Many women around the world dread their period for all the discomfort it brings. From dull persistent back pain, headaches and nausea to irritability, moodiness, bloating, tiredness and breast tenderness, the list of things that women endure during their periods can be endless. It can be hard work!
Although periods are experienced by 51% of the world’s population, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’; everyone’s experience of having a period differs. This reality makes it hard for many women to fully grasp how much menstruation can affect their bodies. To help you understand your body a bit more during this particular time of the month, this article will talk about how periods can affect you and your energy levels.
Food and eating during your period
Before and during your period, the hormones in your body are hard at work and are constantly fluctuating. This fluctuation – in particular this rise and fall in oestrogen and progesterone – is the reason why women experience food cravings on top of period bloating and indigestion while on their periods. Typically, most women crave foods that are sweet and rich in carbohydrates. This is because starchy foods have the ability to induce serotonin release, which is an important chemical that regulates mood, social behaviour, appetite, digestion, sleep and memory.
So – we hear you cry – why is there a stigma about eating chocolate, pasta and croissants all year round? While it is generally okay to give in to your cravings, you should make it a habit to opt for healthier options when satisfying them. After all, foods that are high in refined sugar, salt and carbs can only provide you with short-lived satisfaction and end up making you feel worse over time. Instead of reaching for simple carbs, go for complex carbs like beans, lentils, oats and brown rice. An article by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine detailed how brown rice can move waste through the digestive tract and help you absorb more nutrients, thereby helping you deal with period bloating and indigestion while satisfying your cravings and giving you more energy.
Your emotional wellbeing during your period
Aside from changing up your eating habits, fluctuating hormones during your period can also influence your emotional wellbeing. In some cases, women on their periods even find themselves feeling depressed, sad, anxious, irritable and close to tears. In addition to this, menstruation can also lead to a loss in iron. A particular study published by the National Library of Medicine found that self-reported histories of iron-deficiency anaemia were associated with self-reported histories of depression and higher psychological distress.
To naturally maintain your energy levels, start your day with a nutritious breakfast high in vitamins and minerals, like a smoothie. As mentioned in our previous post '5 Ways to Naturally Maintain Your Energy Levels', after a fulfilling breakfast, dedicate some time to working out and meditating. While physical activities can help invigorate you and allow you to enjoy a myriad of health benefits, meditating can help get the blood in your body flowing and enable you to manage feelings of worry and stress better.
Your body during your period
Your period is a completely normal yet all-encompassing monthly experience that has both physical and emotional symptoms. The physical symptoms can include a bloated tummy, fluctuating body temperatures, cramps, tender breasts, muscle and joint pain, pimples, weight loss or gain, headaches and constipation or diarrhoea. To alleviate some of these symptoms, one of the things you can do is to try gentle exercises that can increase oestrogen and progesterone levels. A 2018 study published in the journal BMC Women’s Health found that college-age females who spend around 1.5 hours on aerobic exercise every week experience improvement in the various PMS symptoms such as nausea, constipation, bloating, flushing and swelling of the breasts.
It’s also important to watch what you’re eating. Eating foods that are rich in magnesium, fatty acids and calcium can help with some of the physical symptoms. Magnesium-rich foods such as kale and spinach help relieve migraine episodes. Fish, nuts and green leafy vegetables packed with fatty acids can reduce abdominal cramps. Lastly, foods rich in calcium such as milk, cheese, soya beans and tofu help regulate sleep, mood and food cravings.
It can be difficult to figure out just how to deal with the effects of your monthly period, but thankfully, you don't need to make major lifestyle changes to help alleviate period pain. By eating healthily and exercising regularly, you can make sure you maintain optimal energy levels through those days of the month.