My Best Period Tips
Every woman could use some helpful period tips. Let’s face it, your period might not ever be effortless, but it can certainly be much easier than you think! Why suffer from painful, debilitating periods when you can take matters into your own hands to improve your experience? I personally enjoy knowing my cycle comes regularly every month because makes me feel confident that my hormones are balanced and things are operating as they should. I’ve compiled a list of my best period tips that I hope can help you feel more comfortable during menstruation, and feel better about that time of the month!
Food For Women’s Health
As a nutritionist, healthy eating is always the first step to achieving optimal health and wellness. Food absolutely affects your monthly cycle, and there are foods that can help you feel a better sense of well-being, and foods that can exacerbate your symptoms.
Foods For Balanced Hormones
In general, there are certain foods that promote better hormonal health. Eating them during your period won’t necessarily make your cramps and PMS go away in the moment, but consistently eating foods that nourish the body will greatly help to balance hormones which will positively affect your cycle in the long run. In general, I always promote anti-inflammatory, whole plant foods which include:
- whole fruits and vegetables
- beans, lentils, and legumes
- nuts and seeds
- healthy fats from coconut and avocado
- whole grains
Minimally processed foods are the best for your body to prevent inflammation. The feelings of bloating and cramps that women feel while on their period are caused by inflammation in the body, so reducing inflammation causing foods is key. There are also many specific plant foods that can help to detoxify the liver from excess hormones. Some of these foods include cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, and more. To learn about the best for foods hormones detoxification, read more here.
Replace Essential Nutrients
Many women are prone to experience reduced iron levels in the body during menstruation due to blood loss. This is especially true for women who bleed heavily. Consuming iron rich foods is a great way to prevent low mood, exhaustion, and brain fog. To absorb iron, it is important to ensure you are also eating foods with adequate Vitamin C, B Vitamins, B12, and Folate. Some iron rich plant foods include:
- leafy greens, including spinach, kale, chard, collards
- lentils, beans, and peas
- soybeans, tofu, and tempeh (organic and non-gmo is best)
- seeds, especially pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and flax
- nuts, especially pine nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, and almonds
- grains such as oats and quinoa
- potatoes (potato skin contains high levels of iron, so eat the skin!)
- dark chocolate (unprocessed, raw, organic is best)
- black strap molasses
Not every woman needs to take iron supplements every single day. I personally have never had low iron levels, however, I do make it a habit to take iron during my period, because it replaces lost iron during this time. I like Garden of Life liquid iron and New Chapter Fermented Iron.
Magnesium is important to help reduce cramping by relieving inflammation. Magnesium rich foods include raw cacao powder, spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans, avocado, and bananas. Magnesium also prevents migraines, reduces PMS symptoms, enhances, sleep, and reduces depression.
Almost without fail, most of us women crave chocolate when its period time. It makes us feel better, it settles our cravings, and makes everything just a little bit more manageable. Many of us also often feel guilty when we overindulge. It’s important to know that there are a few reasons why our bodies crave chocolate at this time of the month.
- When we’re feeling sad, angry, anxious, etc… eating chocolate creates serotonin which improves your mood.
- Chocolate is rich in magnesium which is important for helping to settle cramps.
- Chocolate has iron which woman often become deficient in during this time.
The nutrients in cacao are actually what make us feel good. Nothing else about chocolate is necessarily nutritive, but cacao is actually an amazing food that is nutrient dense and can be eaten as freely as you like. Organic and raw cacao is the most nutrient dense form of chocolate that you can eat. Raw cacao is also packed with anti-oxidants and calcium. The sugar, dairy, and artificial ingredients in conventional chocolate is not good for us however. So we should avoid those as much as possible as they negatively affect your hormones and overall well being. When hormones are balanced, the body doesn’t usually have cravings during menstruation. Cravings are often a sign of nutrient deficiency and hormonal imbalances. We want to support the body as much as possible with healthy foods when we are on our periods so that we can address the issues we’re having. So instead of having unhealthy chocolate, you can enjoy some natural chocolate without guilt.
Foods To Avoid
It’s way to easy to cave into cravings when you’re cranky and PMSing. That’s why it’s super important to ensure you are getting the right nutrients in your body to prevent cravings when they strike. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat sweets, like chocolate. It’s important to choose wisely with what you eat and avoid refined and processed foods. These foods might help with instant satisfaction but only exacerbate symptoms in the long run.
Clary sage is one of the best essential oils for women’s health. It balances estrogen levels in the body and is excellent for calming mood swings and easing cramps. Clary sage can be diffused in an essential oil diffuser for inhalation or applied topically. I personally LOVE an organic blend from Healing Scents that I have found to be safe for me to apply topically without dilution. I apply it directly on my abdomen when I have menstrual cramps and it seriously works to relieve pain and discomfort! I love it because there aren’t really many products that can be used topically that actually help for period cramps. It is also a beautiful smelling blend. It contains Clary Sage, Geranium, Chamomile, and Rose.
Thyme is one of the most powerful cooking herbs as it has many many benefits! Thyme essential oil can help to balance out progesterone levels by increasing progesterone. Most women suffer from low progesterone levels. Diffusing this essential oil in a diffuser is an excellent way to experience the benefits of thyme oil.
Sandalwood essential oil is excellent for increasing testosterone levels, which benefits women who experience low testosterone. It also helps to promote mental clarity and promote calm and relaxation. Again, diffusing this essential oil is an excellent method to experience it’s benefits.
Always do a patch test with essential oils to test if your body tolerates using them topically. You can always dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil such as jojoba, coconut, olive, etc… You can also add these essential oils to a bath by diluting them in epsom salts, since oil and water don’t emulsify.
Always Use Natural Feminine Hygiene Products
The skin is the body’s largest and thinnest organ, being less than one-tenth of an inch thick. Skin is highly permeable, especially the skin in and around the vaginal area. Anything coming into contact with your skin will penetrate into your bloodstream and distribute throughout the body. Years of exposure to chemical-laden feminine hygiene products creates a toxic buildup in the body.
Conventional tampons, liners, and pads contain a combination of pesticides, BPA, rayon, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, bleach, polyester, chlorine, artificial colours, and more. They are also likely to contain GMOs. The consequences of using these conventional products can include:
- abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs
- immune system suppression
- hormonal and endocrine system disruption
- birth defects
- vaginal dryness
The toxic ingredients in conventional natural hygiene products have a negative effect on hormonal balance. Think about it. Pesticides, bleach, plastics, and more… In my vagina? No thank you! These xenoestrogens have direct contact with your reproductive organs for DAYS, on a monthly basis. There is no way that can be healthy! These toxins create an increase in estrogens in the body, which can lead to cramping, heavy bleeding, mood swings, and more. No wonder women are such a wreck when they’re on their periods. Organic tampons, liners, pads, and menstrual cups have no negative effects on your hormonal balance and are the absolute safest alternative.
Sometimes, food and nutrition isn’t always enough to deal with the past damage that has caused hormonal imbalances. Natural supplementation is an excellent way to give your body the extra nutrients it needs to balance hormones and ease the body during menstruation. My top supplement choices for women are:
- Estrosmart to reduce estrogen levels in the body. Excess estrogen is one of, if not the top reason for hormonal issues.
- Evening Primrose Oil to increase progesterone, a common imbalance in most women. Period cramps and dry skin are key signs that progesterone is low.
- Vitamin D actually acts as a hormone, generally balancing your hormones.
- Iron to increase iron levels for those who bleed heavily during menstruation.
- Cramp Bark is excellent for, you guessed it, cramps! I suggest a Cramp Bark tincture or tea.
- Maca is an incredible adaptogen that is great for balancing hormones and promoting energy. I suggest red/purple maca for best results (or a maca that is predominantly red/purple). Liquid maca is highly absorbed and I absoloutely love MacaPro liquid maca. And here is a delicious Maca Latte recipe.
It’s important to listen to your body and be intuitive with your needs. Typically, if you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s a sign to slow down and practice self-care. “Toughing it out” and pushing yourself to do your regular routine can increase stress levels and make you feel worse. Take some time for self-care to reduce stress and improve the way your body feels. Doing something as little as lighting a candle can make a big difference in your mood and well-being. My favourite self-care tips and activities are:
- Hot baths with magnesium rich epsom salts and essential oils
- Hot water bottle on the abdomen for cramps or back for back pain
- Mild exercise such as slow yoga and moderate walking
- Meditation and deep breathing
- Light a candle
- Diffuse essential oils
- Go for a walk in nature
- Read a book you enjoy
Combining these various different tips is sure to improve your period experience. I hope you try these out to see what works best for you and see that your period isn’t all bad!
Staying Healthy With Nutrition, Elson M Haas, MD
Vitamin D The Sunshine Vitamin, Zolton Rona, MD, MSc