How to Deal When Your Period Gets in the Way
Good ol’ Aunt Flo. While her visits are a natural part of being a healthy woman, she’s often one of the most unwelcome visitors.
If you suffer from bad PMS or period cramps, bloating, mood swings and other symptoms it can make that time of the month not just inconvenient but almost unbearable. If you have work, school, a family to help take care of and other responsibilities, what can you do to try to make it through?
Some people may pop a Midol or other pill to help relieve symptoms like cramps, but for some people that doesn’t work or they may want to try something else that’s more natural.
Here are some ways you can help your body and sanity during that time of the month so your daily life hopefully isn’t stopped in its tracks.
Remember to consult a health professional if you regularly feel period symptoms that seriously get in the way of you functioning day to day. They could be signs of a more serious condition.
The last thing you may want to do when you have bad cramps and bloating is exercise. We get it. But this is more about movements that can actually help relieve period-related aches like cramps, bloating and lower back pain. Plus, exercise releases endorphins, which can help lift mood. Remember to take it easy and do what works for you. Simple stretches and yoga can help, as can a leisurely walk. A yoga instructor shares these 6 yoga moves that can help relieve menstrual cramps.
A heating pad or a hot bath may help reduce constriction of the blood vessels and improve blood flow to the uterus. To get some heat on the go, you can wear heat wraps made specifically for menstrual pain relief.
Feeling more stressed, nervous or out of control before your period can mean worse symptoms during your period, a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health showed. While we can’t always change our circumstances, we can change how we respond to them. If you have a lot on your mind and feel stressed, overwhelmed, or out of control, start addressing it with our “I Feel Overwhelmed” Guide.
Consider Helpful Foods
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Raspberry leaf tea, which you can find at stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts or Target is a time-tested remedy for relieving menstrual cramps and bloating. A writer for popular daily food mag The Kitchn says raspberry leaf tea changed her life and explains why it works: “The combination of fragarine, an alkaloid in raspberries, and tannins, a naturally occurring polyphenol often found in wine, are known for treating PMS symptoms, particularly cramping, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.” Personally, I can attest that raspberry leaf tea can help with cramps and I like to make sure I always have some on hand.
Studies have shown that women with plant-based diets high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and herbs have fewer symptoms of PMS.
High fiber foods
PMS can cause GI disturbances, which is why it’s critical to get at least 30g of fiber daily.
Green leafy vegetables
These veggies have a diuretic effect and are also a great source of calcium and magnesium, which can reduce menstrual cramps.
Helps promote healthy estrogen metabolism.
Foods high in Omega-3 fats will help reduce pain and inflammation.
Eating a half or full avocado daily can naturally balance hormones because of its nutritional profile that includes healthy fat, fiber, magnesium and potassium.
Be Wary of Foods That Can Make Things Worse
As comforting as certain foods or drinks may seem during that time of the month, sometimes they can ultimately make symptoms worse. Here’s what you may want to avoid.
Caffeine is a diuretic (something that increases urine production and eliminates water and salt from the body) and constricts blood vessels, which can both make period cramps worse, My Lola reports. Dr. Angela Jones adds that it boosts stress hormones and can worsen bloating, fatigue, mood changes, anxiety, and headaches. Find some caffeine-free energy boosts in our “Why Do I Lack Energy” Guide.
Sometimes during your period nothing sounds better than biting into something sweet. But sugar causes inflammation, which can affect hormone levels and make PMS worse, a hormone expert tells popular health site I Quit Sugar. That inflammation also impairs absorption of pain-fighting minerals like magnesium and zinc, so that chocolate bar could mean more painful cramps. Bummer. If you want something sweet, try low sugar fruit like berries and if you’re really hankering for chocolate savor a small square or two of a dark chocolate that’s 85% or more.
Salty foods cause water retention and could make bloating worse, Joy Bauer says in 7 tips for beating the bloat. If you’re particularly sensitive to this, you may want to look more carefully at labels since salt is added to many processed foods.
Sorry, LaCroix lovers. Bubbly drinks like seltzer waters and sodas can make our stomach feel “distended and uncomfortable, not to mention gassy,” Bauer says. Stick to flat water. If you need help see our tips on how to drink more water.
(Thumbnail Photo: Anetlanda/iStock)
Jessica Hamlin is an LA-born and bred journalist and editor who started taking pictures of food back when everyone used film cameras. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s health coach training program, she’s passionate about wellness and enjoys making and discovering delicious and healthy food. Her work has appeared in Clean Plates, NPR affiliate KPCC, AOL, and Eater LA.