Essential fatty acids help the production of prostaglandins in your body," he explains. "They relate directly to the levels of pain, muscle contractions, inflammation and blood clotting." Increasing your intake of vitamin B6 through bananas, beans and spinach can help, which Weeks suggests can be beneficial in breaking down excess estrogen. Magnesium is another option. "Magnesium has a major role in preventing menstrual cramping, and some women find that a regular intake can relieve the majority of their symptoms," advises Weeks. Ginger can increase blood flow to the pelvis, which Weeks suggests can also relieve cramping.
- Surgery. If there is an underlying medical factor behind your heavy periods, surgery may be carried out. Options can include endometrial ablation (destroying the lining of the womb), myomectomy (for minimizing and removing uterine fibroids) and hysterectomy (removing the womb, and sometimes the Fallopian tube, cervix and ovaries too).
- Iron supplements. Many women with heavy periods develop iron deficiency anemia due to the above average blood loss and this is more common if you don't get enough iron in your diet to replace what's being lost.