CURRENT MOOD: PAIN-FREE PERIODS
We really believe that your period shouldn’t be agonising. If it is, it’s a sign that there is a deeper issue present. Your body is quite literally screaming out for you to pay attention to it. Of course, we're bleeding for a week, it's never going to be a walk in the park, but we do have many thoughts on how to make your period less of a painful event.
Now, it’s one thing to want relief from monthly discomfort and painful cramps, but it’s another to be curled up in bed, unable to go to work and feeling as though you have knives being rammed into your body. If the latter sounds like you, then stop reading this now, and go get booked in with your GP for further testing.
If, however, the former sounds more familiar, it could be the case of a hormonal imbalance present. Whilst this looks different on everybody, it could be an indication of higher levels of oestrogen or it is present in its more potent form. So, before we even address the pain itself, we must balance those hormones.
The fundamentals of this protocol consist of stabilising blood sugar, supporting the pathways of detoxification and excretion, practising radical rest and self-care and minimalizing exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. It's also important to ensure you're getting adequate vitamins, minerals and nutrients to support hormone health and endocrine function. The major players include b vitamins, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C and vitamin e.
When it comes to healthy detoxication of oestrogen and balancing hormones, fibre is our hero macronutrient. Simply put, we want to keep you regular so that excretion of used, metabolised hormones can take place effectively. When this doesn’t happen, metabolised hormones can continue to circulate and cause disruption. Painful periods and PMS is a symptom of this. Aim for 30g of fibre a day from chia seeds, nuts, whole grains, fruits and veggies.
Particular types of fibre, such as cruciferous veg can act as a type of multi-tasker when it comes to hormone excretion. The liver takes the hormones once they have hit their target cells and done their job, packages them up and prepares them to leave the body. Cruciferous veg such as cauliflower, sprouts and broccoli help support the liver through this process as well as being a rich source of fibre for the gut.
We’ve got an extensive article on 50 ways to support your liver, but here are just a few for now. Ways you can look after your liver and help it play its role in hormone balance include:
- Staying hydrated and opting for at least two litres of water per day. Filtered is preferred.
- Consuming dark leafy green vegetables.
- Avoiding liver loaders (the distracters!) such as alcohol and processed foods.
- Considering milk thistle, dandelion or burdock tea.
- Considering supplementing DIM or glutathione for the liver. We’ve got a whole post on hormone balancing supplements.
PREBIOTIC AND PROBIOTICS
So, we know that we need to be taking care of our guts to ensure that we’re excreting potentially potent hormones to the best of our ability. Opting for prebiotic-rich foods or adding in inulin powder to your smoothie in the morning is a great way to establish that health environment in your gut. Then, consider a probiotic to maintain healthy bacteria. Both help to keep things regular as well as being a great staple for your optimal health tool kit.
A vital part of any hormone balancing protocol includes practising radical rest and self-care to ensure that stress hormones don’t end up dominating and throwing the rest of your sex hormones off track.
You’ll find the best results through the more challenging self-care practices such as setting boundaries, scheduling time off, getting more sleep and having daily baths (okay, that doesn't sound hard, but making yourself a priority doesn’t always come as easily as you would think).
However, apoptogenic herbs can be a great tool for helping your body internally deal and adapt to stress. Once you’ve got those stress hormones under control and the body out of a constant fight or flight response, you may find that the period pain starts to ease.
We’ve popped our favourite adaptogen blends at the bottom of the page, but a couple of the major players include ashwagandha, Rhodiola and reishi mushroom. Everyone is different, so always do thorough research and speak with a health care professional or naturopath before taking if you are unsure.
The pain and cramping that you experience is the work of these little hormone-like, inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins. We’ll go into our favourite anti-inflammatory staples in a sec but let’s first discuss omega 3.
Omega 3 EFA can effectively reduce and alter how these prostaglandins behave. We recommend opting for wild-caught oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and herring during menstruation. You can also supplement with fish oil or algae supplements if you are plant-based.
EVENING PRIMROSE OIL
You’ve most likely heard of evening primrose oil as a woman’s health supplement. Whilst it does have mixed reviews in terms of effectiveness, it can be a good option for some.
It is high in gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), which is anti-inflammatory, and often used for period pain. It can also be used for similar PMS symptoms such as tender breasts. We suggest that if you do supplement with evening primrose oil, do so during your luteal phase (second half of your cycle) but always speak to your health care practitioner before starting a new supplement.
Always treat the root cause, as we’ve previously discussed, but often there is acute inflammation behind those painful periods. Therefore, it makes sense to be proactively addressing this.
Firstly, ensure that you’re opting for a diet that is rich in whole foods in their most unprocessed form. Cut back on the sugar (seriously) and inflammatory polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as canola, rapeseed and sunflower. Replace them with coconut, avocado and extra virgin olive oil.
A few anti-inflammatory staples that we stock up on include:
- Turmeric (for curries, stews and golden milk)
- Ginger (in teas, in curries and smoothies)
- Berries (low in sugar and rich in antioxidant polyphenols)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- COQ10 supplements (more on this here)
- Wild-caught salmon
- Sweet potatoes, butternut squash and carrots.
- Chia seeds
Seed cycling is often raved about in the world of women’s health, and whilst there is little specific scientific evidence to back up its claims, it is discussed acidotically for its benefits.
The concept behind it is driven by the lignans found in seeds and their power in balancing hormones. For example, during the first half of your cycle, you would include 1 tablespoon each of pumpkin seeds and flaxseed to support oestrogen levels and sunflower and sesame seeds in the second half to support progesterone.
It is also worth noting that pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which is believed to help decrease prostaglandin activity. Furthermore, vitamin E is a component of healthy progesterone synthesis. We want to maintain lovely high levels of progesterone throughout the second half of our cycles, which sesame and sunflower seeds are both rich in.
CBD is highly anti-inflammatory and often used as effective relief for painful periods and cramping. It can be used in many different ways, both as symptom relief and as an anti-inflammatory compound. Consider supplementing with a high-quality CBD oil under the tongue for the final few days of your luteal phase and through menstruation. We’ve linked our favourite brands below. Furthermore, there are many wonderful and innovative products out there that can be used in addition to these practices to help soothe the pain. A few of these include CBD tampons, CBD patches, bath bombs, massage oil and balm.
SHOP THE STORY
glow market and the content provided are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on glow market and The Scoop is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your doctor and/ or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.