It’s not easy being a healthy woman in our modern world. From toxins in our toiletries to cancer-causing compounds in our cleaning products, we’re combatting major threats to our well-being at every turn. And, as a LOLA fan, you’re way more aware than the average woman about the mystery ingredients lurking in common feminine hygiene products. There’s no way of knowing just how many synthetic ingredients like dyes and fragrance are lurking in run-of-the-mill tampons. That’s why you’ve chosen LOLA to deliver a totally organic product that you know is helping protect your health; not endanger it.

But even the most well-informed, totally-on-top-of-it tampon queens may be missing some critical info when it comes to their periods, their hormones, and their overall health. Are you one of them? Have you audited your period lately? Do you even know what a period audit entails or why it matters to your overall wellness? Most women don’t; and that’s not your fault. We’ve all been fed a dangerous myth that menstruation is just an inconvenient monthly consequence of womanhood, and any discomfort or straight up pain we experience is to be expected.

Totally not true: your body isn’t destined for suffering, and your period provides crucial clues into the state of your hormones and your head-to-toe health. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently declared the menstrual cycle to be a vital sign — similar to your blood pressure, temperature, breathing rate, and heart rate — in determining your overall health.

How I learned about hormonal imbalances (the hard way)
I didn’t always know all this. Once upon a time, I was overweight, covered in cystic acne, and eventually diagnosed with a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I wasn’t sure what this meant, but my doctors sure did — or at least, they thought they did. They thought it meant a guaranteed grim future possibly consisting of problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. I was just 20 years old at the time, and I was told I’d never naturally conceive. And the worst part? They told me there was no cure for my condition; just a cocktail of medications that could help manage my symptoms.

But I proved them wrong by diving headfirst into years of intensive research and experimentation. Now, as a functional nutrition hormone expert, I know that we have a powerful drug at our disposal to heal hormonal issues: food. Combining what I learned from all the evidence-based sources and tried-and-true wisdom I gathered during this time in my life, I developed a food protocol that eventually restored my hormonal health, reversed my PCOS, and allowed me to reclaim my life. My periods returned. Fifty excess pounds melted off with hardly any effort. My skin cleared up. And — surprise! — I naturally conceived and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

The 5 signs you may be missing

Maybe your period is perfectly punctual every month, and the cramps and acne you hear other women complain about are thankfully unfamiliar to you. But there are so many subtle signs that something’s up with your hormones — are you missing one? Or all of them? Here are five common period problems that could be signifying hormonal havoc beneath the surface:

1. Your periods are super short/light/totally MIA.
If you barely bleed or your period has been missing for many months, you likely have low levels of estrogen. This essential hormone is made from amino acids, so unless you’re eating adequate portions of the right kinds of proteins, you won’t be able to get your levels up, and you may be putting yourself at risk for premature aging. If you’ve ever been on an extended crash diet, that nutrient depletion could be to blame for your subpar levels.

2. You have heavy bleeding with clots during your period.
Seeing dark purple clots in your blood or changing your tampon every hour? Blame sky-high estrogen. Too much estrogen is tied to this type of excessive bleeding, and you may even have a more severe issue like endometriosis, fibroids, or ovarian cysts.

3. The number on the bathroom scale never stops rising.
If you simply can’t slim down, no matter how many salads you eat or how many hours you log on the treadmill, your liver may be the cause. The organ is responsible for removing toxins by turning fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble toxins so they can be excreted through your large intestine, kidneys, and skin. If a hormonal imbalance is messing with your liver’s ability to filter the bad stuff, your body will hold onto these fat-soluble toxins. Incorporating the right liver-supporting foods — like citrus — can help optimize your body’s natural detoxification process.

4. Brown, spotty periods.
If your period always kicks off with a brown tinge, then you have old, oxidized blood left behind in your uterus from your last cycle. This is due to low progesterone levels, a trigger for many period-related problems. It may also mean you struggle with ovulation issues, irregular cycles, or PCOS.

5. Your skin is a mess.
Out of control cystic acne is almost always a hormonal issue. Many times, it can be linked to a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is a mineral that helps lower your body’s C-reactive proteins, the substances responsible for causing inflammation. If you’re not getting enough magnesium from foods and supplements, it may show up all over your face.

How to start healing now
Does any of this sound familiar? You’re not alone. Over the past 16 years, I’ve helped tens of thousands of women in almost every country not just recognize these major signs of hormonal dysfunction, but actually heal them naturally through food. Here are just a few examples:

– “I was diagnosed with PCOS three and a half years ago. I had horrible cystic acne that kept getting worse no matter what I did. I couldn’t seem to lose the 5-10 lbs of weight after my last pregnancy. My periods were always irregular and I had strong pelvic pain in my left abdomen. I didn’t find an answer until I stumbled upon FLO Living. Throughout the MonthlyFLO program, I surprised myself by not only meeting all the goals that I wanted to achieve, but also accomplishing things I never expected. My skin cleared up, my ovarian pain diminished, I lost the rest of my baby weight, and most importantly I found an amazing sense of peace in my life overall – peace with body image, having another child, my work.” — Alexandra McLaughlin.

– “When I turned 25, my health suddenly started going down the tubes. I was chronically stressed out. I lived all the time in an ever-fluctuating world of emotional turbulence. My skin was very broken out in acne. And my periods were terrible. FLOliving’s MonthlyFLO program taught me how to more fully nurture myself, and it impacts every area of my life. My life is richer, healthier and more beautiful because of it, and I feel profound gratitude.” — K.C. Baker.

– “Before starting the MonthlyFLO program, I had painful periods, a hectic lifestyle, and irregular eating habits, and I was worried about my fertility. Following MonthyFLO’s simple recommendations, within six sessions I had developed a much better relationship with my body, and with my husband. When I actually slowed down to look at where my life was going, I realized that I deeply wanted a baby. Conception wasn’t something we’d been able to accomplish before, but after going through the program, I was pregnant within a month! Now, at three months pregnant, I’m so grateful I didn’t go the route of IVF.” — Kathryn Hiller

Whether your periods are funky, your weight is out of control, or you just feel off, learning to recognize the signs your wise, beautiful body is giving you will put you on the path to success. FLOliving.com is the place to start healing. By learning and implementing the FLO protocol, you’ll start eating in a way that supports each phase of your cycle so you can rebalance your hormones quickly and for good. Whether you’re troubleshooting some of the symptoms mentioned above, trying to conceive, or hoping to get your mojo back, we have a program specially tailored to your needs.

Not sure where to start? Take the free Period Type Quiz and figure out what your period is trying to tell you. Then download my new MyFLO app to start tracking your symptoms and learning the right actions to take at each phase of your cycle. And when you’re ready to combat your symptoms once and for all, it’s time to check out MonthlyFLO.

You’ve already started taking your health into your own hands; take it one step further and heal your hormones once and for all. You deserve to feel great all month long and accomplish all the amazing things you dream about. Good health is your key to doing just that.

Alisa Vitti, HHC, is a functional nutritionist, women’s hormone expert, best-selling author of WomanCode, and the founder of FLOLiving.com, a virtual health center that has been treating the root causes of hormone imbalance and supporting women’s hormonal and reproductive health for over a decade and just launched MyFLO, a period tracker designed to help users fix symptoms and schedule their lives according to their cycles. She is the creator of the Cycle-Syncing™ protocol – a female centric diet and lifestyle program that leverages hormonal patterns for optimal health. She is also the creator of the Period Type™ Quiz – a diagnostic tool any woman can use to understand what her period color tells her about her hormones in any given month. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Alisa has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, has a web series on Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for CBS, Fox, Shape, Women’s Health, MindBodyGreen, and the Huffington Post. She has served on the Yahoo Health advisory board and is a member of the Well & Good Wellness Council. She is also an advisor to several health and health tech startups. She has presented at TEDx, Talks@Google, Summit Series Outside, Hay House, WIE Symposium, and SHE Summit. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.