Ladies, we need to make friends with our periods. I’ve said this before and I will say it again, our periods are our 5th vital sign. It is literally a benchmark of your health. For example: if it is irregular, nonexistent, too heavy, too light, or even the wrong colour, then it is telling you that your body as a whole is outta whack. You may be saying, Marissa, what are you talking about? Well, without nerding out too much, let me explain. The relationship with your brain and your ovaries governs the distribution of your hormones when you are of menstruating age. This means; when it comes to metabolism, your circadian rhythm, ability to regulate mood and emotions, the foods you need to eat and those you crave, if the brain and ovaries are out of sync you will have disruptions in many of these pathways. Therefore, it is super important for you to understand your period aka your body’s expression of this relationship, to understand yourself as a whole.
Today I will debunk the top 6 period symptoms and tell you why you may be having them and what to do in order to get some relief.
Cramps: Here is the thing about cramps: everyone is always going to have a mild version of them during their period because it is physically a series of contractions. It’s these contractions that support the body's process in shedding the endometrium (lining) of our uterus. However, not everyone needs to have achy, painful, I-think-I’m-going-to-stay-home-and-pass-out cramps. If you consider yours to be in the negative, painful category, then you may be deficient in magnesium or other essential vitamins or minerals. Without causing you too much worry, you may also have a condition called Polycystic ovarian syndrome, which basically means your ovaries have multiple cysts attached to them. Cystic or fibrotic ovaries can cause additional and sometimes painful cramping. Painful cramps could also mean you have an imbalance between your sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, Testosterone) and thus need to understand how balancing these hormones are key to our survival and ability to navigate and thrive as women.
So what do we do about it? Firstly, you can try increasing your magnesium. It is found in foods such as dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dried beans. A week to two weeks prior to menstruation, eat these. If you are unsure which magnesium is best for you, reach out to me by clicking HERE.
Dizziness: If you are experiencing dizziness, spinning-sensations or lack of balance, you could also be experiencing a hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, blood sugar dysfunction or low blood pressure. Leading up to your period your cortisol levels are naturally elevated and the metabolism is faster than in the beginning of your cycle and so pushing yourself hard at the gym may not be the best idea. ;) One of my recommendations is to stop participating in high-intensity training during this week of the month. If you want to avoid dizziness you can try to hone in on your diet and focus on eating the right foods at the right time (a Holistic Nutritionist can help with this), stop working out to access, and definitely stop restricting your calories. Change in Bowel Movement: Our hormones are intricately tied to our microbial balance in our gut and thus you may find you have a harder time having a bowel movement the week before your period. Or could notice loose stools during the first few days of your period. There are many reasons for these imbalances but I find low levels of progesterone or an inequity between progesterone and estrogen levels are often to blame for these challenges. This change in bowel movement can also mean you are not consuming enough dietary fibre.
Here’s what I would do; Eat more fibrous foods (berries, avocados, whole grains, apples, nuts and seeds, sweet potatoes), drink more water ( 2 litres daily), and increase your B vitamins- (especially B6 which feeds the adrenal glands and supports healthy levels of progesterone).
Cravings: Cravings, the mad ones, are a tell-tale sign of blood sugar dysregulation and/or a sign that you are eating the wrong foods at the wrong times. It could also be a symptom of insulin resistance or PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome).
Some people believe that when you are craving something, it is your body’s way of telling you that you are deficient in something… Well in many cases this is true. Here are the healthy options to soothe those cravings:
Hormonal Acne: If you tend to break out before or during that time of the month, it is a tell-tale sign that you have a hormone imbalance, which in many cases may means high testosterone or androgen excess (Ask me more about this HERE). Acne can also be a sign of inflammation, leaky gut, blood sugar imbalance, food sensitivities, and of course, the s-word, stress. I tell all of my clients with hormonal acne that now is the time to hone in on your diet. What we eat at different times of the month, and in general, can really help clear up our skin.
Bloated: When you feel bloated, your body is telling you that there may lie, yet another, hormone imbalance AKA too much of this and not enough of that. We have so many billions of bacteria in us and on us and often imbalances in these microbes cause our physical symptoms. (retaining water, more gas, harder to pass or loose stools, poor absorption of nutrients) Are you noticing the trend of how receiving the wrong foods at the wrong times really does effect how we look, feel and act?
So, what can you do to beat bloat? #1 Increase your fibre, #2 reduce alcohol, processed foods, soft drinks, and sugar, #3 exercise intuitively (based on where you are in your cycle vs. how society and diet culture deems you should and should not burn those calories), take a good full-spectrum probiotic. If you aren’t sure which one to take you can ask me by clicking HERE.
Lastly, balance your carbs, proteins, and fats whenever possible, and of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t remind you to eat clean.
In conclusion, and if you haven’t already noticed, your diet and your cycle are linked. Symptoms are common, yes, but they can be lessened or even eliminated with the right diet and lifestyle.
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Marissa Sylvester, BCN