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THE FIX

Menstrual Health and Period Cycles Explained


Menstrual Health and Period Cycles Explained


One of the most talked-about cycles in an adult woman's life is the period cycle. But what is a period or menstrual cycle, and why it is so important?  Today we look at the significant details and answers to these questions regarding this feminine phenom.

What is a Period Cycle?

A period cycle is the monthly bleeding repeating after a specific interval from a woman's uterus each month, often called menstruation. The period cycle or menstruation is a hormonal cycle of a woman's body that is a part of a healthy female reproductive system. in a period, cycle, a female's body goes through to prepare for pregnancy. The menstrual cycle is counted from the first day when bleeding starts up to the first day of your next period. The release of period cycle hormones oestrogen and progesterone are important throughout the menstrual cycle. The level of these hormones varies during different stages of the menstrual cycle.

Stages of Period Cycle

There are different stages of a period cycle regulated by varying levels of reproductive hormones. These are

Follicular Phase

During this stage of the menstrual cycle, the uterus lining builds up and get thickens with fluids and nutrients to prepare for pregnancy or implant the fertilised egg.

Ovulation Phase

This phase is called the ovulation phase of the period cycle. The egg is released from the fallopian tube into the uterus. This process is termed ovulation.

Luteal Phase

when the egg is not fertilised in the uterus, oestrogen and progesterone hormone levels fall to shed the monthly build-up lining of the uterus. Menstrual blood and discarded tissue lining flow from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix out of your body through the vagina.

How Long is a Regular Period Cycle?

The menstrual cycle is usually 28 days long, but each woman's cycle length may vary anywhere from one week to more than two weeks. Also, a woman's period cycle is still "said regular" if they repeat every 24 to 38 days.

Some women's periods are much more regular than others to predict the day and time they will start. Other women are regular but can only expect the start of their period within a few days. Irregular period cycles can cause hormonal disturbances and many other health problems in females. If your periods are continuously irregular for a few months, consult a specialist.

What Are the Benefits of Tracking Your Period Cycle?

For many women, a missed period is the first indication of pregnancy. That fact alone is reason enough for sexually active women to keep track of their monthly cycles. Most forms of birth control don't quite hit the 100% effectiveness mark.

Using apps to track our periods can allow us to see when we feel most energetic during the months, most creative and how our emotion flows.  This allows us to plan, embrace and ride the flowing cycle.

In addition to traditional birth control, using apps to track our cycles allows the following of the"rhythm method" or "natural cycle method" — This method is that a woman avoids sex during her most fertile days to prevent pregnancy if that is what she desires, or notes her most fertile windows if pregnancy is her wish.

Women trying to conceive can use period tracking to learn when they are the most fertile. This may boost the chances of conception significantly.

Tracking Your Period for Health Reasons

The more closely you know about your body and your period cycles, the better you can understand when something is wrong or different. For sexually active women, a change or delay in a period cycle can be the first sign of pregnancy. Not only that, several women's health issues, even of non-reproductive, have a connection with irregular period cycles. An irregular period cycle may indicate a hormonal disorder, thyroid issue, liver problems, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes or many other health conditions. Women also experience a change in periods when adopting a new exercise routine, gaining or losing a significant amount of weight. Emotional health directly affects the menstrual cycle, such as suffering from an episode of extreme stress.

There is no need to get panic with one late, early or missed period. However, if the menstrual irregularity is becoming a routine, you should consult with an OB/GYN doctor.

What to Track in the Period Cycle?

The thing that comes next is what to track in a period cycle? Well, there are recommendations from health professionals that you need to keep track of:

  • Unusual abdominal cramping, headaches, forgetfulness, bloating, and breast tenderness.
  • Was your bleeding earlier or later than expected?
  • Was your bleeding heavier or lighter than you usually have in your regular menstrual cycles?
  • Do you feel extreme pain or bleeding resulted in missing work or school?
  • What is the average duration of your periods? Was your period shorter or longer than the month before?
  • Emotions
  • Energy Levels
  • Libido

Nowadays, many apps can help you track your periods, your premenstrual symptoms, energy level, and others.  

How Does Your Period Cycle Affect Your Health?

A healthy female period cycle is not only crucial for reproductive health, but changing hormone levels throughout this cycle can also influence or trigger other health problems in women.

  • Depression and anxiety disorders: Depression and anxiety are common with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The mood swings in the period cycle are common and may get worse before or during your period.  Tracking helps to understand the feelings happening within our bodies.
  • Asthma: The symptoms of asthma may become worse during some parts of the female period cycle in some women.11
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): IBS refers to cramping, bloating, and gas. These symptoms may get more severe right before the periods.
  • Bladder pain syndrome: Women with bladder pain syndrome may be more suffered from painful cramps during PMS.

Supporting PMS 

For those who suffer with PMS and, or PMDD, below we explore how to soothe, nurture and nourish the symptoms:

What is PMS?

PMS, short for pre-menstrual syndrome, is a combination of physical, behavioural or emotional signs that are experienced by people who have a menstrual period. PMS symptoms include:

  • Tender or swollen breasts
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Moodiness
  • Food cravings (usually for sweet, sugary things)
  • Bloating, fluid retention and in some cases a temporary increase in weight
  • Anxiety
  • Tiredness
  • Skin breakouts
  • Body/back aches
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Difficulty concentrating

When Does PMS Start and Stop?

PMS symptoms are a sure sign that your period is on its way. Symptoms usually start anywhere between 4 – 10 days before your period is due and will stop once the bleeding starts – although, you may still experience some abdominal discomfort.

If you experience any, or all of the above symptoms, we recommend upping the ante on certain nutrients and foods at this time and cutting down, or removing others.

Comforting PMS. Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid During Your Period.

PMS Shopping List

Quinoa

Quinoa is rich in nutrients such as iron, protein, and magnesium. It has a low glycemic Index which means you are likely to sustain your energy levels throughout the day after eating it.

Watermelon

Thirst quenching, water-rich fruits, such as watermelon are great for staying hydrated. Sweet fruits can help you curb your sugar cravings without eating a lot of refined sugars, which can cause your glucose levels to spike and then crash. Other water rich fruits include apricot, blueberries, oranges, cucumber and peaches.

Natural Yoghurt

Pro-biotic rich foods such as yogurt can nourish the good bacteria in your vagina and may help you fight the infections. 

Yogurt is also rich in magnesium and other essential nutrients, like calcium.

Fibre Rich Foods

Fibre is important to include in our diet throughout all stages of our cycles.  Beautifully Nourished’s Fibre Pro contains Pysllium husk powder, Inulin powder, probiotic Lactobacillus Acidophilus 10 billion, making it a great aid to digestion, which can get a little backed up during our period and the countdown to it!

Leafy Green vegetables

It is common to experience a dip in iron levels during our periods. This can lead to fatigue, bodily pain, and dizziness.

Make sure you are eating enough protein and dark, leafy green vegetables throughout the day, especially in the week leading up to your period. Leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach can boost your iron levels. Spinach is also rich in magnesium.

Dark chocolate YES!!! Chocolate made the list!!! *happydance*

Dark Chocolate is rich in iron and magnesium. A 100-gram bar of 70 to 85 percent dark chocolate contains 67 percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for iron and 58 percent of the RDI for magnesium.

Happy bar snapping!

Nuts and seeds

Most nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and they’re a great source of protein. They also contain magnesium and various vitamins such as selenium (brazil nuts). Try nut butters and nut-based milks also.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids can reduce the intensity of period pain. For those who experience mood swings and depression around menstruation, omega-3s may be helpful.

Beautifully Nourished’s OMEGA 3,6,9 features Omega 3s from Flaxseed Oil.

Tofu

Made from soybeans, tofu is rich in iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Peppermint Tea

Peppermint tea has been shown to soothe the symptoms of PMS, helping to relieve menstrual cramps, nausea, and diarrhoea.

Water

Drinking a lot of water is always important, and this is especially true during your period. Staying hydrated can reduce your chances of getting dehydration headaches. a common symptom of menstruation.

Drinking plenty of water can also stop you from retaining water and bloating.

Beautifully Nourished’s 5HTP

For PMS, 5-HTP works to increase serotonin production which can alleviate symptoms of premenstrual depression, anxiety and sleeplessness. 

Cacoa

Pass the Cocoa. Nap, snooze and cosy down.

Below we are referring to the benefits of raw, un-roasted cacoa.

Cacao is the primary dietary source of magnesium, the most deficient mineral in western civilisation.  Cacao beans also contain 10 grams of flavanol antioxidants per 100 grams, which is an incredible 10%.  Research has also demonstrated that the antioxidants in Cacao are highly stable and easily available to human metabolism.

Cacoa is a great mood elevator and source of serotonin, dopamine, anandamide and phenylethylamine (PEA), four well-studied neurotransmitters, which are associated with feelings of well being and help alleviate depression. Both PEA and anandamide (the bliss chemical) are found in abundance in the brains of happy people and are particularly released when we are feeling happy. Both of these neurotransmitters are present in raw cacao in large enough quantities to affect the brain and lift our moods. Cacao also contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO I's) that keep neurotransmitters in the bloodstream for longer without being broken down.

Foods to Avoid During Period

While all foods are just fine in moderation, you might want to avoid certain foods that worsen the symptoms of your period.

Salt

Consuming lots of salt leads to water retention, which can result in bloating. To reduce bloating, avoid adding salt to your foods and avoid highly processed foods that contain a lot of sodium.

Sugar

Consuming too much refined sugar can cause a spike in energy followed by a crash, which can worsen our moods. When you crave something sweet, try honey, raw-dark chocolate, fruits and dates. A combination of all works well.

Coffee 

Caffeine can cause water retention and bloating and enhance the intensity of headaches. Do not increase coffee consumption more than your usual intake at this time. 

Alcohol

Alcohol can have a number of negative effects on your body.  Going alcohol free during this time definitely comes with some pluses!

For example, alcohol dehydrates us, which can worsen headaches and cause bloating. It can also lead to digestive issues, such as diarrhoea and nausea.

Spicy Foods

If your stomach struggles to tolerate spicy foods or if you’re not used to eating them, it might be best to avoid them during your period.

Red Meat

During our periods, our bodies produces prostaglandins. These compounds help our uterus contract and get rid of the uterine lining, resulting in menstrual flow. High levels of prostaglandins cause cramps.

Red meat is high in iron, but it is also high in prostaglandins and should be avoided during menstruation.  Opt for iron rich alternatives such as lentils, dark leafy vegetables and pulses.

Foods we are Knowingly Sensitive to

We have all been there-knowing we are sensitive to certain foods and reaching for them anyway! 

If you do have known food sensitivities, really try and avoid these foods during your period.

We recommend, at this time of your month, look after yourself especially well and create a couple of wellbeing days, just for you.  

The Menstrual cycle is one of life's beautiful cycles and when we tap into our womb space, providing love and support, magical things can happen!

It is after all, the space in which all life begins. 

Dr Ayesha Gulzar, PharmD, Doctor of Pharmacy, Research and Medicine
Katherine Elyse Blake, BSC Nutrition, ANutr, Founder

#womenshealth #menstrualhealth #peoplethatbleed

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