For many of us periods aren't exactly the happiest time of the month as we must deal with cramp, fatigue, mood swings and an array of other uncomfortable symptoms. However, this 'time of the month' should not fill us with dread as, from diet to attitude, there are many things you can alter to help make your period a happier time! On this page I describe some of my top tips for having a trouble-free period.
Most females dread the thought of their next menstrual period. It’s that ‘time of the month’ again when you need to go into hiding and feel sorry for yourself. Well fear not as that’s all about to change!
As a woman you will have to deal with a (scarily high) number of periods over the course of your life so it’s time you learn to embrace them, here are my top tips as to how to do this.
Positive and periods don’t go, right? Wrong – I can give you plenty of reasons why your period is a positive thing.
First and foremost, it indicates you are healthy and we definetely shouldn’t take this for granted. Regular periods suggest signals from your brain are successfully coordinating with your ovaries to release a series of important female sex hormones (there are a few involved, all having to do certain things at certain times so it’s no mean feat).
Second of all, having a period also means you are most likely ovulating which means you have the opportunity to try and fall pregnant if you so wish. If you have your period it is the number one indicator to let you know if you are pregnant or not, your very own free pregnancy test (although, I would advise taking a proper one to confirm any suspicions).
Everyone moans about period cramps, and yes, it isn’t the most pleasant experience of all time, but actually in many cases it is mild (we will discuss later what can be done if it’s more extreme). Plus, when you think about it, for many of you it acts as a nice little warning sign of what’s to come – no one wants to be caught off guard!
Finally, don’t allow yourself to feel self-conscious. No-one will notice that you are on your period so be confident and don’t stop yourself from doing anything! From swimming to getting glam, being on your period shouldn’t stop you so make sure you get out there!
Listen to your symptoms
It is common to suffer from some symptoms around the time of your period, but my advice is make sure you really pay attention to these symptoms going forward – they could be telling you something.Understanding why they are happening is often the first step towards managing them.
Often suffering from a number of different symptoms each month suggests something is amiss such as a hormone imbalance. Oestrogen dominance for example, can easily give rise to PMS symptoms like heavy, painful periods, mood swings, irratibility, sore breasts and bloating. In this case a herbal remedy such as Agnus castus could be useful to help to gently support your progesterone levels.
On the other hand, progesterone dominance could be giving rise to light, irregular periods, which can leave you feeling down and low in self-confidence. You may also feel very tired and suffer from regular skin breakouts. If these symptoms sound familiar, fermented soy isoflavones could be the herbal remedy for you.
A diet rich in fresh ingredients will be jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals which can make your period a much less painful experience. Opt for fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds for a good dose of magnesium which can help keep menstrual cramps to a minimum.
Wholegrains on the other hand, are rich in B vitamins which provide a sustainable source of energy and support your mood. Also, be sure to minimise your salt intake which can help to keep bloating and water retention to a minimum.
In addition, inflammation is thought to be a big factor in period pain so reduce your intake of processed foods, refined sugars and heavy animal products and be sure to include anti-inflammatory omega-3 by consuming oily fish, flaxseed oil or walnuts.
Make sure your bowels are moving
If your gut is congested then you’ll be more likely to feel bloated and uncomfortable – not to mention the added toxic load! This means it's important to keep your bowels moving in order to keep the pressure off of your poor uterus.
Incorporate at least 1.5 litres of plain, still water a day into your regime, opt for warm and cooked foods which are gentler on the digestive system and make sure you include some dietary fibre and healthy fats in your diet. Fats encourage the release of bile which stimulates peristalsis of the small intestine. This moves all the food sitting in your gut along like a conveyor belt.
Drink your H20
Water is, of course, good for the bowels but it’s also beneficial for other aspects of your period.
Part of the reason you are thought to feel cramp is because of reduced blood flow to your pelvic region so keep hydrated to help get your blood flowing! Ensuring you are properly hydrated will also help to reduce bloating and water retention – bonus!
Talking about drinks...
Try to reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol around the time of your period as this can dehydrate you and could potentially make those pesky cramps worse.
Don’t be afraid to manage the pain
Too many women just put up with their period and the list of associated symptoms that go with it as they assume it’s all part of being a woman. Well I don’t agree! You shouldn’t suffer in silence - instead you should be trying out solutions.
Try applying heat for starters, there is some evidence to suggest that applying heat can help to reduce the pain of period cramps as heat receptors are activated over pain receptors – so why not try taking a warm bath or digging out that super cute, fluffy hot water bottle?
Try a new sleeping position too, sleeping on your side with your legs tucked up, also known as the foetal position, can take pressure off of your abdomen and relieve pain.
Finally, try taking a magnesium supplement, magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant and can help to calm erratic contractions.
Although your time of the month means many of you will suddenly think you have good reason to skip the gym or dodge going out for a run. You may feel you’re too tired or in too much pain... However, these ‘excuses’ are exactly the reasons you should be going!
By exercising and stretching you are helping to loosen off tight muscles and it will get your blood pumping! Working out also causes the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins which can help to improve your mood and can even influence your pain perception.
Relax and feel good
It’s all about your mood!
Your mood has a big bearing on how you perceive pain and how lousy you feel! Around the time of your period you should make more effort to pick yourself up. Therefore, do things you enjoy and don’t shy away from going out or doing something fun. Whether it’s pampering yourself with a beauty treatment or catching up with friends over dinner, make the effort to feel good.
Plus remember, stress won’t help your symptoms either so don’t let things get on top of you. Practising breathing techniques can support both stress and pain management!
Finally – don’t shy away from going to your doctor
Your period symptoms shouldn’t affect your day to day life in a negative way and if they do, you should be paying a visit to your doctor. Remember, there may be some explanation as to why your periods are different for example, if you have a hormone imbalance or in cases of endometriosis or fibroids. This means it’s always best to consider your symptoms carefully and get checked out if you are in any doubt – let’s get those periods under control!
Originally published on 19 October 2016 (updated on 5 September 2018)