Do you have those days? When you just want to curl up in a ball in your favorite comfy pajamas, re-watching your favorite movie or show while devouring your favorite ice cream for dinner?
Nah, this isn't a break-up, but rather the calm before the crimson storm.
Anyone with a uterus must be familiar with the foreboding PMS that brings about the tormenting cramps. But if you have a uterus but are not familiar with the besieges of PMS, then you are very lucky (but do tell; how does it feel to be the man in the sky's favourite child?).
For most of us, the monthly ritual of mood swings, cramps, and pain can get overbearing. We may become acquainted with the pattern of this monthly ritual, but boy, sometimes Aunt Flo does like to surprise us.
Even though it may seem like nothing is under our control, we can learn to surf the waves of these hormones rather than drowning in them. The first step of self-care is to listen to your body and recognize what it is trying to tell you. Understanding what your body needs allows you to cater to it.
Thus, firstly, recognize the phase of the menstrual cycle your body is going through.
MENSTRUAL PHASE - WINTER
During the menstrual phase of the cycle, that is active bleeding; your hormones are at an all-time low. Moreover, dealing with cramps will further lower your energy levels. So what your body needs to do during this phase is to slow down. Take a break to rejuvenate mentally and physically. Indulge your mind by focusing on what makes you happy. Stretch and relax your muscles with a restorative yoga session. Or head into a meditation practice to let all your worries and stresses go.
Eat healthy balanced meals, and avoid heavily processed or junk foods. Consuming carb-rich foods loaded with sugar or salt will increase bloating, thus worsening menstrual cramps. Instead, satisfy your cravings with healthy, delicious, and where possible, organic foods.
Now is a good time to up the iron too, as you are loosing a lot of it as you bleed. Iron rich foods include red meat, seafood, dark leafy greens, and beans. With a health practitioners advice, you may need/want to supplement iron.
Magnesium lessens menstrual cramps; therefore, opt for magnesium-rich foods or supplements. If you do suffer from cramps, you'll want to hear this next bit... Our very talented staff member, Josie, has created your new, oily, best friend. You can check out her brand GAIA FROM THE EARTH below...
Now that the bleeding phase is over, your body is heading towards healing and recovery.
FOLLICULAR PHASE - SPRING
During the follicular phase, your hormones level up, and the uterus is healing. Increase iron and vitamin D in your diet to help your follicles grow.
This is the phase in your cycle which can be compared most to Spring. The grass is growing, flowers are popping, the sun is starting to shine again! This is the time in your cycle where you'll have the good energy, concentration, motivation and you'll have that extra bit of skip in your step.
This is a great time for higher intensity exercise, but always remember to listen to that body of yours!
To support your body through this season and to replenish after a bleed, it is best to consume foods that prevent anemia. Iron-rich foods like in your 'winter' phase are the way to go. Don't forget vitamin C and K will also help iron absorption by the body.
OVULATION PHASE - SUMMER
Next comes the ovulatory phase, the term of which is pretty self-explanatory, as it is the phase where you ovulate. This phase is usually the shortest of all phases within our cycle. (I know, short summers in period world, don't think I'd choose to live there).
Ovulation usually brings the WAPOOW. The momentum continues from the follicular phase, the sun gets even brighter, you're feeling flirty and you are ready to smash your goals in every department. However, this only lasts a few days, you'll soon be saying goodbye to that sunshine, but don't worry, she'll be back before you know it!
If you want to boost your fertility choose vitamin B-abundant foods such as fish, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, dairy products, and whole grains throughout your cycle.
It is important to note, every woman ovulates at a slightly different time, depending on their body, and that specific cycle; you may ovulate on day 15 one month and day 17 the next.
Ovulation also marks the time in your cycle where you are most fertile, meaning if you are trying not to get pregnant, this is your 'danger zone', and if you are trying to get pregnant, this is your 'golden zone'.
LUTEAL PHASE - AUTUMN
The luteal phase follows ovulation. In hopes of receiving a fertilised egg, the reproductive system will begin to prepare the uterus. Oestrogen and progesterone levels will increase, and the uterus will fatten to ensure the fertilised egg is cozy in its new home.
However, towards the end of the luteal phase (as your body nears the menstrual phase), oestrogen and progesterone levels fall. This is when you will start to experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), oh the fun!
Continue to eat healthily. Increase the consumption of fibre-rich foods and limit dairy to deal with bloating. However, your body still needs calcium, as calcium is known to reduce PMS symptoms. Therefore, choose low-fat dairy products or calcium supplements. Vitamin D also reduces the symptoms of PMS, so schedule some sunshine or choose wild salmon for lunch.
Tackling the mood symptoms of PMS might be difficult for some of us. The anxiety, irritability, and low mood really pull us down, not just affecting our day; but up to an entire week.
Try to wind down, and take a small break in your busy day to focus on yourself. Perhaps meditate, journal, delve into a forgotten yet favourite hobby, cuddle with a pet or do nothing at all.
And, so the drill of the menstrual cycle continues until one is pregnant or reaches menopause; that is a whole new ball game.
Instead of dreading the reproductive system changes, let us look at it with a positive outlook; instead of fighting it, let us embrace this rollercoaster of hormones.
When your body asks you to slow down, comply and take a breather. If PMS demands a specific food craving, it is alright to give in to a sweet or salty snack.
Listen to and nourish it; your body and reproductive system are all riding this big wave, you just gotta learn your way of surfing it.