A Guide to Menstruation
A number of hormonal changes happen within the body during puberty. Menstruation is a reflection of monthly rhythmic changes in the secretion of female hormones. The beginning of these cycles is a girl’s transition into womanhood, though the age at which one begins this journey is never the same across the spectrum. Most girls start their cycle somewhere between age 10-15, though the most common age is 12. Some girls begin earlier or later depending on their body’s organic chemistry and bio-individuality.
Most everyone experiences emotional and physical symptoms around the time of their period; the symptoms range from irritability to bloating and breast tenderness, cramping, and headaches. Though the majority of women experience some negative emotions surrounding their period, this time in a girl’s life is very sacred and should be handled with delicacy and celebration.
Education on anatomy, the process of menstruation, physical changes that happen to the body (breast enlargement, vulva shape, wider hips, hair growth), and natural alternatives to pads and tampons can be explored at this time. The more we know about our bodies and how hard they work to keep us healthy, the more we can truly appreciate and love them. Our menstrual cycle is such an intricate and beautiful phase to enter into, though it can feel overwhelming for young girls beginning their journey.
Here are some lifestyle recommendations which make this transition through womanhood much easier.
Staying hydrated throughout the day will help eliminate the bloating and discomfort associated with menstruation. Drinking an adequate amount of water will also help keep your flow moving and prevent stagnation, which can result in blood clots. Consume half your weight in oz. daily to support the body during this transitional time.
Drink water from a glass bottle and drink filtered or spring water as often as possible! Avoid plastic water bottles as they contain toxic chemicals that mess with your hormones.
One of the most important factors of a healthy cycle is circulation. The more you move, the healthier your circulation is. This supports a balanced menses, helps to relieve cramping and regulates blood flow.
Decreased or interrupted sleeping patterns can cause hormone imbalance and a rise in cortisol, adding to stress within the body. Sleep is such an important component to staying healthy, especially to support your body through this change.
Sleep in a dark room without light, use essential oil such as lavender to support relaxation and drink calming teas before bed. Setting boundaries with electronic use and homework is also helpful. Aim to unplug at least 1-2 hours before bed.
Avoid cold food and drinks during your cycle. This improves circulation around the lower back & lower abdomen and keeps your body warm and supported. Cold drinks can also lower HCl production in the digestive system, causing gas and bloating.
A cold environment can have the same effect, so do your best to stay warm. Warm water bottles, showers & baths, and lots of blankets are helpful.
BUILD YOUR BLOOD
It is common to be iron deficient due to blood loss during your menstrual cycle. A component of blood called hemoglobin consists of iron molecules that help our body bring oxygen to cells. Since hemoglobin is a blood component, a good amount is lost during menstruation.
Symptoms of anemia include: headaches, fatigue, and weakness.
Foods rich in iron include: dark leafy greens, nettle tea, liver, eggs, chlorella, spirulina, pumpkin seeds, mulberries, raw beet greens, molasses, and lentils.
AVOID ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS.
Avoid conventionally raised animal products such as chicken, eggs, beef, and dairy. Choose organic animal products instead. Fast food and junk food contain chemicals in abundance, so opting for healthier (yet still delicious) options whenever possible will prepare the body for menstruation.
The healthier the body, the less likely complications are to arise and the more likely it will be able to do its job. Using quality, organic foods will help the body do just that!
Chasteberry is native to the Mediterranean and has long been used for women’s health. This herb is probably the most effective for young women beginning their cycle. Often times, the most difficult part of beginning the menstrual cycle is dealing with the physical and emotional symptoms that come with it.
Hormone regulation is essential when it comes to your period, as increased or decreased secretion of certain hormones may cause you to feel symptoms such as cramping, headache, tender breasts, mood swings, and bloating.
Chasteberry can be consumed as an infusion, capsule, tincture, or herbal tea. Though tincture form may be the most simple option. If your hormones feel unbalanced, take 2-3 droppers full in a small amount of water every day.
Red raspberry leaf is a uterine tonic. It helps to support and tonify the uterus pre-menstruation - it relieves menstrual cramping & pain and reduces heavy period flows. It’s helpful just before your period begins and during your cycle.
Best taken as a tea or infusion. Drink daily through menstruation.
Nettle is rich in minerals and high in iron. It’s also a powerful antidote for anemia, and is also deeply nourishing pre & post cycle, helping build the blood. Nettle also supports kidney health, and clears urinary tract infections.
Nettle can be consumed as an infusion, capsule, tincture or herbal tea. The best options are tea, or infusion. Try drinking 3 or 4 cups throughout your day for a week prior to anticipated cycle or during the cycle.
Milk thistle helps cleanse the liver and improve liver function, thus enhancing the liver’s ability to metabolize estrogen. Using this herbal remedy will help to balance out hormones and promote a smoother menstrual flow. By regulating hormones, you will notice an abundance of positive change, including clearer skin, increased mood, and gentle flow.
Can be consumed as an infusion, capsule, tincture or herbal tea. Best taken in tincture form. Try taking 2 droppers full nightly a week prior to anticipated cycle. You can continue this until your hormones feel rebalanced.
A multivitamin is great way to rebalance your body if don’t feel that you are getting a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Additionally, you can add in the following for menstrual support:
This oil contains GLA – gamma-linolenic acid. This is an omega-6 fatty acid, which will have an array of health benefits on your body. Essential fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and works to reduce inflammation. It can also be used topically if hormonal issues are causing acne. In general, supplementing with oil such as evening primrose will help regulate your menstruation and digestive flow, making it an all around beneficial supplement.
General Dosage: 2 capsules at nighttime.
Magnesium is an excellent mineral for relaxing the muscles, especially during your menstrual cycle. It can also help alleviate symptoms associated with your cycle, including cramping, constipation, and spasms around the stomach area. Magnesium can also be used for anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue, which are all common feelings women feel when on their period. For young women, taking a magnesium supplement is extra beneficial due to its role in relaxing the mind.
General Dosage: 400-500mg/day at bedtime. Look for a magnesium citrate.
Vitamin B6 is needed in the body for nervous system regulation and maintenance of intracellular magnesium levels. Vitamin B6 will help magnesium accumulate within body cells, which will decrease the symptoms associated with your menses, including pain and emotional symptoms such as sadness or anxiety. It is also required to break down hormones in the liver, so a deficiency can cause hormone imbalance and lead to further menstrual complications.
*Do not take in addition to a multi unless directed by your holistic health practitioner.