I use to dread getting my period. Back when I was on The Pill, I’d avoid those sugar tablets like the plague and tried to skip as many periods as I could. (I’m so sorry, body!)
But I’ve since come to honor and respect my cycle, and I actually enjoy getting my period. I’ve learned how to live more in sync with my cycle, and it has completely changed the way I live my life.
It’s been a journey, and one that has taken many years of research, working closely with other women and experimenting with my own health and well-being practices. Along the way, I’ve picked up some pretty handy hacks for getting rid of the cramps, bloating and headaches that often come with periods.
Here are seven of my favorite period hacks, because why not enjoy this time?
1. Stay warm.
It sounds simple and obvious, but this one can really help with cramping. Whether it's a hot water bottle, heat pack or a knitted tummy warmer (I picked up on this when I lived in Japan. It's been a life-saver ever since), try to keep your midsection warm. It will help your muscles relax and prevent painful cramping, and it's also a great way to feel super snuggly and loved up at period time.
2. Increase your magnesium levels.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays an important role in a number of body processes, including healthy egg development. And considering it's one of the leading nutrient deficiencies in adults, most of us can do with more magnesium.
But how can it help with your period? Magnesium helps our muscles relax, which can alleviate menstrual cramps. It also helps to prevent migraines and headaches, and reduces fluid retention and bloating—other common problems associated with this time of the month.
Try taking a high quality, chelated magnesium supplement. Of course, if you're on any medications or have a medical condition, consult with your doctor first.
3. Ease up on the exercise.
There's no denying the benefits of exercise, but overdoing it at this time of the month can actually cause you damage. A study of professional female athletes found they were more likely to experience injuries at this time of the month. You're also more likely to strain your adrenals and send yourself into exhaustion. Too much intense exercise is also a leading cause of irregular cycles, and can cause your period to stop altogether.
This doesn't give you the green light to just veg on the couch all day though! It's important to keep moving, with gentle exercise known to improve menstrual flow and reduce pain. Exercise such as gentle yoga, stretching and walking are perfect. Or just bring your favorite exercise down to a more relaxed pace.
4. Avoid dairy.
Milk, cheese, cream and other dairy products can increase prostaglandins—the hormones that make your uterus contract during your period—and can make cramping worse. Try reducing these foods in your diet, or avoid them altogether when you're on your period. Your uterus will thank you for it.
5. Keep a journal.
Your period is a more quiet and internal time of the month. With all that's going on in your body and mind, you usually don't want to be out and about in the world. That makes it the perfect time to wind down and do some personal reflection. Spend time journalling about the last month, how you're feeling and what you want to create in the month ahead. Be open to any insights you might be missing in your life, and call forth your inner wisdom. It's especially sharp during this time.
6. Drink raspberry leaf tea.
Since caffeine should really be avoided when you're menstruating, raspberry leaf tea is the perfect warm drink for period time. This vitamin and mineral rich tea has been used to promote women's health for centuries. It contains fragrine, which helps to tone and strengthen the uterus, and has been shown to reduce cramping and discomfort during our periods. It also contains manganese and magnesium, which are key to promoting good fertility.
7. Track your period.
I truly believe this is something every single woman should be doing. Your period can tell you so much about your overall health, especially your fertility. But if you're not tracking it, you're missing out on all this information. If you do nothing else on this list, do this one thing.
A simple approach is to record when your period starts, when it finishes, the heaviness of your bleed and the color. If you're having any challenging symptoms, record when they're happening in your cycle, and their severity. It's also a good idea to include any lifestyle changes you make, from diet to exercise to the amount of sex you're having.
There you have it, seven hacks to optimize your period. Your cycle is full of information and is a communication coming directly from your body, so take advantage of the opportunity to listen and go inward. You'll be surprised at how much you can glean just by tuning in.