Most women are in tune with how frequently they get their periods, how heavy they are, and how much of an inconvenience they can be. Necessary for pregnancy and reproduction, the typical menstrual cycle lasts about 24 to 35 days; an average cycle is 28 days for most women.  A cycle is considered irregular if the number of days between periods are shorter than 21, or last longer than eight, or if you’ve stopped getting your monthly period for more than three months for reasons other than pregnancy or menopause.

The timing of menstruation, when the uterus sheds its lining, is regulated by the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Research has shown that someone's diet can affect hormones, and subsequently, your menstrual cycle.

Alcohol Consumption

Partaking in a weekly happy hour may also be the cause of menstruation irregularities. According to a 2002 study, an alcoholic beverage can significantly disrupt the menstrual cycle — even in amounts too small to cause major damage to the liver or other organs.

“It is important to stress that alcohol ingestion at the wrong time, even in amounts insufficient to cause permanent tissue damage, can disrupt the delicate balance critical to maintaining human female reproductive hormonal cycles and result in infertility,” researchers wrote.

Researchers speculate that this effect may be due to alcohol temporarily increasing levels of estrogen and testosterone, which may interfere with the healthy functioning of a woman’s cycle as it can “ disrupt the normal hormonal fluctuations necessary for ovulation,” Shape Magazine reported.

The findings are similar to an older study which found that dysmenorrhea, otherwise known as painful cramps, heavy menstrual flow, premenstrual discomfort and increased risk of infertility were associated with increasing self–reported alcohol consumption.

High-Fiber Diet

Dietary fiber is essential for a healthy diet and comes with various health benefits, including normalized bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels and helping to control blood sugar levels. However, studies have linked this substance, which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and grains, to reduced estrogen levels. One 2009 study, which analyzed data collected from 250 women between the ages of 18 and 44 years old,  found that high-fiber diets were linked to decreased concentrations of the estrogen hormone, one of the key players in the menstrual cycle, and a 10-times higher risk of less frequent ovulation. The study defined a high-fiber diet as 22  grams per day or more, which is within the daily recommended amount of 25 to 30 grams for adults.

Apparently, fiber diets cause a decrease of “beta-glucuronidase activity in feces that leads to decreased reabsorption of estrogen in the colon,” researchers wrote. One study also found that fiber binds itself to estrogen in the intestine, speeding up the time it takes for the body to expel it.

However, having too high estrogen levels can also result in irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods. In this case, an individual may have to up their fiber intake to balance their hormone levels.

A Diet Too Low In Fats

A diet too low in fat can also throw your menstrual cycle off whack. Eating an appropriate amount of fats is also essential in balancing hormones. One study found that a lack of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat and essential nutrients that can be found in fatty fish and some nuts and seeds, can contribute to irregular periods. Researchers found that people whose diets lack omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are more prone to mood swings and depression. Having many irregular periods is linked to depression — the rise in levels of the stress hormone cortisol signals the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain involved in regulating the menstrual cycle, “ to stop releasing reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone,” according to LiveStrong.

In addition, the University of Maryland Medical Center found that extreme diet restrictions can contribute to secondary amenorrhea, a condition marked by the absence of menstrual bleeding for three or more months during childbearing years. Unsurprisingly, this condition is one of the most important clinical signs of anorexia.

Although it’s not abnormal for a cycle to be shorter or longer than usual  from time to time, atypical cycles can signal a serious health problem . However, it could also just mean you need to change your diet.