Like a lot of women, I used to dread getting my period every month. During what I would consider a normal cycle, I was in pain because of cramps for hours on end, always exhausted, and had heavy bleeding. I noticed that right before my period started I was unable to focus and needed to take a nap right before my cycle started. During some of my worst periods, I remember vomiting in public because I suddenly felt a sharp pain everywhere from the waist down. I also recall bleeding through my super tampon, my clothes, and onto a chair in my 8:40 am lecture (I remember putting my tampon in 20 mins before class).
I always assumed that my periods were just going to be difficult for as long as I had them and that there was nothing I could do about it. My life revolved around my cycle — I would avoid social outings and in college, I often would skip lectures because I physically could not get up in the morning. It wasn’t until I really started to research my symptoms and read about the experiences of others who made efforts to improve their periods that I realized things were not normal I should try to prevent my symptoms instead of accepting them.
Through trial and error and several lifestyle changes, I can now say that I have a much more manageable cycle– I am no longer a slave to “Aunt Flo” and do not have anxiety about her anymore. Here are 5 things I believe made a big difference in helping alleviate my period symptoms:
- Using the Cycle Tracking feature on the Health app — Although this might seem obvious to some, actually having an idea of when your cycle is about to start is the first step to managing your symptoms. That meant I knew when to buy feminine care products and check to see if I had run out of Aleve before my period started. That meant making sure I had the right foods in my pantry and my “period friendly clothes” washed and ready to wear. Having a sense of control in some way also helped me keep my stress levels down.
- Eating a balanced diet that focuses on anti-inflammatory foods – Studies show that eating foods that decrease inflammation in the body can help to tame menstrual cramps overtime. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Research has shown that due to the high level of antioxidant rich foods, both vegan and plant-based eating patterns can work to decrease inflammation in the body. I try to always meal prep before my period and keep foods like kale, lentils and quinoa in mind when choosing what to eat. Of course, I still have a treat every once in a while!
- Choosing my feminine care products wisely — Although I am a fan of tampons over pads (who really wants to feel like they are wearing a diaper), when I commited to wearing pads for the majority of my cycle, I noticed that the intensity of my period cramps significantly decreased. Please note: Tampons do not necessarily cause period cramps, but they can make the cramps that you have feel worse if you get inflammation during your cycle. Personally, I wear pads to sleep and while I am at home, and tampons when I am out and about. I recently made the switch to organic tampons and reusable pads because I am trying to be more conscious of what I put in my body. Things are going well so far, but are plenty of other options available and I recommend everyone explore them.
- Eliminating caffeine during my cycle — This was tough because I love having a matcha in the morning. I learned that for me, drinking caffeine during my period can actually make my cramps worse. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it makes the blood vessels in your body constrict. This can cause the vessels in your uterus to tighten, making your period cramps even more painful than they already are. While this may not help everyone, once I switched to caffeine free tea blends during the day, I noticed that my cramps were less severe.
- Staying active – Honestly I still have trouble with this, but exercising during your cycle is so beneficial. Personally for me, I feel my mood shift after a workout and my energy levels are so much higher. This Healthline article outline some of the benefits of exercising during your period and I also used this Sweats and the City blog post as a guide when I first decided to be more active during my period. That being said, I recommend you pace yourself, do what works for you or consult a medical professional if you are not sure.
And there you have it! These 5 things really helped me change my life for the better and I hope this helps someone out there in some way. Please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments or through DM on Instagram.