Menstruation is a natural and necessary part of a woman’s reproductive system. Although it can be a difficult time for some due to physical discomfort and mood swings, it is important to remember that it is a normal and healthy process. During menstruation, certain activities and habits can exacerbate discomfort and even lead to health problems. Well if you’ve tried a hot water bottle, herbal tea and a warm bath and you still feel like you want to lie in bed all day, listen up. According to gynaecologists, there are several simple changes you can make to your routine in the run-up to your period that can help to relieve any discomfort.
So from salty snacks to keeping busy, here’s what experts say we shouldn’t eat, drink and do during menstruation.
Drink coffee: Caffeine can increase tension and worsen period symptoms like bloating and cramps, according to Dr Thejaswini J, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Motherhood Hospitals in Bangalore, India. It blocks a hormone that can make blood vessels smaller, which slows the flow of blood. Several studies in 2014 and 2016 found that even a single cup of coffee was linked to more intense pain, and high intake (more than 300mg a day) could double the risk. Plus, scientists know caffeine can cause irritability, mood swings and anxiety – three things we definitely don’t want more of.
Scoff salty foods: Foods high in sodium are unhealthy at any time of the month, but particularly during your period, according to an article by Flo Health, reviewed by obstetrician and gynaecologist Kate Shkodzik. They can worsen bloating and water retention, making you feel even more unpleasant. Research by the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro found salty meals like pizza and chips were particularly bad for causing inflammation, which may lead to increased pain.
Smoke: Another habit best left behind is smoking. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, women who smoke experience more severe premenstrual symptoms and have a 50 per cent increase in cramps lasting two or more days. And the more cigarettes you puff, the worse it gets, according to separate guidance by researchers in Australia states. Even breathing in second-hand smoke could contribute to your cramps, a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found.
Dr Jennifer Leighdon Wu, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said: “We know that smoking causes vasoconstriction or constriction of the blood vessels. “When this happens with the uterus, it can cause pain.”
Get boozy: It might be tempting to reach for your favourite tipple when you’re feeling blue, but experts say it’s best to steer clear. Alcohol impacts your hormone levels and can increase the production of both oestrogen and testosterone. Too much of either can exacerbate PMS symptoms, especially mood swings and irritability, Dr Shkodzik said. Booze also makes you need the loo more often and can cause dehydration which can make cramps worse.
Skipping Meals: Skipping meals, especially during your period, can lead to decreased energy levels and worsen mood swings. It’s essential to maintain a balanced diet with regular, nutritious meals to help alleviate common PMS symptoms. Foods rich in iron, such as lean red meat, spinach, and beans, can help combat the fatigue that often accompanies menstruation. Even if you don’t feel like eating, you should try to maintain regular mealtimes, Dr J told Health Shots. Any disruption to your schedule and a lack of nutrients can see your energy levels and general well-being plummet. It can also aggravate nausea, Dr Shkodzik said.
Ignoring Hygiene: Good hygiene is always important, but during your period, it’s crucial to be extra vigilant. Change your sanitary products regularly to prevent discomfort and odour, and wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling them. Avoid using heavily scented products, as they can cause irritation.
Strenuous Physical Activity: While light exercise can be beneficial during your period, strenuous workouts like heavy lifting or intense cardio can lead to increased cramps, fatigue, and dizziness. The hormonal changes during menstruation may make you more prone to injuries, so it’s essential to listen to your body and engage in gentler exercises like yoga or walking to maintain your fitness routine.
Wearing Tight or Non-Breathable Clothing: During your period, it’s best to avoid tight, restrictive clothing, as it can worsen abdominal discomfort and increase the risk of infections. Opt for loose, breathable fabrics to ensure comfort and proper airflow.
Ignoring Pain and Discomfort: While mild discomfort and cramps are common during menstruation, severe pain should not be ignored. If you experience intense pain or other severe symptoms, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional. These symptoms might be indicative of underlying medical conditions like endometriosis or fibroids, which need proper diagnosis and treatment.
Menstruation is a natural part of a woman’s life, and taking steps to ensure a comfortable and healthy period is essential. By avoiding strenuous activities, practicing good hygiene, maintaining a balanced diet, managing stress, and making conscious choices about clothing and consumption, women can make their menstrual periods more manageable. Remember that every woman’s experience is unique, and it’s essential to listen to your body and seek professional medical advice if needed to ensure your overall well-being during this time.