Tips for having a healthier period
Time to get a lil’ bit personal.
Time to be honest and real.
It’s time to talk about that time.
No need to freak out— periods are a natural part of our bodily functions, and while they may not be our favourite thing to talk about, there are definitely ways to make that time of the month a little more comfortable.
For close to three years, I had the absolute joy of not having a period. The freedom of not having to worry it would come mid-day, spending countless dollars on feminine hygiene products, being able to fully embrace white shorts any day of the month, and of course, not having to deal with the dreadful symptoms of cramps, bloating, acne and unreasonable emotions. You know, like being more sensitive than usual and crying over ridiculous things? Yep, I felt incredibly FREE to have three years of skipping all of this bullshit us women have to deal with for most of our lives.
So, how did I seem to get so lucky?
Well, upon one of my regular check-ups to the doctor a long while ago, she approached the subject of my ‘child-bearing years’… to which I instantly negated to let her know that having kids wasn’t in mine or hubby’s plan (he had a vasectomy many years ago and I have never wanted kids). Then I expressed how much I hated the symptoms of my period… to which she replied, ‘well, just skip it’. According to her, it was completely safe to skip my period with my birth control pill- and since the whole point of having a menstrual cycle was to bear children, it would have no negative effect on me. Sounded pretty promising, am I right?
So, three years after living this no-period dream life (AKA, the beginning of this year), I started to have all kinds of weird symptoms popping up- spotting that would last weeks, constant bloating, acne that wouldn’t clear up, body aches, hormone-fluctuations and massive mood swings, etc. Which to be completely honest, I wanted to ignore at first (because let’s be honest- ignoring a problem is SO much easier than fixing it). But, coming to terms with the situation, which happened to be in the middle of our trip to Thailand earlier this year, I said to hubby “I think my body is revolting me right now”. But, like seriously, how could it NOT? Three years of pumping a chemical into my body that is strong enough to stop its natural function… for no reason other than I didn’t want to have a period? Oy.
I quickly had my own moment of clarity where I realized that being on this journey to health and wellness meant that I had to assess my own life and acknowledge where changes needed to be made. How could I continue to take something that was clearly causing my body so much grief when I didn’t actually need it for anything? Needless to say, I immediately threw out my last pack, cancelled my doctor appointment to renew my prescription and started embracing the normal cycle of my body. Which… took a long time to normalize out. For two months after I stopped taking birth control, I dealt with all of the symptoms of a period, WITHOUT a period. Yep- two months of bloating, acne, cramping, hot and cold sweats, fatigue, headache, you name it! I still remember when my period finally came back in June, I did a happy dance and was super excited. How funny is it that I went from dreading something to being so incredibly thankful I got it?
Anyways, things have mostly leveled out since then- except for the fact that I am continuing to have horrendous cramps! I am a huge fan of using all-natural remedies now, and I am trying to stay away from any processed/chemical supplements. I have been experimenting with the use of different superfoods and let me tell you they really do work! Earlier this week I posted my Hormone Balancing Smoothie with Maca, and it is honestly my go-to every time my period comes. Usually if my cramps are bad, I will have one or two of these smoothies and I find that they significantly decrease in severity (sometimes even going away completely). I highly suggest giving it a try the next time you find yourself keeled over with cramps!
So therefore, today I wanted to share my top tips of moving from a place of annoyance with your period, to a place of love and acceptance. Here are the biggest recommendations I have, to help you have a kick-ass period:
- In addition to the above tip about using Maca to relieve cramps, I am a strong believer in the fact that nutrition can make a significant impact on the symptoms of our period. Research shows that indulging in greasy, unhealthy meals during our time of the month can actually worsen our symptoms despite the initial ‘comforting’ affect we get from these foods. When you instead fill your plate with a well-balanced diet (think a variety of vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats) you can help to improve your PMS symptoms AND possibly even shorten the duration of your period. So, load up on them veggies girl!
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! You’ve heard that our bodies are made up over 60% of water content, and it’s true. On average, most people are chronically dehydrated and don’t even know it. This especially rings true during our time of the month. Think about it- we are releasing a significant amount of blood (which contains water) for up to 7 days each month. Which can result in dehydration, especially if you aren’t drinking enough already. It is important to drink a little bit extra water during this time to help your body function at its best- plus, you’ll likely reduce the symptoms of brain fog, headache, bloating and cramps by doing this. Try adding in some lemon for some additional benefits!
- Rest and relax. The week of your period is not the time to have an overly chaotic schedule- your body needs all the support it can get. Try to lessen your daily to-do list and instead focus on some abundant self-care during this time. Read, journal, meditate, pamper yourself, get a massage, have a hot bubble bath- whatever you like to do to unwind and feel calm. Studies also show that this is a particularly creative time for us, so pick up that hobby of yours or try enrolling in a class you have been wanting to try!
- Heat packs are your friend. I have a few barley packs, and I’ll be honest that I am addicted to them on the best of days (hello to my always cold friends). However, on the week of my period, I find immense relief in using these! I usually get mine quite warm (2 minutes in the microwave) and use it on my lower abdomen every day. It significantly reduces my cramps and it feels heavenly. If you don’t currently own one, I recommend picking one up! Local health food stores likely carry them, or I actually purchased mine online from Etsy.
- When in doubt, stretch it out. The thought of exercise during our time of the month can seem so unappealing. I mean, who really wants to work out when they are in pain and bleeding? The interesting thing, however, is that studies show a massive improvement in PMS symptoms when we stick to a regular fitness regime. Who would have guessed? I usually stick to my usual exercise routine during this time, but I usually add in a lot more yoga. I recommend experimenting to see what feels best for your body, and at the very least incorporate some light walks and gentle stretching.
- Dark chocolate is your best friend. I am a strong believer in enjoying life in moderation, and I believe a life without chocolate is no life at all. I would never cut it out of my dietary regime, and I certainly wouldn’t expect you too. The trick, however, is to reach for high-quality dark chocolate with natural ingredients, instead of highly processed, unhealthy versions (I am looking at you, chocolate bars). You can find endless options down the natural foods isle at any grocery store, or even more options at your local health food store! I recommend choosing one that is at least 70% or more cacao for the most nutritional benefits- and play around with the flavours until you find one that you like. I love those with nuts or seeds, and flavours like mint, raspberry or sea-salt! So go ahead and thoroughly enjoy that chocolate babe, you deserve it.
Now, the other huge thing that I want to make note of when we are discussing our periods… is what we are using as our feminine hygiene products. Recently, there has been a big push for women to go more natural with everything – from cosmetics to personal care products – and I couldn’t agree more. Choosing more natural options for the things you apply on your skin and ingest is incredibly important.
I mean, why wouldn’t you want to try and eliminate chemicals and toxins from your body that are likely to cause problems down the road?
I personally, choose to use tampons. I am not a big fan of bulky pads (no matter how ‘slim’ they are), and I have yet to try a Diva cup (which I am super interested in and will at some point experiment with). Now, for those of you using tampons like me, you know that the basic function of these are to be inserted and absorb blood- preventing leaks. But what you might not realize, is that they come into contact with an extremely large mucous membrane (aka tissue that contains a high number of blood vessels and is incredibly efficient at carrying chemicals and other materials throughout the body).
Why does this matter, you might ask?
Well, let’s start with what tampons are made of: cotton. Which happens to be a highly-genetically modified crop that is loaded with pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals. So, this means that if you are using a conventional tampon, you are introducing those chemicals directly into your bloodstream and body… creating all kinds of negative effects on your system. Organic means that the crop is NOT genetically modified, and that it chemical free. Therefore, it is honestly just as important to choose natural and organic when referring to your tampons, as it is with your beauty products and produce!
Since my period has come back full throttle, I have committed to using safer and cleaner products. Currently, I use the NatraCare organic tampon brand, and I choose to use the applicator-free ones to avoid the unnecessary waste for our environment. If choosing an applicator kind, please make sure to source out a biodegradable option! Your grocery store will likely have organic tampon options (check the natural isles), but your health food store most certainly will. I highly recommend taking this step to improve your health and feel good about what you are putting into your body.
If you have any additional tips, I’d love to hear what has worked for you.
Good luck rocking your next period babe xo