• Meira Arkell

How to Have a Better Period

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

Did you know that your period can considered the 5th vital sign? How your period comes and goes and what you experience is a key indicator of your overall health and wellness. Seen in this way, you can use your time of the month as a barometer for your health! It can allow you to take a monthly inventory on how you have been feeling, if you are nourishing yourself properly and how you are managing your stress and emotional health.

Your period should come and go with relative ease. Mild symptoms are normal but symptoms that are painful and cause you to miss a day of work or be miserable during this time are not. Does this sound to too good to be true? It isn’t, I promise you! Unfortunately, it is estimated that 75% of women experience PMS symptoms and these commonly include headaches, bloating, pain and mood swings.

Sometimes PMS symptoms are debilitating and even threaten our relationships. Who feels like they want to divorce their husband every month, right around their period?! I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who cite severe mood swings as a major issue for them right around their period.

If you experience these common symptoms regularly, it’s time to take an inventory of your health and wellness. Painful periods are a clue that something is off balance. With a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, these symptoms can be a thing of the past.

Common PMS Symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Cramping

  • Bloating

  • Heavy flow

  • Breast soreness

  • Back aches

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Fatigue

Why We Get Symptoms

PMS and menstrual symptoms are caused by hormonal imbalance and the root causes of hormonal imbalance can be varied. For a large majority of women, PMS symptoms are caused by what is called estrogen dominance. This means that you have too much circulating estrogen in your body. This does not necessarily mean that you produce too much estrogen, but it is about the ratio of estrogen to progesterone in your body. The body needs to keep a specific balance of estrogen and progesterone. Sometimes we can have low progesterone and a normal amount of estrogen but because their ratio is out of wack, you have more estrogen relative to progesterone. Although hormone imbalance is the cause of symptoms, we need to look deeper to figure out why the hormone imbalance exists. There are a number of things that affect hormone production and metabolism and usually, the root cause is a combination of several of these factors:

  • What You Are Eating - diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, dairy, too much meat and caffeine. This leads to blood sugar issues and insulin resistance which in turn has a direct effect on hormones. Dairy is high in hormones itself.

  • Stress and Emotions – too much stress and inability to process emotions in a healthy way. Stress and an inability to process emotions in a health way causes the hormone cortisol to be released too often and then this has a cascade effect on your sex hormones.

  • Environmental Toxins – these are chemicals that are in your environment. Of particular concern are plastics and chemicals found in personal care and cosmetics. These chemicals have the ability to cause hormonal changes in the body due to their mainly estrogen-mimicking chemical structures.

  • ·Constipation – you need to be pooping every day ladies! This is how excess and metabolized estrogen gets out of the body. If you are not going every day, hormones can become re-absorbed, greatly increasing the amount of estrogen in your body.

Closely tied with all of the above root causes are blood sugar balance, liver health and inflammation.

So, what’s a girl to do about it? Now that you can see what the main causes are of PMS and bad periods, you should be able to see the kinds of things you can take control over, namely, diet, stressors in your life and emotional health, and the kinds of products you put on and in your body. All of these affect your estrogen metabolism and the good news is, so much can be done, allowing you to have a great deal of control over how your period goes!

A Word on The Pill

Many of you will be reading this who have taken the birth control pill in order to control their PMS symptoms. Doctors often will recommend and prescribe the pill for women who have difficult periods. It's a simple, very effective solution. It is however, a band-aid. It does not address the underlying imbalances that are causing your symptoms. The issues that are driving your PMS, like blood sugar issues, insulin resistance and inflammation will still be lurking in the background and they will affect your health in other ways. I'm not against women taking synthetic hormones when their quality of life is severely impacted, but I am all for trying to solve the issue naturally, before turning to these drugs. I'm pro-education. There are consequences to taking the pill (long term nutrient deficiencies) and those need to be weighed against the benefit that it can provide.

If you do decide to try and address your PMS naturally, here are my top tips to help you balance your hormones and have happier periods:

Tips to Help You Balance Your Hormones and Send You on Your Way to a Happier Period:

Eat Cruciferous Vegetables Every Day

Eat lots of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, watercress and radishes. These vegetables have a phytonutrients in them that support liver detoxification of estrogen and thus help to balance hormones. Start with 2 cups per day.

Balance Your Blood Sugar

If you eat grains, bread, sugar and experience cravings regularly, chances are your blood sugar is not stable. Crowd out the sugar and grains with more healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado oil and oily fishes like salmon) and more vegetables. Start your day with a high protein, higher fat breakfast like eggs and bacon or chia pudding - ditch the bagels, toast and cereal.

Become Mindful of Your Stress and Your Emotions

We all have unique ways we cope with stress and handle our emotions. If you are the kind of person that ruminates and broods over things, or you find yourself filled with anger, sadness, guilt, shame and feelings of helplessness on a regular basis, then you need to get help with this. Stress and emotional turmoil cause your stress hormones to be activated and these have detrimental effects on your body. Additionally, if you experience pain that has no root cause (back pain, fibromyalgia, frozen shoulder, aches and pains that move around your body), this is also a huge red flag that you are stressed and might not be dealing with your emotions in a healthy way. Outside of seeing a therapist to help with this, start a mindfulness meditation practice, take restorative yoga classes and start some calming practices, like taking baths or going for walks in nature.

Take an Inventory of Your Personal Care Products, Cosmetics and Cleaning Products

Start getting the hormone disruptors out of your life. Begin making the switch to cleaner products. The Environmental Working Group is a great resource for this (ewg.org) or reach out to me for recommendations.

I have seen how making these changes has made a huge effect in my own monthly cycle and those of my clients. It's really amazing when you start to learn how strong the connection is between diet and lifestyle and your period because you can actually look back and understand why you might be having a difficult period. It allows you to stop, and be mindful about what was going on in the month before.... were you dealing with anything super stressful? How were your eating habits? Were you pooping every day? It's a way to automatically check-in with yourself and if things are off, address them! This is how you take control of your own health.

I highly recommend getting help from a qualified holistic practitioner that can assess the factors that are present for you and develop a customized plan that will enable you to implement specific changes in your life. Although adding more broccoli to your diet is great, just eating more broccoli isn’t usually going to cut it in terms balancing your hormones. There are specific ways we can use these foods therapeutically that will have greater impact. We also have the knowledge to recommend some supportive supplements that can greatly ease symptoms while you work on bringing your diet and lifestyle into balance. As a Holistic Nutritionist, I also provide support on managing stress and emotional health.

If you would like some help with balancing your hormones, I offer a free 30 minute introductory consultation. During this session, I can learn more about you and your own unique situation and I can explain my programs and how they can address hormonal imbalance and get you on the road to easy periods! Message me or email me at meira@meiraarkell.com and let’s chat!

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