Periods. If you’re a woman, chances are you have had a few in your lifetime. In fact, on any given day around 300 million women are menstruating. Of those 300 million, up to 90% will experience some type of symptoms associated with their periods. Almarmingly, 3 out 4 women who do suffer period symptoms are too afraid to talk about it due to gear of stigma and shame.
So, let’s try and change that by looking at some of the most common period related symptoms and the simple measures you can take to help reduce them.
Studies show 4 out of 5 women experience pain during their menstrual cycle. Mild to moderate pain can be managed by using hot water bottles (heat is a muscle relaxant which works wonders for cramping pain), over the counter pain killers and anti-cramp medications.
Time to clarify a popular misconception - period pain should not be debilitating. Pain that isn’t relived by these simple measures should always be discussed with a doctor.
Bloating is common leading up to and during a women’s period, thanks to our old friend, progesterone. The best way to manage this is with simple lifestyle measures – avoiding salty and processed foods, reducing alcohol and upping the water intake. Magnesium, peppermint and ginger can also help.
Period fatigue is real! You can improve energy by focusing on getting a good night’s sleep and looking at what you eat. Your period might have you craving chocolate and hot chips, but what you really need is plenty of nutrient dense foods - lots of vitamin B and C, iron, magnesium, zinc and iodine.
Also, as much as you want to snuggle up on the couch, exercise is the best energy booster. A common myth is that you need to avoid exercise when you’re menstruating. This is just that, a myth. Exercise is safe and in fact, beneficial. It not only boosts energy, but it can reduce bloating and improve mood. However, if you are struggling to get out of bed or feeling like you need to nod off at work, you should speak with a doctor to ensure there are no other reasons for your tiredness.
Research shows 3 out of 4 women experience mood changes leading up to a period. So, while they are common, hormone related mood changes can also be very complex. Mild mood changes can be managed with all of those lifestyle measures you have heard before - fresh air, movement, reducing alcohol and caffeine, eating well and focusing on sleep. Meditation and yoga are great if you feel wound up or anxious. For some women however, these mood changes can be so severe that they impact on work or relationships, in which case I always recommend speaking to a doctor to discuss individualised treatment options.
One thing to remember is that periods are many things, shameful is not one of them. You no longer need to suffer in silence.