Periods aren’t quite as scary as we think they are. During the month, estrogen is hard at work building up a uterine lining to make a hospitable environment for pregnancy. At the middle of your cycle, your progesterone levels kick up, causing you to ovulate. After about a week, once your body is sure that fertilization hasn’t occurred, these hormone levels plummet and your uterine lining starts to break down—and needs to get out so that a fresh lining can start building. This is your period. And the quick changes in hormone levels give you those not-so-great side effects, like bloating, and acne, while muscle contractions restricting blood flow to the uterus cause cramps. And while most ladies are able to power through that time of the month, we want to help make your time a little easier.
For your cramps:
1. Don’t shy away from painkillers. This doesn’t just mean popping some Advil around your period (although that can be a good option). A great, all-natural way to fight cramping is drinking ginger tea. There are tons of teabags on the market, but for slightly more adventurous ladies, DIY ginger tea is simple to make and more potent (which means you’ll get all the same effects, just stronger—a great solution for women with bad cramps). All you need to do is scrub, peel and chop a ginger root and dump it into boiling water. Then let it simmer for about 20 minutes and strain.
2. Use a hot-water bottle. These are old-fashioned and can be hard to come by, but if you can find one, use it. Heat will help reduce the swelling in your uterus, which should take some of the pain away. The light pressure a hot-water bottle provides also helps alleviate pain by easing your muscles, which will make them unclench and give you some relief.
3. Try using pads instead of tampons. Tampons put pressure on your lower uterus and cervix, which can make cramping worse. If you really don’t want to use pads, try using smaller tampons and just changing them more frequently.
4. Don’t stop exercising. It’s definitely tempting to let yourself off the hook when you’re on your period, but that actually makes it worse. Doing a light work out routine during your period helps increase blood flow and release stress, which is a big help with cramps. Exercise will also help you feel less bloated and more energetic, and will give you the endorphin boost you need to feel better about your body. Yoga is a great, low-impact way to continue exercising through your period, especially since many classes focus on breathing through pain, rather than succumbing to it (a great way to combat cramping).
For your body:
1. Eat healthy. You don’t have to shy away from the chocolate completely, and giving in to a few of your cravings can definitely help with your mood (in fact, recent studies have shown that allowing yourself the occasional guilty pleasure may increase happiness and security). But giving in to your cravings, especially the ones that aren’t so good for you, can also make you feel more bloated (and less happy). Try subbing out chocolate for other yummy, healthier treats, like avocado. Avocado is especially great because it is rich and creamy, it keeps you full, and it is packed with good fats that increase metabolism, resulting in an overall slimmer feel.
2. Stay hydrated. The biggest culprit for period bloating is water retention. Staying hydrated helps your body understand that it doesn’t have to store up excess water, so it will actually help flush the excess water out of your system, which will keep you from getting bloated. It sounds counterintuitive, but it works! Plus, increasing your liquid intake around your period can help you avoid the skin irritations that come with
3. Avoid salt. Salt is a huge factor in bloating. A great way to avoid bloating is to decrease your sodium intake in the week leading up to your period. This should help you feel lighter, and will make a big difference in how your body reacts to your period.
4. Get your vitamins. Certain studies have shown a link between calcium intake and bloating. If your bloating is bad, try taking a calcium tablet (or drinking a glass of milk). This should help get rid of some of your excess water and decrease your bloating. Plus, some studies have seen a possible correlation between vitamin intake and cramping, so taking a multivitamin may help in both areas.
For your skin:
1. Cleanse. Before your period, progesterone causes your pores to shrink, which looks great for a few days. But once those levels plummet, oils that were trapped in your skin come out, which can lead to acne. So it is especially important to use a gentle daily cleanser around your period. Washing your face thoroughly will get rid of this excess oil and help combat acne.
2. Exfoliate. Just like cleansing, using an exfoliating scrub can help combat your oily skin. This is most effective right before your period, because exfoliation will help reduce the amount of oil trapped beneath the skin. But be careful once your period has started— your skin is more sensitive during that time, so over-exfoliation during your period can actually make your skin worse, not better.
3. Moisturize. Using an unscented moisturizer will help keep your skin hydrated, and will help calm it. Moisturizing is an especially important step after cleansing or exfoliating, because many products dry out your skin. Remembering to moisturize will help get rid of those unwanted bumps, and give you a healthy glow.
Many of the remedies above can help with more than just one symptom of your period, making their effects even greater. Keep these tricks in mind for a happier period. And don’t forget to relax—sometimes watching Dirty Dancing can really help!