I will always remember the day: It was a Sunday afternoon, in late-October, when I was a week from my tenth birthday. I went to the bathroom, in our upstairs restroom, looked down at my underwear and saw red. I got up, called down to my mom, and she looked up at me [from the bottom of the stairs], "You got your period, didn't you?" My mom is so good at reading things before being told. But yes, I had gotten my period. I was a child, yet my body no longer thought so.
If you were to ask me then, why a NINE (almost ten)-year-old was getting her monthly flow, I would have just said that I "matured" faster. Now? I would tell you it probably had something to do with the food I ingested, and the hormones I was around. Regardless, that issue is not one that can be changed, and I'm fine with that. I'm here to talk about periods, in general. Something we, as women, have come to loathe, for so many reasons.
From the time I first got my period, periods were never a "cup of tea", no; and in fact, they were terrible. Every month, I'd be graced with what I'd consider "the worst pain on the planet". I've never had children, but I couldn't imagine this pain being much different (possibly a good thing for when I have children)?! Every month, I'd hunker down in the recliner, heating pad turned to its highest setting, popping ibuprofen like candy.
As a child, experiencing pain isn't something you put much thought into. You're in pain, you need to go to the doctor - it's that simple. However, I'm here to tell you that doctors don't always have all the answers (especially when it comes to the female reproductive system). Instead of discussing with me WHY I was experiencing these awful period symptoms, I was given a choice - pain pills or birth control.
Prescription "Pain Relief"
I went on the pill around age 12, or so. Was I having sex? Nope. Wasn't even thinking of it. Birth control was intended as a relief for my ever-excruciating menstrual cramps (and hormonal acne I was developing). When one didn't "work", they'd put me on another. The sick thing is, back then, going on birth control felt like some sort of "adult luxury" I'd been graced with the ability to do, far before all of my other peers.
In college, when the birth control wasn't helping, I was prescribed Tramadol, a "medication" in the Opioid family (similar to Morphine). The "Opioid Epidemic" going on now wasn't anything considered back then, so nobody blinked an eye, when I started taking them. Yeah, they were great, I suppose! I'd get "high" on pain pills, lay around my apartment and wait for my cramps to subside.
This cycle went on for years, sadly to me, now. What was I left with? Constipation. Acid Reflux. Water Retention. Withdrawl headaches. You name it. And the ironic thing? Every month, the cramps would come back, just as bad, and every month I'd continue to kill my body with synthetic prescriptions intended to "help".
I've learned a lot about my body, my hormones and myself since then. While I wouldn't recommend anyone take the route I did, back in the day, unfortunately, that's what so many women do (when they feel like they have no other choice). Are my periods perfect now? Definitely no. Cramps are something I'm still working on, but PERIODS, as a whole, have become so much better.
What Can Be Done?
Having a healthy period comes from having a healthy cycle (and body), and it's important to get a couple choice-areas in check, in order to do so!
Our bodies contain loads of toxins, and it's important for them to be able to eliminate those toxins in an easy way. Eliminating through our stool is very important, however, there are other pathways of elimination. According to Alisa Vitti, female hormone guru, and womanhood rockstar, "there are four distinct, though interconnected, pathways of elimination... Liver, Large Intestine, Skin and Lymphatic System. ("Womancode", Alisa Vitti).
Liver & Large Intestine
Our livers and large intestine work very closely together, breaking down fat-soluable toxins into water-soluable waste, so our bodies can excrete them via urine, bowel movements and sweat. Our livers go through a two-phase process of detoxification. Long story short, in order for these fat-soluable toxins (which turn into free-radicals) to leave our bodies as quickly as possible, we need to make sure we're getting enough fiber in our diets, as well as amino acids. Making sure we have regular bowel movements is JUST as important, in order for this water-soluable waste to leave our bodies, quickly.
*A regular bowel movement should happen within about twenty minutes of waking up, after having a glass of water. If it's longer than that (or if you require something like coffee to feel the urge to go), you are constipated.
Did you know your skin is your body's largest organ? Our skin excretes waste via sweat. Usually, when some other system in our body isn't working, it'll show as a symptom through your skin (acne, rosacea or eczema). When this happens, start to focus on all of the pathways of elimination, instead of trying to provide a "quick fix" via creams, cleansers and facials. Going to a steam room, sauna or even taking a hot bath can be really cleansing for your skin. When showering, transition from hot to cold water; this causes the cells in your skin to expand and contract, forcing toxins out of the skin. Exfoliation is important, too, as it removes layers of skin that might be preventing pores from releasing toxins.
* This is also a friendly reminder to be very conscious about what you're putting on your skin! Get in touch if you need assistance with this!
The Lymphatic System is a major component of our immune systems; it plays a huge role in detoxing. It sweeps up toxins, dead cells, excess fluid and metabolic waste from our organs and deposits them into our bloodstream, which eventually transfers them to the liver/large intestine. This only works seamlessly if our lymphatic system isn't clogged. An efficient lymphatic system directs white blood cells to germs and helps you fight off infections; the opposite happens when it's clogged; fluid attracts these same viruses and transports them throughout your body, dumping them into your bloodstream - putting you at great risk for infection. Small trampolines (also called rebounders) are great for massaging the lymphatic system, as well as dry-brushing. Armpits and groin areas are crucial lymph-node-dense areas. Make sure all of the products you're using, including your period-products are organic and unscented! Wearing underwear that's breathable, avoiding deodorant with chemicals and wearing shapewear for SHORT periods of time is important, too!
*** Menstrual cups are also a favorite of mine! As little bell-shaped cups, they collect your monthly-flow, and prevent the need from continuously purchasing tampons or pads. Odorless, leak-proof and comfortable, these cups also are made without toxic chemicals that can mess up our hormones and lymphatic system. Currently, I'm loving my Lena Cup. Buy one here!
I'm sure you're thinking, "Holy shit, Kate! No way is all of this important in having a decent period!" But honestly, healthy periods, like this blog title, stem long before we start to bleed. And my goal is to have you experiencing a good cycle, all around! THAT, in itself, will ensure your periods become healthier.
So, what if you're doing this and still experiencing issues? Ha! That's been my quest, in the last year! Aside from taking a look at our pathways of elimination, supplements are very important, as well, since sometimes, period issues can be a result of being deficient in something.
Supplements to the Rescue
- Magnesium: Balances your cycle, reduces bloating, cramps, encourages good sleep and helps with anxiety.
- B6: Helps you produce more progesterone, which can help with PMS (usually having more estrogen than progesterone).
- Probiotics: Help your gut metabolize estrogen/repairs the gut bacteria that might have been affected from over-the-counter-pain-meds
- Omega 3s: Omegas are very helpful with cramps! Dairy and saturated animal fats can make cramps worse, so cut back on those and up your linoleic acid. Eat more flax, pumpkin seeds and salmon. Omega 3s are also good for mood stabilization.
- D3: Helps against estrogen-dominance
- Vitamin E: Very helpful for breast-pain.
- Vitamin C: Helps break down excess estrogen.
- Milk Thistle: This is more good for detoxing your liver, than anything else. Especially if you've been using over-the-counter-pain-meds.
- Calcium: Helps with pre-menstrual acne, headache and fatigue.
Handling Your "Time of the Month"
*Your period should be bright, cranberry red - not too thick, but not too thin. Take a look at this article, on recognizing what's normal, not-so-normal.
It's time. Your period is here, and you're definitely not feeling like yourself. Here are a couple of my favorite reminders (as well as pain-relievers):
- If you do exercise during your period, TAKE IT EASY! Lately, I don't exercise when I get my flow. Taking a walk, or doing an easy yoga-flow is good for the body, but be sure not to overdo it.
- Take time to rest. Get your errands out of the way the days before your period is supposed to come, so you can allow yourself to slow down, when it does get there.
- Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, dairy and saturated animal fats. These all can cause more-intense cramps
- If you're into it, have sex! Orgasms are great for relieving pain.
- Put a heating pad, or rice bag on your lower back and/or low stomach. Heat significantly aids in cramping, and provides a relaxing feeling.
- Take epsom salt baths! Magnesium is excellent during our time of the month - aiding in cramps, bloating, etc. A nice soak, in a hot tub will make all of your muscles relax. *Arnica is also great for sore muscles.
- Over-the-counter-pain-medications do help lessen things like cramps, however, they aren't good for the gut, or liver. If you desperately feel like you need to take them, make sure to take a couple the days before your period, so you're less likely to need them, as much, during your actual period. Also make sure to supplement with probiotics and a liver-blend, during and after!
- There are so many natural pain-relievers out there. In my personal opinion, they don't aid in pain as well as over-the-counter ibuprofen, but they're WAY better on your body. I really enjoy the Gaia Turmeric Pain supplements. Get 25% off your first order!
- CBD is becoming more popular, across the country. CBD (Cannabidiol) is one of the compounds from the cannabis plant, but with no THC (the compound that makes you feel stoned). CBD is used to treat inflammation, pain, seizures and other conditions. In Minnesota, CBD is legally sold in stores, and medical marijuana is available to those who meet requirements. In my personal opinion, these products can be extremely helpful in relieving pain and inflammation. A couple of my favorite products include: Plus CBD Oil and Inesscents Moontime Harmony (both picked up from my local co-op). Individuals with medical cannabis privileges also have the ability to purchase CBD and THC rubs, for sore muscles (aside from regular medical cannabis to ingest).
Like mentioned earlier, period-health isn't just about those five-seven days, each month; it's about creating a happy environment, in your body, every day of the month. By focusing on the symptoms we're receiving, and how we're taking care of our bodies, we begin to create a healthy cycle. Reach out if you ever have questions! I promise this won't be the first, or last, post on periods!