It’s that time of the month. Again. Bloating, crying, chocolate eating, stomach clutching, and a good excuse to throw things at anyone who annoys you. It’s perfectly normal to feel like this. Every woman experiences it, in different ways.
But is it?
A ‘normal’ cycle
Just because the above picture is common, it doesn’t mean it’s normal. A healthy menstrual cycle should be 21-35 days, with bleeding for 2-7 days and a total flow of around 80ml. There should be no symptoms of pre-menstrual tension (PMT) and no pain.
Is this possible, I hear you say?
In fact, healthy menstruation is not only possible and achievable, but a difficult menstrual cycle is a sign that something is not right.
Very painful periods can be a sign of endometriosis, a heavy flow can indicate fibroids and oestrogen overload, irregular bleeding points to progesterone deficiency, and missed periods can be due to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), thyroid conditions or coeliac disease.
Don’t ignore the pain
Pain is a type of defence mechanism used by the body to alert us that something is wrong. Just like you wouldn’t ignore regular chest pain, don’t ignore period pain.
Oral contraception (‘the Pill’) may mask pain and symptoms of hormonal imbalance, but it does not treat the underlying issue and may make the problem worse, so holistic approaches are well worth considering.
Magnesium, zinc and B vitamins are all essential for proper female hormone production. In one study, zinc improved period pain in adolescents, and magnesium regulates stress hormones, lowers blood sugar and helps with sleep, mood swings and fluid retention.
Stress and progesterone
The female hormone ‘progesterone’ is used to manufacture stress hormones, so when we are stressed it gets used up (called the “progesterone steal”), leaving little for menstrual regulation.
Stress also increases pain, and period pain is no exception. Think of activities to reduce stress, and spend a few hours a week doing something you enjoy.
Proper oestrogen clearance also depends on good gut and liver function – if this is out of whack, oestrogen builds up and causes imbalance. Liver and gut health can be improved with herbs like milk thistle, a good diet and pre/probiotics.
Inflammatory molecules called prostaglandins are involved in pain and PMT, and are produced during stress, infection, allergy or in response to certain foods.
Dairy products produced with ‘A1 milk’ are a common source of inflammation in people who show sensitivity to the protein A1 casein, found in milk from certain types of cows. Simply switching to sheep and goat products may make your period pain a thing of the past!
Don’t suffer in silence
Severe pain that does not respond to ibuprofen or herbal painkillers may be a sign of endometriosis. This autoimmune condition must be treated properly, with a combination of conventional and herbal approaches for the best results.
It IS possible to have a healthy menstrual cycle. Don’t suffer in silence!