Hellish period? Not anymore!
In a recent survey of Women’s Health, which released details of their misery-menstrual and now are offering solutions. It’s time to reclaim “that time of month.”
“I have cramps that feel like I’m giving birth to the spawn of Satan.” —Millarie K.
There’s a reason it feels a little like you’re in labor—your uterine muscles are contracting. They are on a mission to dislodge the uterine lining (that gunky stuff you see on its way out). Typically, these contractions (a.k.a. cramps) are spurred by prostaglandin hormones; the higher the levels you have, the worse you feel. Using a heating pad for 10 to 15 minutes can help dilate uterine blood vessels, picking up circulation and flushing out prostaglandins faster. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise each day can also up your heart rate and blood flow, per the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
If OTC anti-inflammatory painkillers aren’t helping and you’ve exhausted all natural options—including yoga and acupuncture—see an ob-gyn. Severe cramps can also be caused by dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or other genetic conditions. The first line of treatment is typically the Pill or another hormonal contraceptive, which can reduce your overall amount of uterine tissue.
“Ugh. I have what I call ‘period headaches.'” —Sharone H.
Those who suffer from dreaded menstrual migraines can blame one culprit for two period pains: The prostaglandin hormones that cause cramps can also attack the nerves in your head, says Vincent Martin, M.D., a headache expert at the University of Cincinnati. Taking a combo of OTC anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen and Rx meds such as sumatriptan when your symptoms start may block prostaglandin production, treating head and cramp pain. Studies also suggest women who took 150 daily milligrams of the herb butterbur for several months had fewer headaches overall.
“I feel as if I could sleep for a week.” —Trisha L.
No, you’re not just a slug. Any time you lose blood, you lose iron, an energizing mineral. Iron is also involved in making the mood-regulating hormone serotonin, which often dips during PMS, says Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, Sc.D., of the University of Massachusetts. In a study, women who ate more foods containing iron had less PMS. Try regularly noshing on iron-rich plant fare such as spinach, beans, or lentils to keep your levels steady all month long. Another study suggests that a popular East Indian spice called fenugreek may ease period-related fatigue when taken in supplement or powdered form (900 milligrams, three times daily during your period). Still feeling spent? Give yourself a break and your body the rest it needs. Build extra downtime into your pre-period schedule, say Pearlstein.
“I cry at sappy commercials.” —Carol-Ann N.
Drama alert! Some 20 to 30 percent of women are extra sensitive to the hormonal fluctuations that happen between ovulation and bleeding, and that may throw the brain chemicals that rule the emotions into a tailspin, says Teri Pearlstein, M.D., of the Alpert Medical School at Brown University. Try renovating your plate: Regularly loading up on complex carbs such as leafy greens and whole-grain foods can help keep your blood sugar—and your emotions!—steady, says Pearlstein.
“My sex drive goes through the roof right before my period!” —Letricia O.
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a problem…but it is a medical mystery. Typically, the randiest time of the month occurs during ovulation, about a week before PMS starts, when you’re likeliest to conceive. And while plenty of studies suggest PMS should lower libido, many women report the exact opposite. Some experts theorize that women may feel more psychologically liberated when their chances of getting knocked up are lower. And physically, orgasms are known cramp relievers. Or maybe it’s just that during a time when they crave extra TLC, women seek out the intimacy that comes with sex.
“The bloating is horrible; it’s like this massive pressure.” —Laura H.
Some 73 percent of women reported unpleasant gut symptoms before and during their periods. Surprisingly, no one knows exactly what triggers this monthly spike in water retention, but it’s known that salt and alcohol can make it worse. Steer clear of those and eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and walnuts. Just two daily grams of the stuff can help quell period-related bloating.
“My nipples become really sensitive. Sooo uncomfortable when I’m working out!” —Sarah S.
Sad but true: Along with extra breast volume can come extra tenderness, especially for women who are sensitive to rising levels of progesterone. The hormone activates breast cells, ostensibly preparing them for pregnancy, says Steven Sondheimer, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Some patients, he notes, report less pain when they cut down their daily caffeine intake. Research also suggests that women who regularly take around 60 daily milligrams of chasteberry extract have less breast tenderness (the fruit may help suppress prolactin, another breast-swelling hormone). Otherwise, investing in a very supportive sports bra “should make your breasts less vulnerable to the stress that exercise puts on your chest,” says Sondheimer. If you’re still in agony, try wearing silicone gel pads (typically around $15 and available at most drugstores) over your nipples to protect them from irritating friction.
“I have insatiable cravings. I want to eat everything in sight.” —Melissa B.
You’re not the only one who wants to park herself in front of a fried-Oreo stand. PMS cravings are ubercommon, and they start in the brain. That pre-period serotonin dip has been linked to yearnings for salty or sweet carbs, which may actually have serotonin-restoring properties. Another surprise: Sometimes it’s best to just give in to your biology…to an extent. “Usually one serving of something savory or chocolatey will satisfy you,” says Toby Smithson, R.D.N., of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (Note: one serving!) While you’re at it, stick with snacks that include some calcium; for unknown reasons, the mineral can reduce a handful of PMS symptoms.
Source: Women’s Health