Each month, women go through a cycle that offers them a monthly check in with their mind and body. A regular, painless cycle indicates that your body is healthy and in balance. On the contrary, imbalances such as irregular cycles, absent periods, and scant or heavy periods are messengers from the body that something is off. Luckily, it’s often possible to alleviate these symptoms with a few lifestyle adjustments.
When stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. Excess cortisol is capable of disrupting estrogen, a hormone that plays a vital role in a healthy period. Although stress is sometimes out of our control, there are numerous tools we can utilize when we are worked up. Meditation and breathwork are ways to decrease stress naturally by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Movement is another way to decrease stress and release estrogen, which leads me to my next recommended habit.
Exercising keeps your body's metabolic rate at an optimum level and helps release toxins. Activities like dance and yoga are known to have a positive impact on the body while menstruating by enhancing blood circulation. Gentle movement such as stretching, morning walks, and even bed yoga can be extremely beneficial during your cycle as they help loosen your muscles and get your blood pumping.
Unhealthy eating habits can lead to hormonal imbalances which can cause irregular periods and increased period pain. I recommend increasing your intake of whole grains, healthy fats, fruits, and leafy vegetables while incorporating certain herbal and mineral supplements. Turmeric is a natural pain reliever known to help reduce pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to modulate estrogen. Ginger can act as a natural ibuprofen and magnesium can also help to alleviate pain by relaxing and smoothing the muscles of the uterus. Fiber helps promote regular bowel movements when consumed daily at a minimum of 25 grams, which can help to detox excess estrogen.
At the start of your menstrual cycle, progesterone and estrogen levels are low which can cause your body to retain water and leave you feeling bloated. Retaining water means that fluids leak into the surrounding tissues instead of staying in your blood vessels. In order to stay adequately hydrated, you need to replenish them. Drinking at least eight glasses of water per day can help to relieve bloating, muscle cramps, and fatigue.
The onset of the menstrual cycle each month is a time of progesterone dominance, which may cause PMS, fatigue, mood swings, bloating and discomfort. Quality sleep is not only important to maintain overall health and well-being, but poor quality sleep has been shown to lead to irregular menstrual cycles.
Conscious care is essential for a healthy menstrual cycle. Altering your lifestyle to include a nutrient dense diet, stress relieving activities, optimal sleep, adequate hydration and regular movement, are simple but powerful tools for creating and maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle.*
*If symptoms persist, speak to a functional doctor.