Be it a shooting pain in your lower abdomen, or those horrible cramps that leave you curled up like a ball, periods can be really uncomfortable for some of us. But, here’s a silver lining- you can actually anticipate what to expect during these difficult days and also reduce some period-related complications. Moreover, there are some symptoms before periods that can also indicate the arrival of the next cycle in case you lose track of your menstruation dates.
But before we delve into these symptoms before periods, let us first learn some basics about menstrual health, the causes of menstrual cycles, the different phases of the cycle and some essential knowledge on menstrual health and hygiene.
What is menstrual health and Hygiene?
WHO defines menstrual health as, " The comprehension and knowledge of what a girl, woman, or anyone who menstruates requires from menarche to menopause." It also advocates for menstrual health to be a health and human rights issue, not a hygiene issue. Education on menstrual health and hygiene encompasses health, gender equality, water, and sanitation. If any of these pillars are compromised, it leads to suffering for those who menstruate. Read this blog to understand the why, what, and how of menstruation.
What are the Phases of Menstruation?
Menstruation is a part of the menstrual cycle that prepares the hormones for pregnancy. In these cycles, the body causes the release of hormones called estrogen and progesterone. They are responsible for the formation of the lining of the uterus (or womb). This is the first among the 3 phases of menstruation and is called the follicular stage. The developed lining is now ready for a fertilized egg to attach to and develop. Then comes the ovulation stage when the egg is released for fertilization. If there is no fertilized egg, the lining breaks down and bleeds. Ideally, the bleeding lasts anywhere between 3 and 7 days. These cycles are seen as being heavy, absent, infrequent, prolonged, or painful.
Symptoms Before Periods- Changes that Indicate Menarche
Before the start of these cycles, several symptoms are observed. These pre-menstruation symptoms manifest as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that persist until one ovulates. Some of these visible symptoms before periods are
- Major shifts in emotions
- Food pangs
- Social withdrawal
- Poor concentration
- changes in libido
Physical Signs and Pre-Menstruation Symptoms
- Weight gain is related to fluid retention.
- Abdominal bloating
- Breast tenderness
- Acne flare-ups
- Constipation or diarrhea
For some, the physical pain and emotional stress are severe enough to affect their daily lives. Regardless of symptom severity, the signs and symptoms generally disappear within four days after the start of the menstrual period for most women. But a small number of women have disabling symptoms before period cycles every month. This is called Premenstrual syndrome and is highlighted through phases of depression, mood swings, anger, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and tension.
What Happens During Menstrual Cycle?
During your menstrual cycle, your uterus contracts to help expel its lining, which can sometimes be a reason for stomach pain during periods. Several studies have also confirmed that 80% of women experience cramps during their periods, and 5 - 10% experience pain that disrupts their daily lives.
But what are the causes of menstrual cramps? Unlike other myths that revolve around cramps, prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances involved in pain and inflammation, cause uterine muscle contractions. Higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more severe menstrual cramps.
Causes of Menstrual Cramps, Risk Factors and Complications
Apart from the secretion of certain hormones during menstrual cycle, improper growth of tissue along the uterus walls could be an underlying reason for stomach pain during periods.
Endometriosis: Tissue that acts similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus, most commonly on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or the tissue lining your pelvis.
Uterine fibroids: These noncancerous growths in the wall of the uterus can cause pain.
Adenomyosis: The tissue that lines your uterus begins to grow into the muscular walls of the uterus.
Other Reasons for Stomach Pain During Periods
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): This infection of the female reproductive organs is caused by sexually transmitted bacteria.
Cervical stenosis: In some women, the opening of the cervix is small enough to impede menstrual flow, causing a painful increase in pressure within the uterus.
You might be at risk of menstrual cramps if:
- You're younger than age 30
- You started puberty early, at age 11 or younger.
- You bleed heavily during periods (menorrhagia)
- You have irregular menstrual bleeding (metrorrhagia).
- You have a family history of menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea),
- You have a habit of smoking regularly.
Menstrual cramps don't cause any other medical complications but can interfere with school, work, and social activities. Particular conditions associated with menstrual cramps could cause complications. For example, endometriosis can cause fertility problems. Pelvic inflammatory disease can scar your fallopian tubes, increasing the risk of a fertilized egg implanting outside your uterus (ectopic pregnancy).
What to Expect After your Periods?
After your menstruation, the bleeding stops, and the ovulation phase begins. During ovulation, your ovaries release mature eggs to be fertilised by sperm which may lead to pregnancy.
For some women, ovulation begins 2 weeks before their period cycle, and for others, it may occur during or after their periods. During ovulation, the matured egg released in the ovary wall is thick and spongy which furthers its journey into the fallopian tube. During this stage, your body secretes hormones like progesterone and estrogen that have a domino effect on your mood, face, and body. These hormone secretions lead to the manifestation of symptoms before periods like bloating and crabby moods. It also stimulates sebum and closes up skin pores, which leads to breakouts.
Lifestyle Changes to Regulate Menstrual Cycle
Having an irregular period cycle is a common occurrence and not something alarming. However, irregular cycles can sometimes be cumbersome and difficult to track. So, what exactly can be done to regulate menstrual cycles and avoid this discomfort?.
1. Diet for Periods- Learn What to Eat and What to Steer Away from
What you eat can have an impact on your period cycles. Wondering how that happens?
Low-carb diets that help you shed that extra fat could also be responsible for your irregular period cycles. That’s right, fat cells are responsible for the production of leptin. According to research, our body requires a certain level of leptin to regulate menstrual cycle.Source Moreover, sudden loss in weight or fat cells can cause imbalances in estrogen-progesterone levels and thus, hamper your menstrual cycle.
Foods to Avoid During Periods
Salt: Having too much salt can cause bloating and worsen period cramps in the abdomen and back. Try regulating how much salt you consume while on periods and avoid consuming food rich in sodium.
Coffee: Caffeine could be another underlying cause for your period cramps. That’s because caffeine can increase water retention in your body that leads to bloating and thus, worsening of menstrual cramps. Avoid taking more than one cup of coffee throughout the day.
Red Meat: While red meat is a good source of iron, it also increases the prostaglandin levels in our body. Secretion of this hormone during menstrual cycle is what causes the contraction of your uterus and eventually period cramps.
If you feel the need to supplement your iron requirements, you could try out our iron++ gummyhugs. Not only does it improve blood picture but also improves stamina and boosts energy.
Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol can lead to a wide palete of health ailments and also worsen the symptoms of periods. It leads to dehydration, bloating and worsened cramps, it can cause digestive problems like diarrhoea and vomiting, and can also lead to nausea.
Now that we know what foods to avoid during periods, let us learn about some of the best period comfort food that could help regulate your cycles.
Best Period Comfort Food
While specific food items disrupt the menstrual cycle, there are others that can not just help regulate cycles but also reduce period pain and cramps. Spinach, beetroot, beans, lentils, fish, chicken and dry fruits like raisins and cashew are some of the best foods to increase blood count, they should be a crucial part of your diet for periods especially to replenish the loss of blood.
Here’s the ideal diet for periods that could help alleviate some of its painful symptoms:
- Morning: Milk + Dry fruits + Whole Grain Toast + Egg (scrambled or poach)
- Lunch: Chapati/roti + Daal + Chicken/Paneer/Fish curry
- Dinner: Roti + Spinach/Beetroot/Mixed Veg curry
Spinach and beetroot are great sources of iron and are also the best foods to increase blood count in the body. It is better to consume them at night since they are comparatively lighter and easier to digest.
Having said that, if you are suffering from PCOS/PCOD and have irregular periods, you can try out The Co Being’s Ell Phertyle Capsules. They comprise Myo-inositol, N-Acetylcysteine and zinc that help in regulating the menstrual cycle to some extent.
2. Exercise to Reduce Period Pain
An extremely new regimen—say, training for a marathon or triathlon or swimming or even doing intense interval training can sometimes lead to slight delay in the manifestation of symptoms before periods. On the contrary, research says that light running/jogging and yoga are some effective exercises to reduce period pain and promote regulated menstrual cycles.
Here is a list of some effective exercises to reduce period pain:
- Light cardio like walking and slow jogging
- Yoga poses like the Supported Cobbler Pose, Paschimmotama asana and the Bridge pose (with support) are some really effective exercises to reduce period pain.
- Other exercises could be in the form of dancing, aerobics, stretching and casual swimming
3. Stress- How does it Affect your Menstrual Cycle?
Stress can impact your period more quickly than other lifestyle changes. If your brain is stressed, it is putting out stress hormones that tend to alter your sleep cycle. This hormonal imbalance can very well disrupt your menstrual cycle also. It may cause your cycles to become shorter or longer than what you’re typically used to. While your stress levels return to normal, so should your period.
How can The Co Being’s Happy cycles make your cycles happier?
Now that all of us are familiar with all the “what”, and the “why” of a menstrual cycle. Let’s shift our focus to thinking about the ‘How.’ How should we work towards fixing the mental, physical, and emotional distress one has to go through during their period?
To give you a natural and uterus-friendly answer, The Co Being has come up with Happy Cycles. Curated with Phyto-planet technology, Happy Cycle capsules are a safe and potent formulation that paves the way for easy periods. The ingredients like Ashoka, Lodhra, Shatavari, Fenugreek, and essential nutrients like Folic acid, Iron & many more help not only regulate your cramps but also regularizes your cycles and balance your hormones. It also contains adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha which relax your mind, and body and boost your mood. Consuming two capsules a day will make your cycles happier. Want to raid our one-stop shop for some healthy and nature-friendly products for holistic health? Click here.