Some of us get emotional, some of us get cramps, some of us bloat… but WE ALL GET PERIODS. I’m talking about our time of the month ladies, something we don't discuss enough. When on our period our bodies go through so many natural changes we are all used to but never quite able to control month to month. Despite our fertility being a beautiful and life-giving process it does not seem that way when it knocks us dead and makes a daily task a challenge (like getting out of bed).
Something I didn't know going into prep for my bikini competition is how your diet can have an affect on your time of the month. I started to worry as my period became irregular, for a while I wondered if it was my pill playing up then one day it just came along, the heaviest I had ever experienced and an abnormally painful period. Scarily so. I spoke to my bikini girls and found that a lot of theirs had actually stopped completely.
I done some digging and found loads of female athletes with low body fat percentages report several irregularities, abnormally painful periods and even no period at all. In order to maintain a regular cycle it is recommended to be a healthy 20-30% body fat for women. Unfortunately for us that means not having abs all year round (damn it).
There was me working myself up, unsure if my pill was failing then worried my period was too heavy to be normal. In the end I found out because my body fat % was lower than usual. But had this been a topic of conversation, something out there on social media I wouldn't have had to worry knowing I wasn't alone.
This is why I decided to write a blog ALLLLL about our menstrual cycle because we clearly need to talk!
So, let’s start off with the nitty gritty we never discuss (and the part where any male now aborts reading). Menstruation is the name given to the regular monthly discharge of blood and mucosal tissue through a woman’s vagina. When going through this process we often experience dysmenorrhoea, or as we know it: period pain.
Period pain is extremely normal with around 80% of women experiencing cramps throughout their lifetime. But why does your period bring on cramps?
Every month, our body prepares for pregnancy. But as we know, if no pregnancy occurs the womb sheds its lining. This is menstruation. During menstruation, the muscles surrounding the wall of the womb contract more than normal, pressing up against blood vessels. Due to this pressure, blood supply is cut off temporarily also cutting off oxygen supply to the womb- gosh this sounds dramatic, right?
Anyway, with no oxygen supply the tissues in the womb release chemicals that trigger pain called prostaglandins. These chemicals are the same chemicals released in your body in response to injuries and infection- hence the triggering of pain. Some women experience a build-up of prostaglandins leading to more severe menstrual cramps.
There are many ways to relieve this pain without relying on paracetamol and ibuprofen.
You are floored with pain, the last thing you want to do is exercise BUT taking the time to go for a light cardio workout may be all you need to curb the cramps.
When taking part in aerobic exercise i.e. jogging, cycling or swimming your body is prompted to release endorphins which are feel-good hormones (a natural high). Endorphins are the knight in shining armour as they fight off the nasty prostaglandins.
It doesn’t have to be anything intense, a brisk walk will do, just make sure you are getting your heart rate up. Women’s Health study states how just 150 minutes of medium to intense activity per week can help prevent future cramps
From downward dog into child’s pose, if cardio is not your thing yoga might be the answer. Gentle exercise such as yoga has also been found to relieve cramps by relaxing the muscles and improving blood flow to the pelvic area.
Often women experience cramp in their legs and lower back, here are a few yoga poses to target the troubled areas. Try these out the next time you are feeling a little under the weather: https://www.popsugar.co.uk/fitness/Skip-Ibuprofen-Do-Yoga-Poses-Ease-Period-Pain-37990826
3. Cuddle the bottle
Applying heat to the pained area is one of the best ways to ease the cramps from the comfort of your sofa. You can get over the counter heated patches and pads however a hot water bottle will do the trick!
Once thought to be a placebo effect, scientists have now proved that heat does actually deactivate pain on the same level as ibuprofen. The contracting muscles causing the cramps are relaxed when heat is applied to the skin hence relieving the cramps deep under the surface.
Although this is a short-term pain relief so it is probably best to use this at night to relax you to sleep if the cramps are keeping you awake.
What better excuse to book in for an hour-long relaxation session right? Massages have been found to relax muscles effected and relieve effects of dysmenorrhoea.
Although if you don’t have the time (or money) to book in for a spa experience don’t worry- You can do it yourself too. Even 5 minutes a day will soothe the troubled areas, focus on your lower back and abdomen using either your finger tips or knuckles knead the skin and apply pressure to relax the muscles and fight off your cramps.
5. Herbal remedy
Herbal teas such as chamomile and peppermint are a great soothing remedy to ease the cramps and also act as a prevention for future period pain.
Chamomile in particular is specifically recommended to help with cramps because of its history with soothing muscle spasms. The herb contains glycine, an amino acid your body requires which is proven to relieve and prevent muscle spasms hence relaxing the muscles involved in period cramps.
As mentioned, there is always over the counter pain killers however with so many other options it is best to try out home remedies before turning to medicines.
The next time you are suffering from period pain try out the above and see what works for you.
AND don't forget to discuss it with friends, you know your body, if something doesn't seem right TALK ABOUT IT !