This International Women's Day 2023, let's talk about the challenges every woman faces. You can be a student, stay-at-home mom, working woman, or even a doctor – but you cannot ignore the pain and discomfort you experience at least 2 days each month.
Yes! We are talking about periods and period pain.
Today, let’s help you celebrate womanhood by offering menstrual hygiene tips and tricks to say goodbye to all your period pangs.
Why do we STILL need to talk about periods and period-related problems?
Did you know? A woman has periods for around 7 years during the average lifetime.
For the lucky few, periods do not cause pain, cramps, and discomfort. However, for the majority of women across the globe, menstrual pain, cramps, and discomfort is common on at least the first two days of their period.
If you also experience similar pain, cramps, nausea, bloating, and diarrhea before or during your period, you are not alone. Jeevam Health has successfully treated over 10,000 patients with similar symptoms over the last year. We are here to tell you, not to lose hope.
Are you aware that several women also report feeling depressed before their period begins? Now, even renowned psychologists and psychiatric associations agree that it's indeed possible due to hormonal changes before and during menstruation. You can feel depressed, anxious, and even irritable (premenstrual syndrome) before your time of the month.
A lot of you may want to know why more women don't speak up about these problems. After all, our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters, all face similar health issues leading up to their period. Well, there is of course a social stigma that still persists about any topic related to menstruation. However, it's more probable that most women believe they are the only ones who face these problems.
That’s exactly why we are here to listen to you and help you ease these symptoms.
Why do you experience painful periods?
For some, painful periods are extremely common and normal. They may not have PCOS or endometriosis. Even without any hormonal disorders, it’s perfectly possible to experience painful periods. It can last for one or two days every month.
Not only is it common but also extremely normal for most women to experience period cramps.
However, in other cases, painful and extremely uncomfortable menstruation can indicate cysts in the ovary (PCOS) and other complications. You should suspect something is amiss when your period comes very early (two times a month), lasts for more than 7 days, or you keep missing your periods without a pregnancy.
Every girl and woman who experiences these symptoms during their period should request their doctor for a PCOD and endometriosis checkup.
Painful period, PCOD, and birth control medication
One of the most common questions almost all women with PCOS ask is, "Do I have to take birth control medication for PCOD?".
The answer is a resounding “NO.”
If you have severe PCOS, then you can consider taking birth control. Birth control medications can help with painful periods and regulate the bleeding. However, birth control medication typically comes with a bunch of side effects.
Now, what if you have PCOS, but you don’t want to take birth control daily?
We have great news for you! Functional medicine believes that PCOS is not only manageable but curable with the right approach. The root cause analysis will explore why you have PCOS.
It is indeed possible to reverse all PCOS symptoms without birth control medication. To know more, you can contact Jeevam Health anytime. We have experienced functional medicine doctors such as Dr. Anish Musa, who have helped over 1000 patients overcome their struggle with PCOS.
Can period limit your working abilities?
Unless you are in severe pain and cannot work, there is no scientific reason to stop you from carrying out the work you usually do.
With the right menstrual hygiene and products, you can go to school or work, attend yoga classes, dance, and even go swimming!
Heavy flow days can make you feel weak, dizzy, and nauseous. If you voluntarily want to take a break from strenuous physical activities or school/work due to discomfort and give your body some rest, there is no shame in that either.
How can we reduce period discomfort and pain?
Thankfully, now we have access to multiple nutraceuticals that can prepare our bodies leading up to the time of the month. You can also try yoga postures before and during your period to ease the flow and pain.
Here are some useful solutions for period pain and discomfort –
Several reputed companies that focus on women's health have formulas that deliver pain-free periods. There are products you can take before and during your period. These products contain the perfect balance of micronutrients, essential amino acids, and vitamins that ease period cramps. The mix of Vitamin B, Vit C, and Vitamin D, in addition to magnesium, L-Theanine, Inulin, and grapeseed extract has the power to reduce bloating, fatigue, and mood swings. Before purchasing a nutraceutical product always check whether it’s certified and reviewed. The correct product can give you a life free from period pain and uneasiness.
Light exercises and Yoga
On days of heavy bleeding, cramping, and discomfort, finding the one posture that can reduce the pain is challenging for everyone. To feel better, you can try a few simple yoga poses. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) – It stretches your abdominal muscles and eases the cramps. Do not force yourself to hold the pose longer than you can. Repeat it 3 to 4 times to feel the cramps ease up. Here’s how to do the Bhujangasana perfectly –
- Lie down on your stomach.
- Bring your hands under your shoulder, palms down.
- Push your upper body up using the strength of your hands.
- Inhale while going up.
- Hold for 20 to 60 seconds (or, as long as it’s comfortable for you)
- Then return to your lying posture while exhaling.
Chakravakasana (Cow/Cat Pose) – It will help you reclaim control of your abdominal muscles. This pose is essential for anyone experiencing heavy cramps during the first two days of their period.
- Get to a “Crawling” pose (on your hands and knees)
- Do not rest on your heels. Rest on your toes.
- Keep your palms and shoulders in one line.
- Align your knees and hips.
- Take a deep breath and lower your belly towards the ground.
- Look up towards the sky (ceiling).
- Breathe in and out around 3 times.
- Exhale as you bring your pelvis forward and curl your back upward.
- Bring your head down between your hands, and try to gaze at your navel.
- Repeat it 3 to 4 times.
Matsyasana (Fish Pose) – This is for everyone who may not be able to complete the first two yoga poses. It works marvelously if you feel too dizzy and nauseated.
- Get a pillow on the floor.
- Lie down with your head and back on the pillow.
- Your arms should be stretched out on your sides with the palms facing upwards.
- Breathe normally. Stay in this position for as long as you feel comfortable.
On the days of lighter flow, you can continue to brisk walk, jog or even run. It will help regulate nausea, and fatigue and uplift your mood.
Hot water bags/heating pads Hot water bags and heating pads are your best friends. Do not forget them on the first two days of heavy flow and cramps. Right now, we even have portable heating pads that you can tie around your waist and abdomen. That makes working during your time of the month a lot more comfortable, especially if you are in the office. These thin heating pads come with temperature regulators, so you can adjust the heat according to your comfort level.
Drink Plenty of Fluids Steer clear of milk tea, cappuccinos, and lattes during the days of your period. Drink white tea, and green tea since they are full of antioxidants. If you are experiencing diarrhea, do not drink green tea at all! You can always rely on good old ORS to keep your body hydrated and mind clear. Other than that, drink at least 2 liters of water per day.
Do not shy away from trying new remedies. Every woman’s body is different. It’s only natural that you may not get the same results from these 4 points as your friend does. Explore new options and always contact your doctor if you feel something is wrong. Never ignore your instincts about your own body.
Natural foods to ease period pain and discomfort.
Period comes with bloating, nausea, stomach upsets (even constipation), and unpredictable food cravings. There are months when you will feel like eating an elephant before your period begins. And then there are those months when the sight of food makes you want to hurl.
Can natural foods be the solution for painful periods, bloating, and nausea? Let’s find out.
Foods that fight inflammation Anti-inflammatory foods that can help you reduce the pain, cramp, and swelling during the period include tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, almonds, walnuts, whole grains (no gluten), legumes, and seeds. Always cook them properly before having them. Otherwise, too many veggies (especially cruciferous ones) can cause bloating. Eat in small portions whenever you feel comfortable. Do not overeat or miss out on main meals during your period.
Foods that stabilize hormones You need to opt for low-fat and high-fiber foods during your period. High fiber will ease your bowel movements and it can even reduce bloating. On the other hand, low-fat food reduces estrogen levels. Low estrogen means your uterus will contract less severely. And the high fiber from your fruits and veggies can soak up the excess estrogen or work like an estrogen disposal system. Avoid eating too many animal-based and processed products since they do not contain any fiber. You may choose a vegan diet during your periods.
Foods to avoid completely
The sources of gluten in India are wheat and barley. So any food that is made from wheat and barley needs to be avoided. Gluten is the most common cause of inflammation inside the body. You need to avoid gluten completely to experience a pain-free period.
Our bodies do not digest milk proteins easily. Sadly, almost all milk products contain milk protein. Even lactose-free dairy products contain these proteins. So, whenever possible opt for almond milk or coconut milk to reduce period pain.
Peanut is a very common allergen and you should avoid peanut, peanut butter, and peanut oil if you experience painful cramps. If you are mildly allergic and don't know it yet, peanuts will make the gut symptoms much worse. It may lead to IBS, nausea, bloating, and pain.
- Spicy Foods
Unless you can tolerate spicy foods during your period well, there’s no harm in opting for quinoa poha, oats, boiled legumes and sprouts, vegetable poha, besan chilla, ragi/millet dosas, and sautéed veggies.
- Fried Foods
During periods we already experience so many digestive issues. So why strain your digestive system by eating deep-fried foods? It is best to go for light-boiled, mildly spiced aromatic veggies and lightly sautéed dishes instead.
- Red Meat
Research shows that red meat causes significant digestive stress that worsens period symptoms. Avoid red meat and animal products for a week or so, to experience a pain-free period.
What should I know about menstrual hygiene?
What is the importance of menstrual hygiene? Women have always had their period every month, so why is it so important right now?
It's primarily because we have a much more active and hectic lifestyle as compared to our great-grandmothers and their ancestors. We don't just manage our homes and look after our families, but we also go to the office, run to the market and participate in multiple social activities.
So, menstrual hygiene is of utmost importance since good practices can prevent infection, reduce bad odors and keep us comfortable during our period.
Here are some menstrual hygiene tips everyone should keep in mind.
What are good menstrual hygiene practices?
- Always wash your hands with soap BEFORE you use a menstrual product.
- Wash your hands again after using the menstrual product.
- Change your underwear daily and if necessary twice a day.
- Wear cotton underwear and light breathable clothing.
- Wash your genital area with specially formulated washes.
- Vaginal wash is meant for washing outside the vagina. Never use soap or other cleaning products inside. Vagina has a self-cleaning mechanism.
- Always use unscented toilet paper and sanitary napkins.
- Track your period.
- Stay up to date on your pelvic exams, breast exams, and pap smear.
Are you using the right menstrual product?
First, think about what makes you comfortable. It may be a particular style of napkin or a brand. Or, is it a period panty?
Irrespective of the product you choose, proper menstrual hygiene should protect your health. To understand this better, let’s explore some of the more common menstrual hygiene products right now –
These are discrete and super absorbent and they can allow you to move around freely minus the rashes often associated with sanitary napkins. However, be careful of the brand you are using. Since you will be inserting it inside your vagina using an applicator, you should use a brand you can trust. Always use low-absorbency tampons. Since it is recommended that you change your tampon every 4 to 6 hours.
- Sanitary Napkins
Sanitary napkins are safer than tampons and quite easy to use. However, no matter how large or super absorbent they are, you need to change your napkin every 4 to 6 hours. On low-flow days, you can switch to reusable or washable napkins. This will not only save you money but will also help the environment.
- Menstrual cups
Menstrual cups are liberating since you can go swimming even on your heavy-flow days. However, since these products are reusable, always store them in the packaging provided. Wash them in boiling water and menstrual cup washing liquid every time before use. Incorrect cleaning and non-medical-grade silicone can lead to fungal infections and, even, vaginitis. While medical silicone-grade cups can last for over 4-5 years, experts recommend changing the cup every year.
Z-discs are quite similar to menstrual cups. Except they come in form of an expandable (fillable) disc instead of a cup. They are quite easy to insert and take out. Z-discs are ideal for working woman who is also environmentally conscious. However, the cleaning methods and hygiene requirements are identical to menstrual cups.
- Period panties
These are possibly the most freeing options especially if you have severe rashes or irritations from using the above-mentioned products. It is the ONE option that lets you bleed freely. Just put them on when your period starts. Most good-quality period panties have a moisture barrier to keep you dry. They should be leak-proof. You should change them every 12 hours and wash them separately with cold water. Then with gentle a mild detergent. Do not dry them in the dryer. Hang dry to keep their longevity.
Will I have to face painful cramps till I reach menopause?
A lot of women say their period pains go away after first childbirth, but it's not true for every woman. More importantly, no woman should have to wait until childbirth to experience a pain-free period.
To answer "Will I always experience painful cramps?" we say "No."
You simply have to understand why you are facing these cramps and pain. If it is a sudden development, you should waste no time and see a doctor.
If you want to end decades of painful periods, you can speak to a functional medicine doctor. A functional medicine doctor who specializes in PCOD/PCOS can help you find the exact reasons why your menstruation is always painful and uncomfortable.
There can be several reasons for the pain (dysmenorrhea). It is always better to consult an expert. More often than not, there’s an explanation and a way to reverse the symptoms of painful menstruation.