Period, Menstruation, Time of the Month, you name it, the process of a woman shedding our uterus/womb lining is so magnificent, significant and yet carries so much stigma, shame and lack of education. We wanted to write a post on this topic really strongly as we feel that as women, a number has been done on us. I grew up to not really speaking about my period, saying the word in hushed tones to my friends, hiding my cramps and certainly not being open about the process to my partners over the years. As though what we went through every month was a bad thing, gross, shameful. Well I’m here to tell you, what a load of bollocks! Without women and the ability to give birth the human race would die out, the process is a glorious one that used to be and should continue to be worshipped and explored, with science and education supporting and celebrating the process. My next point is that contraception has been used as a way to manage the symptoms and side effects of periods instead of exploring holistic approaches and showing women alternative methods of pain relief instead installing additional side effects physically and mentally through the use of pills. So, in addition, here is the best bit, your monthly cycle has four key phases, and each phase is so positive and powerful for different reasons, physically, mentally and emotionally, your phases are your superpower. Keep reading and find out why! LETS START!
What is a Period
Menstruation, or period, is normal vaginal bleeding that occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining. The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus.
The menstrual cycle is complex and controlled by many different glands and the hormones that these glands produce. The four phases of the menstrual cycle are menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.
Which hormones control the menstrual cycle?
Oestrogen is a female sex hormone produced by follicles in the ovaries. The most important job of oestrogen is to regulate the menstrual cycle. It makes the lining of the uterus thicker and more receptive to a fertilised egg.
Progesterone is the other main female sex hormone. Its main job is to keep the uterus in place and optimise it for implantation.
FSH, or follicle-stimulating hormone, is produced in the pituitary gland in the brain. Its role is to get the egg follicles to mature, and it also plays a major role in kick-starting puberty.
LH, or luteinising hormone, is also produced in the brain. Its job is to make ovulation happen and release the egg that’s the most mature.
The Four Phases/Cycles
I call this the “Golden Phase” because this starts once you have begun your period and lasts approx. 10 – 14 days. During this phase you have the most access to creative energy that you will the entire month. Hormones are at a low point and your body is starting to increase estrogen in particular. You are open and ready to try new things. This is a good time to start new projects at work. Plan the month ahead do some project management. Break out the excel document and plan. Brainstorm with people in meetings. Dream big. Mastermind how you will take over the world.
Jasmine Takanikos, founder of Brand Human and Candor Branding, uses her hormonal cycles to achieve greater success and says “Because hormone health is the backbone to my health & work routines I try to plan all of my public facing lectures for Brand Human during the Follicular Phase. My energy is more focused toward high energy output.”
Phase 2: Ovulatory Phase (15 – 17 days) – The great communicator
Communication and collaboration skills are at the highest all month. The brain chemistry you have during this phase heightens your verbal skills. This is a great time to have important conversations. Maybe ask for that raise, plan to negotiate deals, work with your vendors. Since you will be the most irresistible try to plan ahead of schedule. You are a magnet.
Phase 3: Luteal Phase (18-28 days) – Power
The luteal phase is the Power phase for getting things done. You are most task oriented and feel the most pleasure at completing projects during this. And thank goodness this is the longest phase of the cycle. It’s easy to focus and pay attention to minute details. We are able to leverage this attention to detail to accomplishing pretty flawless work product. Wrap up projects, bring things to completion, do administrative type tasks, your accounting, submit your monthly reports, your expense reports. Centeno, says, “When I’m in ovulation phase and I make sure to have back-to-back meetings almost every day: mostly with potential partners. My experience is that conversations are more productive during this phase, i.e. I feel understood and I get closer to ‘yes’ answers. Next week, I’ll be in luteal phase and I’ll ease up on meetings so I can power through the details of execution. Cycle syncing helps me to be less reactionary and more strategic.”
Phase 4: Menstruation Phase (1-5 days long) – Intuition and Reflection
Course correct, evaluate, listen to that gut feeling. Your right and left brain hemisphere are communicating much more powerfully across the corpus callosum. You are able to access the analytical and intuitive reasoning. Reflect on the past month. How was your performance? How are you getting along with your colleagues? Are you working on the projects you care about? Is your job going in the direction you want it to? How are you thinking and feeling about your business as a whole? What are the big changes you need to make to stay happy and successful in your job and career?
Let’s make this a rallying call to use our natural hormonal cycles to sync our way to success.
Foods to help reduce symptoms on your period!
If you’re experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS), try one of these healthy options to help ease your symptoms:
Food/Things to avoid – I mean are we surprised?High Sugar Snacks The more refined sugar you consume, the more you will crave it. It will also increase your bloat, water retention and gas. Even when not on your period, high sugar will increase your blood sugar giving you a temporary energy boost and an even harder sugar crash when it comes back down.Alcohol If you’ve ever drunk on your period, I think you will have noticed the difference it takes on your body and how your body takes to it differently. Plus your hangover is worse. Not worth it!Processed JunkI say this with love, because I love it. But I always feel worse for eating it, processed food, made with preservatives and high in sodium aren’t great at the best of times but again, they will increase your bloating, contribute to lack of energy and make you feel more fatigued.Spicy FoodsI am not a spicy gal, thankfully, but if you are and love a bit of spice, just be conscious that it can add to an upset stomach and bloating depending on the spices in your food. I would suggest making your own spicy meals at home and look into the herbs and spices you use that have anti-inflammatory properties and fill it up with lots of fresh veg!
Holistic methods of pain relief
Eat Right! Literally, scroll up! By eating the right kinds of foods you can avoid adding to your symptoms and also take steps to absorb specific foods that help reduce symptoms.
Reduce your stress – take it easy, stress and the hormone cortisol can accelerate PMS, so do what you can take relax i.e. yoga, meditation, plenty of sleep.
Exercise! – Get those endorphins and feel good hormones going with some light exercise/stretching.
Cinnamon! – In a study of young women, those who took capsules containing 420 mg of cinnamon 3 times a day for the first 3 days of their menstrual cycle had less menstrual bleeding, less pain, and reductions in nausea and frequency of vomiting compared to those who took a placebo. The women didn’t report any side effects associated with taking cinnamon pills. Try a sprinkle of cinnamon on your cereal or cup of hot choccie!
Vitamin D – A clinical trial from 2012 investigated use of vitamin D supplementation for treating menstrual cramps and found a significant reduction in the intensity of pain.
Skip the Caffeine – Eliminating caffeine helps many women relieve menstrual pain. Caffeine comes in many forms including coffee, tea, fizzys, chocolate, and energy drinks. If you consume caffeine daily, you may need to taper your dose down slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms. As a substitute, try smoothies loaded with antioxidant-rich greens, berries, and protein powder. The benefits, vitamins and goodness in those ingredients will give you a natural pick me up without spiking your blood sugar.
Don’t skip meals! – This tends to aggravate nausea and fatigue. Choose natural, unprocessed products when possible, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
How your period can affect your mental health
Oh is it your time of month?! Errr, piss off. Honestly, this part is a difficult one, because stereotypically a change in behaviour for women can indicate a change a hormones and generates the age old, insensitive comments. My emotional reaction to something should not be based on my time of the month; however, it is safe to say that my emotional responses are affected when on my period, including my anxiety, nerves, overthinking and paranoia. But why? And how can I regulate this?#
If you’re also like me, you begin to experience PMS a week or two before aunt flo physically lands, which for me is the hardest point in my entire cycle and I know when my period is due because of the change in my mental state.
Did you know, that when your menstrual cycle starts, our levels of oestrogen and progesterone are low at this time. Low levels of oestrogen have an effect on the chemicals your brain releases. Studies have highlighted that low levels of oestrogen are linked to low levels of serotonin, the “happy chemical” which leads to you feeling satisfied.
But not only can your menstrual cycle impact your mental health, but your mental health can impact your menstrual cycle and in term your symptoms. For example, stress and anxiety. If you are operating in a high stress, high anxiety state this can delay or stop your period altogether, or if you do have a period, it can accelerate the painful cramps and other symptoms. Remember, your cycle is to prepare your body for a possible pregnancy, but if your brain doesn’t feel as though your body could cope with it, it wont produce a period.
So, if you find your period affects your mental health, initially I would say;
Be gentle with yourself, know that your hormones are fluctuating and that is affecting your mood so it is normal for this to be affected.
Start tracking your cycle – by doing this via an app or even just in a diary, you can see and notice what phases you are in and how you are feeling so you can understand your body and mental health around these times in more detail.
Plan your down time – by knowing when you’re due to be feeling more impacted by your mental health as a result of your period, plan your down time and give yourself space and some TLC, taking yourself away from other triggers that may heighten your mental health. P.S if you’re like me, stick a chick flick on and have a good cry and cuddle.
Evening Primrose Oil – now this trick came from my mum but studies show that taking these supplements can help reduce the feelings of depression, irritability and bloat during your period as it helps support hormonal balance.
Remember, its normal to feel heightened mental health/emotions throughout your period due to the hormonal imbalances, so get to know your body and definitely look into the ways that work for you to help manage this through supplements, diet and/or managing your stress levels. Put yourself first during these times and listen to what your body needs.
So that is our period blog! I really hope you have found this useful and learnt some new things about your cycle or hormones that you didn’t know and can take some great tips away to help you have a happier, less uncomfortable cycle! Plus, harness that creativity streak and own your superpower!
Love & Light
☾ The Spiritual Mamas x