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Want Pain Free Periods? How Nutrition Can Help

Sitting in the boardroom

The I'm-so-bored room

Listening to the suits

Talk about their world

They can make straight lines

Out of almost anything

Except for the line

Of my upper lip when it curls

Dressed in my best greasy skin

And squinty eyes

I'm the only part of summer here

That made it inside

In the air-conditioned building

Decorated with corporate flair

I wonder

Can these boys smell me bleeding

Though my underwear

This is my third blog post that quotes Ani DiFranco. She is so cool, I never get sick of her. This is my fourth blog post about periods too. I realise now that I need a quick (ish) list-style post for the young women in my girl guides troop who believe that period pain is an unavoidable fact of life. It isn’t. So here it is - 8 things that help make your period lighter, shorter and more comfortable.

1. Magnesium and Omega Threes for Cramps and GI discomfort

If your body makes more prostaglandins than it needs then there is an overflow effect to nearby organs and the smooth muscles of the bowels start overworking. We can decrease the effect of these cramp and diarrhoea causing chemicals by eating foods high in Magnesium and Omega 3 fatty acids in the week leading up to your period. A high Magnesium drink is a spinach, banana, avocado, tahini and pumpkin seed smoothy. Omega 3 is found in oily fish such as mackerel and salmon and in cod liver oil, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds.

2. Daily Movement to Balance our Hormones.

Exercise increases endorphins, decreases stress hormones, helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduces cellular inflammation. Women who engage in moderate aerobic exercise at least three times per week have significantly fewer pre-menstrual symptoms than sedentary women.

3. Fibre - Our Oestrogen Disposal System

A healthy gut is really important for hormonal health as it takes the rejected oestrogen from the liver and processes it out of our bodies. If it isn’t healthy then it reabsorbs oestrogen back into the bloodstream. Fibre is a plant-based carbohydrate that is not digested in the small intestine and so reaches the large intestine or colon. Fibre is essential for gut health as our “good” bacteria feed on and ferment the dietary fibre in fruit and vegetables. Fibre can also be thought of as being like an oestrogen sponge in the intestines that carries it out with other waste. The more fiber there is in the diet, the better the natural “oestrogen disposal system” works. Fibre is found in wholegrain and wholewheat foods, in fruit, vegetables, peas, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds.

4. Nitric Oxide and Regular Snacks to Prevent Headache

Nitric oxide rich foods support vasodilation and stop the body getting shocked with the drop in hormones and resulting vasoconstriction on day 1 of menstruation. In the week leading up to menstruation eat pomegranate seeds, watermelon and beetroot. Have “stable blood sugar” snacks ready for the first few days of your cycle too. Hummus and oat crackers are easy, so too is almond butter and apple.

5. Period Teas and Activated Charcoal for Bloating and Cramps

Dandelion tea is supposed to prevent bloating. Moontime tea has black cohosh root (“cramp bark”) and skullcap leaves which have been used to prevent menstrual cramps for centuries. It also has chamomile, jasmine, red clover and passion flowers which are a mix of relaxants and herbs that are thought to help balance hormones and improve oestrogen detoxification. I don’t know if they actually work but they do taste nice. Celery, ginger and turmeric are also supposed to help as is activated charcoal but it tastes awful.

6. Leucine for Energy

If you get very tired before your period you may be low in leucine. Leucine is a branched chain amino acid that fends off central nervous system fatigue it is found in fish, meat, chicken, cheese and pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and almonds.

7. Vitamin B for Shorter and Symptom Free Periods.

In a study of the effects of Vitamin B complex therapy it was observed to reduce a woman’s menstrual flow from five or six days to three or four. Menstruation also came ‘completely without warning.’ This is because the pituitary gland, hypothalamus and ovaries require B vitamins, zinc and magnesium to produce period hormones. Vitamin B is found in whole grains, meat, eggs and dairy products, legumes, sunflower seeds, almonds, dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, avocados and bananas.

8. See a Doctor

Your pain is a signal - please listen to it. Painful periods could also be due to a number of conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), adenomyosis, endometriosis, fibroids, hypothyroidism or polyps. If a nutritional approach doesn’t work then please see your doctor and get it checked out. If your doctor doesn’t listen. Find another doctor. Young women who haven’t been menstruating very long and the young men in their lives don’t know what is or isn’t normal. The older women in their lives can help by openly talking about their bodies, their cycles and their experiences. Period pain is not normal and is not something to endure.

Check out my archive for all of the above in greater depth.

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