Hands up if you’ve ever felt personally victimised by your uterus. I’m talking period pain and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) here, we’ve all seen, heard, experienced, witnessed or all the above the full effects of what our monthly gift can do to us awesome ladies but this week, as I sat in moaning, tearful, short tempered agony I wanted to find out if there are ways to help, improve or adapt to this and share them with you in case there is anyone else out there who turns into periodzilla every month.
I had always considered myself quite unlucky with period pain, ever since I was a young teenager I used to vomit every month an live in a ball on my sofa or bed for at least 2 days when my period first arrived – really good fun when you grow up in a house of only boys I can tell you. About a year into this I finally stopped getting the horrified “are you pregnant question/lecture/yell” from my dad and went to a doctor to try and stabilise this as I was having to miss school and fun activities every few weeks.
However, asking around to write this blog it turns out that i didn’t know the half of it! There are women who have period pain so severe they have to be sedated to get through it, women that pass out from the pain, get diarrhoea and women that get crippling back and leg pain – hail to all the badass women going through hell each month, finally recognised this year as being as painful as a heart attack!
As pleased as I am for this news don’t get me started on the fact that the world needed a male doctor to verify what women have been saying for decades.
A little bit about why though, the chemical that causes pelvic pain is called prostaglandin, this is responsible for contraction of the uterus, bowels and blood vessels. Some women naturally possess higher levels than others, causing more or less severe pain and effects from pms. Your period pain should only be present for the first day or two of your period and shouldn’t interfere with your daily activities. Having controlled mine with the contraceptive pill for quite some time, I am a little nervous to see how my body will react now that I am giving this up (see previous blog on my turmoil to a decision here).
The good bit though, we can relieve pain and discomfort a healthy way without resorting to medications - exercise of course.
Although you may not feel much like exercising during your period, the endorphins released when you workout are a proven pain killer and can reduce the amount that your uterus contracts, stopping your period pain in its tracks. Studies also show that women who exercise regularly can have a higher muscular pain threshold and a less severe experience of PMS due to better hormone control.
So, if you regularly hit the gym don’t be afraid to keep training while you’re menstruating and keep plugging that bloodstream full of healthy endorphins. It is necessary though to allow your body to replenish iron, protein and other valuable nutrients that are lost during our monthly’s so feel free to take your exercise level down a bit and try some more gentle things, workouts that are more fun based like dance fitness are a great way of exercising at a lighter intensity whilst keeping the brain distracted and the happy hormones flowing.
What you want to avoid is any inverted moves – so be careful when doing yoga that you’re not doing any of the poses when you are upside down – headstands, shoulder stands etc, this can actually cause worse cramps and heavier bleeding – the opposite of what we want ladies. So whilst yoga is great for slowing the breathing rate and putting the body into relaxation mode make sure you avoid the inverted poses.
Did you know you can also have a better period by eating food? Yay!
There are some foods we should definitely stock our fridges with ready for a visit from Aunt Flow that can make our lives much easier during our period week. Try a fish supper, salmon – there isn’t much that adding this delicious fish to your diet doesn’t do, I’ve mentioned it before but a healthy dose of fresh fish like salmon in your diet gets you the much needed omega 3s that can help reduce pain as they are full of anti-inflammatory fats that do wonders for our bodies all over. Try cooking it in Ginger, ginger has been shown to be as effective as ibuprofen for killing pain and inflammation, awesome! An early morning ginger tea during your period can be just the ticket to hold cramps at bay. As it can be quite a strong flavour I add just 1g of ginger to my breakfast smoothies as an alternative to the tea.
I also add natural yogurt most days whether it’s that time of the month or not but the friendly bacteria in probiotic yogurt will be great for your digestive system. If you’re one of the unlucky ones that suffers loose bowels or digestive problems on their period then probiotic yogurt is an absolute must! Plus, having a calcium rich diet can reduce the likelihood of developing strong PMS symptoms (your friends and co-workers will thank you for that one, mine certainly do).
There’s no prizes for guessing that leafy green vegetables are a winner when it comes to eating smart for your period (is there anything they can’t fix?). High in magnesium which helps alleviate and reduce cramps these super foods should be overflowing in your fridge – spinach, kale, broccoli and you will build one of the best friendships ever. Spinach is also a rich source of iron which could be what your body needs most if you suffer from heavy or difficult periods, if you’re not a vegetarian you can also have a steak dinner to up your bodies iron levels (how great is that news?)
The best bit though – chocolate – say no more, I’m going shopping already.
However, before you fill your trolley with the most amount of aster eggs your money can buy, its dark chocolate that holds natural pain relieving properties and satisfies those intense sweet cravings that can come with PMS. Watch your sugar levels though as this can intensify period pain, so don’t over indulge, boo.
If the thought of trying to get all of these extra nutrients into your diet each month gives you more headaches than your period does, try a simple super food smoothie. I load in some fruit for sweet cravings and flavour, raw cacao for the chocolate hit, avocado for vitamin E, ginger for an immune boost, a sprinkle of spinach for the iron and all blended with milk for that calcium rich finish. There you have it, one period pain busting method, ready in mere minutes to fuel your day and have you back to kicking serious ass! It’s not easy being a woman at the best of times but once a month it definitely gets a little tougher so take some time for yourself and do what your body needs most during this time, pop the right nutrients in and use these natural pain and symptom reliving tips to make periods a breeze.