There's more to smooth crimson wave surfing than hot water bottle intimacy...
Let’s talk about periods for a sec. For the most part, that monthly flow is manageable – uncomfortable, yes, but certainly something we can keep under control. But why does our period occasionally feel like an almighty kick to the ovaries? What did we do to deserve such torture – let alone the mood swings…
Dr. Sherry A. Ross, OBGYN, and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health, tells us that, “Due to hormonal changes, emotional symptoms occur one to two weeks before and during menstruation. Mood swings, depression, crying spells, irritability and anxiety are the most common symptoms women experience.” Sound familiar? She adds that, “As long as these emotional symptoms are manageable through lifestyle changes, and not affecting your work or personal life, they’re not a cause for concern.”
Period pain impacts on our ability to work efficiently though, and in some cases can halt our ability to work at all. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to stop what you’re doing because of torturous cramps (that hot water bottle burns, BTW). What about nipping to the loo every hour to make sure you haven’t leaked? We can’t go calling in sick whenever TOM hits, because it doesn’t technically count as an illness, does it? Well, a very thoughtful UK company took the female anatomy on board when drawing up its staff contracts, and they came up with what they describe as ‘the period policy’. The Bristol-based company, called Coexist, allows women to take time off for their monthly cycles without having to classify it as a ‘sick day’. Provided the ladies put their in-office hours to good use, management have no qualms about allowing days off for menstruation. Talk about having a sound boss…
Oops, forgot the pill!
Taking the pill changes your body’s hormone levels, so if you’ve missed it, prepare to have your oestrogen F you up. “Missing the pill or stopping the pill in the middle of the month will disrupt the happy rhythm it brings to your menstrual cycle and may cause painful cramps and irregular bleeding,” Dr. Sherry says. Do yourself a favour and always set an alarm on your phone so that you never miss the pill again.
The booze, though
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that bottle of vino is making your cramps worse. Alcohol makes you lose magnesium, which isn’t ideal, as magnesium helps to relieve cramps. Can’t quite say no to a sneaky glass of the red stuff? Invest in a magnesium supplement to keep that period pain at bay.
Catch some Zzz’s
The last thing any gal needs is an irregular period, but not sleeping enough can cause just that. A study published in the Health Care Women International, which was carried out on nurses with crazy, long nightshifts, shows that a lack of sleep can make you experience longer periods. Sounds like a valid excuse to take a nap…
This one is probably the most upsetting, but coffee makes PMS worse for a whole host of reasons. Between causing dehydration and having a negative effect on your sleeping patterns, caffeine can cause anxiety, tension, and irritability… so maybe opt for decaf.
The dairy devil
Dairy contains what scientists call ‘arachidonic acid’ which causes the production of prostaglandins. That’s the stuff that causes period pain in the first place. So when your period arrives, avoid ice-cream, milkshakes and cheese at all costs. We know, we’re devastated too.
“Daily rigorous exercise can lead to hormonal imbalances,” says Dr. Sherry. That doesn’t mean you should avoid physical activity altogether, though. She explains that even light exercise four-six times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes is helpful to reduce bloating and water retention… so get stretching!
Sweet as sugar
Though you’ll probably be craving comfort food, that giant bag of Haribo is the last thing you need. Eating sugary foods during your period will make your blood sugar spike and when it starts to crash, you’ll feel more irritable and stressed. #Avoid.
Chill the beans
Stress has been proven to worsen the symptoms of PMS, so it’s vital you find a way to chill out. Cortisol, the stress hormone, puts your body in the fight or flight mode, and that constant state of agitation can change your menstrual habits. In many cases, stress can cause irregular periods, or prevent them coming altogether.
Travelling, particularly by air, can delay your periods. Flying from one side of the world to the other can mess with your body clock, and not only will this throw out your regular sleeping pattern (hello, jet lag) but it also disrupts your menstrual cycle. Perhaps reconsider your fertility window if you’ve any flights planned…
Many women opt for the coil as a long-term (up to 10 years) contraceptive, as it takes away the pressure of having to remember the pill. “It prevents pregnancy by releasing copper into the uterine cavity, often causing heavier, longer and crampier periods,” Dr. Sherry says. These side effects usually wear off though, so weigh up the pros and cons for yo’self.
This article first appeared in STELLAR’s May issue. Our July issue is on shelves now!
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