Been feeling a little grumpy, moody or bitchy? Yep, that monthly visit from Aunt Flow is not often a pleasant one – for you or those around you…
What if women could manage period symptoms naturally to avoid the ugly side effects of moodiness, irritability, puffiness, bloating or stomach cramps?
Leading Sydney based naturopath Victoria O’Sullivan says that in most cases period pain is a representation of hormonal and nutritional imbalances in the body.
“Women don’t have to suffer from painful periods and most definitely shouldn’t put up with them. But before you go reaching for favoured short-term fixes such a paracetamol and a hot water bottle, start thinking long term. By making just a few small changes you can permanently manage the symptoms in as little as three cycles,” says Victoria.
Victoria’s top tips for reducing period pain in as little as three cycles:
1. Are you a sugar or caffeine addict? “Processed sugar can create a yeast overgrowth in the stomach, causing bloating and stomach cramps. Limit the sugar intake to natural sugar, and have no more than two pieces of fruit a day. Caffeine contains a compound called xanthine which aggravates inflammation in the body, causing the muscles to spasm which is what happens when we experience stomach cramps. Avoiding caffeine altogether will make it more likely for the period pains to reduce. If you can’t go without caffeine, have 1-2 cups of green tea a day instead,” Victoria says.
2. Herbs can help! “Ginger and turmeric both contain anti-inflammatory properties and can work as natural painkillers. They are also a lot less hard on the stomach than regular painkillers, which can eliminate good bacteria. Another important herb when dealing with period pains is chaste berry, also known as vitex agnus castus. This works well with balancing out the hormones oestrogen and progesterone,” Victoria says.
3. Don’t neglect those delicious greens. Vegetables of the broccoli family such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts are high in indoles which makes them excellent for maintaining a hormonal balance. “Ideally, women should have 6-7 cups of veggies a day and I encourage all my clients to measure this out to get an idea of how much we need daily,” Victoria says.
4. Feeling stressed? “Stress is very much linked with period pain,” Victoria says. “When stressed, our body produces increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower-than-healthy levels of progesterone. This causes a hormonal imbalance between our oestrogen and progesterone levels.” Victoria says a good solution is to work on decreasing stress. “A great reliever of stress is exercise, which releases the feel-good hormone endorphins in the body. Endorphins reduce pain and affects emotions,” Victoria says.
5. Don’t go overboard on the salt. Salt will draw fluids, causing you to retain water and bloat. Water retention in the body is also often the cause of sore breasts, which a lot of women experience in connection with their period. “The limit for women is 3-5 grams of salt a day,” Victoria says.
6. Essential fatty acids. “Period pain is a sign that the body is inflamed, and fish oil is high in Omega 3 essential fatty acids, which is an excellent anti-inflammatory. Other foods high in essential fatty acids are primrose oil, nuts, seeds and chia. We do not produce essential fatty acids internally which makes it quite important that we eat foods that contain them, if we are trying to reduce the inflammation in the body,” Victoria says.
7. Get a check-up. “It is important for me to underline that no woman should accept pains in connection with their period. If these tips do not relieve your pains or if the pains are becoming increasingly more painful, there could be underlying issues such as endometriosis or fibroids and you should go see your doctor or a health specialist such as a naturopath,” Victoria says.