Mother Nature comes knocking — sometimes banging — at our door about 400 times in a lifetime. Yet no matter how many periods we've got under our belts, we still get affected. We feel run-down and/or a bit cranky, and the aches and pains put us on our a**es. Don't feel like you have to tough through it without a little help, though. With all the latest research and blogging and tweeting that's been done lately to further our understanding of the female reproductive system, we have more resources at our fingertips than ever before. It's nice to know you're not the only one suffering, isn't it?
It can be the simplest things that make the biggest difference when you're menstruating. And the best part is that you probably have access to the majority of these things in your apartment already. (Come on, who doesn't have a backup stash of chocolate lying around?!)
Above all, what's important is that you listen to the signals your body is sending you. If you feel like resting and skipping out on that cocktail night, queue up the Netflix. If you have the energy to be out and about, go for a walk in the sunshine. Don't let anyone stop you from babying yourself while you're on your period. After all, your uterus is doing some serious shedding, and it ain't easy work.
1. Invest In A Hot Water Bottle
You'd be surprised at how much comfort this thing will bring you. I recently bought one and wondered how I lived without it for the last 15 years. Applying heat to your abdomen will get the blood flowing and relieve cramps; scientists even say that it has the same effect as painkillers for up to an hour. Researchers at University College London found that using a hot water bottle while relaxing actually blocks the pain messages that are being rapidly sent to your brain.
2. Eat Dark Chocolate
As if you need another reason to get your chocolate on. Still, it pays to know the science behind it: You're losing heaps of magnesium on your period, but a 70 percent cacao treat can help you regain that nutrient as it slips out of the body. Steer clear of the candy bars that are at the checkout counter, though, as they're packed with caffeine and unnecessary sugar. Instead, reach for a bar that is made from natural ingredients, or bake something yummy at home using cacao.
3. Have Multiple Orgasms
Getting down and dirty can relieve migraines, cluster headaches, and period pain. The uterus contracts during an orgasm, and afterwards, blood flow increases and your brain is hit with natural chemicals that automatically relieve pain. Judith Golden, a sex therapist, told Best Health magazine that women who masturbate — no partner required! — during their periods experience fewer cramps, as well as a decrease in irritability and crankiness. That's a win-win if I've ever heard of one.
4. Drink More Water
Put as much H2O into your system as you can get your hands on. It's easy to get really dehydrated when you're losing that much fluid, and chugging water will help ease the most common symptoms, such as bloating and fatigue. Resist the urge to purchase the sugary energy drinks you see in the vending machines, as they will only make you feel worse. Staying hydrated will also aid with digestion, so you can process your meals better and faster.
5. Do Vinyasa Flow Yoga
There's no doubt that exercise helps with premenstrual symptoms like cramping and a lack of energy. But I specifically prescribe vinyasa flow for my yoginis who are approaching their period. This particular practice allows you to move the body gently and fluidly, without very little to no impact. There are lots of modifications you can make if anything happens to be too straining on the lower abdominal area; just tell your instructor before, and they'll be able to cue when you should take it easy.
6. Take Vitamin E
An issue of the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology revealed a study showing that women who took vitamin E supplements twice a day during their periods for four consecutive months reported a lower pain intensity than they had experienced previously. They even took fewer over-the-counter meds as a result, and had more energy. Go to your nearest health foods shop and snag a bottle before your next cycle comes along.
7. Track Your Cycle
There are so many apps and programs out there these days that can assist you in knowing your own cycle, and you'd be surprised at how helpful they can be. The free app Kindara has seriously changed my life. I used to be ruled by my mood swings, confused at why I suddenly felt like throwing my desk chair into the wall — until I started using the monthly chart, which reminded me when my period was coming, and helped me remember that I'm allowed to take some downtime.
8. Consume More Calcium
If you consume 1200 mg of calcium a day when your period is around, you could possibly cut your menstrual symptoms in half — including moodiness and cramping. The easiest thing to do is take some all-natural supplements when you start PMSing, rather than reaching for it when the sky is already falling down on you. Bonus? You'll have stronger bones and reduce your risk of osteoporosis later in life.
9. Stay Away From Waxing
Everything down there is more sensitive than usual when you're menstruating, so why submit yourself to extra pain? If your period happens to come the week — or even the day — of your next bikini wax appointment, call in and ask your esthetician to postpone it. She'll definitely understand. Besides, her job will be easier without a tampon string to awkwardly work around.
10. Use Lavender Around The House
Research says that putting a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow at night helps you sleep like a baby. Well, when you're crampy and cranky, your beauty rest will take all the help it can get. If you can't get your hands on the oil form, grab a lavender-scented candle or incense. It's a relaxing smell that will help you forget about the discomfort and instead make you feel like you're floating on a cloud.
11. Resist Caffeine
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but reaching frantically for the coffee isn't going to help you out in the long run. Caffeine is known to make your PMS symptoms even worse, and it's linked to elevating the levels of estrogen in the body. If you're an addict like me and you get a splitting headache if you completely skip out on that magical morning brew, have a little bit — maybe half a cup — and then switch to chai tea for the rest of the day.
12. Eat Less Salt
Getting cozy with the salt shaker could make you retain too much water, which leads to uncomfortable bloating. Make an effort to eat less salty foods; say no to those crispy french fries and instead buy raw, unsalted almonds. Finally, when you're experimenting in the kitchen, use less sodium than a recipe calls for.
13. Sleep More
Temporarily kick your alarm clock to the curb and rack up those Z's. It's been proven that it's normal for our sleep cycle to get a little messed up before and during our periods. The National Sleep Foundation says that 30 percent of women report lack of resting sleep while they're menstruating. This makes us cranky and less likely to make healthy choices during the day. So grab your eye mask and curl up in bed; that to-do list can definitely wait a while.
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