Make Your Period The Best Time Of The Month With mbg's Top Expert Tips On Hormone Balance, Supplements & More

Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor By Lindsay Kellner
Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor
Lindsay is a freelance writer and certified yoga instructor based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a journalism and psychology degree from New York University. Kellner is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” with mbg Sustainability Editor Emma Loewe.

Photo by Treasures & Travels

Do you remember the time you got your first period? Unless you’re one of the lucky few whose mothers loved and coached you through, chances are it wasn’t a sunshine and rainbows experience. Menstruation is so loaded with emotion, social judgment, and more often than not, personal shame.

Until very recently, hormonal health wasn’t discussed in a preventive context—in fact, unless you had a severe issue, and sometimes even that was overlooked depending on your doctor’s approach, you were probably put on hormonal birth control to wash away your skin, regularity, and cramping concerns. While this is indeed a helpful therapy for some women, the holistic health community widely believes that birth control treats symptoms of hormone imbalance without getting to the root cause.

So in the name of self-love (and exploration), we scoured the mbg archives for the best period advice and compiled it all here, speaking to a wide range of issues, ailments, symptoms, therapies, and research. Of course, talk to your doctor before making any changes to your hormone health regimen, especially with regard to supplements. Here’s to healing!

1. A pelvic castor oil massage can help decrease pain and inflammation.

"Castor oil is a wonderful oil used topically to decrease pain and inflammation. I'm not recommending that you drink it as a laxative! When applied over the uterus, it can increase blood flow and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (your resting and relaxing nerves) to calm uterine spasms and bowel spasms. Use 1 to 3 tablespoons and massage it over your uterus when you're in pain. The oil can stain your clothes, so wear old pjs and don't be shy about the amount you use; it will absorb overnight. You can also rub it on aching joints and tissues, like your breasts and low back."

Caleigh Sumner, Naturopathic Doctor

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2. Swap your normal workouts for a long, restorative walk during your period.

"When you're on your period, walk it out. You've probably heard that mild exercise is one of the best ways to relieve cramps, but even if you're not experiencing discomfort, menstruating is a time to go easy on yourself. Walk home from work or take an evening stroll with your partner—your body will thank you and your hormone levels will be just right."

Alisa Vitti, Integrative Nutritionist & Hormone Expert

3. Magnesium supplements can help with cramps.

"If you have a magnesium deficiency (only 20 percent of Americans get the recommended daily allocation of magnesium), supplementing with magnesium can be helpful for cramping. Meanwhile alcohol, caffeine, sodas, sugar, and processed foods can leach magnesium from your body and leave you prone to cramps. Luckily, food is one of the easiest ways to naturally supplement your magnesium intake, so reach for more leafy vegetables, beets, beans, shrimp, and salmon to naturally increase your daily intake of magnesium."

Kristen Karchmer, Fertility & Women's Health Expert

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4. Switching to green beauty can help regulate your period.

"Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are found in pretty much every commercial product imaginable—shampoos, soaps, makeup, toothpaste, cleaning products, nonstick coatings, and plastics—and they’ve been shown in studies to interfere with the body’s hormone system, or endocrine system.

For example, xenoestrogens are a common, man-made EDC that bind to your body’s estrogen receptor sites, throwing off the fragile balance of estrogen and progesterone (female sex hormones).

Estrogen has been linked to everything from endometriosis to cancer to fibroids, and while more research needs to be done, I found that removing estrogen-mimicking chemicals from my life was a powerful first step in getting my periods back on track.

I now opt for natural or homemade beauty and cleaning products and swapped my plastic storage containers for glass."

Jennifer Aldoretta, a real woman dealing with hormonal imbalance

5. When transitioning off hormonal birth control, these vitamins and minerals can build up your natural hormones.

"It can take some time for your body to adjust to making its own hormones again, so making sure to give your body the right environment to build and regulate hormones is essential to getting back to normal.

"Some of the most important vitamins and minerals for your hormones are vitamin C, vitamin A, the B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium. Cholesterol is also super important for building up your hormones, so make sure that you're eating healthy fats and not trying to subsist on a low-fat diet if your hormones seem to be going haywire.

"Overall, it's best to get your nutrients naturally from a healthy diet, but in some cases you may need to supplement after using hormonal birth control, especially with B vitamins since research suggests hormonal birth control can deplete them."

Hannah Ransom, Certified Fertility Awareness Educator

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6. Tame erratic cravings by eating fiber-rich foods.

"Everyone craves certain foods now and then, but if your cravings are out of control and you find yourself bingeing at various times of the month, your hormones are the likely culprits, and a diet heavy on sugar is the probable root cause. If you consume too much sugar, whether it's in the form of pasta, bagels, candy, or sugary beverages—your body has to churn out a hormone called insulin to break it down. Spikes in glucose and insulin can disrupt ovulation, shutting down your production of progesterone and setting you up for the troublesome effects of estrogen dominance.

"Try: Limiting your sugar intake and eating lots of fiber-rich foods that will help detoxify your liver and create more of a specific hormone called FGF21 that has been found to prevent sugar cravings."

Alisa Vitti, Integrative Nutritionist & Hormone Expert

7. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet, especially if you have endometriosis.

"To me, plant-based means whole-foods plant-based: food that is minimally processed or not processed at all. I'll eat, say, a rice pasta, which is processed, but I don't eat the fake meats or other processed food. I cut out gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar from my diet. I allowed myself once a week to have whatever I wanted. Once a week, I could have dairy. Or the next week, I'd have gluten. Once I started doing that, the once-a-week things turned into once a month, because I just felt terrible. I was like, why do I want to feel bad once a week? And then those freebie days slowly disappeared."

Jessica Murnane, founder of One Part Plant and women's health advocate

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8. Drink a hormone-balancing tonic, like turmeric-rich golden milk.

"Golden Milk is the ultimate hormone-balancing concoction, and it’s also warming, soothing, and delicious. The combination of turmeric, coconut oil, coconut milk, sweeteners, and spices is warming and rejuvenating, and it’s something I recommend to clients with all kinds of endocrine issues.

"Turmeric, the powerful, potent spice that plays a big role in ayurvedic medicine, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and improve circulation and estrogen metabolism. In ayurveda, turmeric is considered an important tool in combating everything from amenorrhea and endometriosis to fibroids and cysts, and the other ingredients, including coconut milk, are wonderful sources of healthy fats.

"Anecdotally, I’ve found Golden Milk to be a great supplement for women trying to combat bad cramps, an underactive thyroid, or super-cold hands and feet. And—bonus—the recipe is easy!

"Instructions: To get the most out of your milk, it’s best to first cook a golden paste by blending 5 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, ½ cup organic turmeric powder, 1 cup water, and 1½ teaspoons black pepper in a pot and simmer for about 10 minutes. Once this cools, you can keep it in the refrigerator in a jar for about two weeks and just take a dollop every time you make the milk.

"To make the milk, warm 2 cups of coconut milk and 1 teaspoon of the golden paste in a pot, and whisk until fully mixed. Then add cinnamon, honey, and maple syrup to taste. For an added kick, you can also add cayenne pepper!"

Alisa Vitti, Integrative Nutritionist & Hormone Expert

9. Yes, do yoga on your period. These poses will help with cramping.

"Asanas focused around the belly, pelvis, and spine can relieve some of the pain," says Mary Dana. "I'll often focus my practice on sun salutations with twists and squats, prone backbends, seated twists, hip openers, and forward bends. If you're in a lot of pain and need to keep it simple, stick to child's pose and easy supine twists."

—Yoga instructor Mary Dana Abbott

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10. A master herbalist recommends subbing fennel seed for an NSAID (OTC painkiller) for menstrual pain, nausea, and fatigue.

"A 2012 study found that fennel seed was more effective than a placebo for controlling severe menstrual pain. On average, women started the study with 6 out of 10 menstrual pain, and five hours after taking fennel seed, they rated their pain just a 1 out of 10. And fennel seed isn't just better for cramps than placebo pills; it holds its own against potent pharmaceutical painkillers.

"In a study of severe menstrual pain among high school students, fennel seed was found to treat pain as well as mefenamic acid (a typical NSAID used for treating menstrual pain). Even better, there were no reports of side effects in the fennel seed group, while possible side effects of mefenamic acid include nausea, diarrhea, rashes, autoimmune anemia, and kidney toxicity.

"Fennel seed has also been shown to relieve nausea and fatigue associated with menstrual bleeding, decrease the duration of the period, and improve overall feelings of well-being when taken over several cycles."

Kristen Karchmer, Fertility & Women's Health Expert

Interested in learning more about your cycle? Try tracking your period and syncing your cycle with an app. PS, you'll want to swap your tampons out for these.

And are you ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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