Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This One's For the Girls

Warning: If you are a man, you may want to skip this post. 

Unless you're brave, and want to learn as much as you can to help you're honey every month when she goes from being a strong, radiant woman to a moody, hungry, wounded, all-around scary and unrecognizable creature. In that case, I should send you a medal. Or a bullet-proof vest.

That's right, I'm talking about periods folks. No use in hiding it, we all know about 'em. Just watch the commercials, where skinny, made-up women act like they have tummy ache's and can't squeeze into their jeans in their perfectly clean houses with sunshine beaming through the windows. If only those commercials showed the truth, it'd look more like one of the games my husband plays on xbox, where the main character turns from a human into a monster and back again, and eats people. The whole city is a war zone, people run from you, there's blood everywhere, there are hazmat teams and military standing by waiting to take you down...

Of course most people fall somewhere between those two extremes. Lucky for society, really.

Anyway, I've done some research on what I think are some of the most helpful things to know when the inevitable happens: cravings, exercises to do (and avoid), and popular ways to relieve the most common symptoms.

Let's Talk Cravings
You're on a diet, and doing great, until the end of your cycle. Then all of a sudden cake is your best friend and 2 oreos no longer seem satisfying enough. No matter how much you eat you don't feel fulfilled, you just go from starving straight to sick and then eventually back again. It's good to know that you're not just going crazy turning into an ice-cream-ivore, and that your body really is trying to deal with things.

Estrogen and Cortisol are two of the many hormones that are very active during your period. When these hormone levels are too high in the body, it tries to compensate by being metabolically active. This gives you a big appetite boost in general. A lack of energy from having increased demands on the body makes you want to binge on sweets and other easy-to-process, high calorie foods.

One more hormone responsible for this increase in cravings is serotonin. This chemical, produced in the brain, is dependent on carbohydrates for its production. Hence, a drop in serotonin levels during premenstrual period increases the demand for sugar in the body. This lack of serotonin explains why we can get so moody as well.

Some Solutions
1. Get enough sleep. I know, I know, this is obvious. We all could use more sleep. But during your period it's even more important to give your body enough rest to tackle the whole situation. And naps are perfectly acceptable during this time too. You could treat the rest idea almost like you have the flu - the more rest, the better.
2. Go for Complex Carbs instead of Refined Sugars. It's fine if you give in a little, but lessen the impact by eating complex carbs like pasta, whole grain toast, cereals (not kiddo versions like lucky charms...), etc, to help you not have the crazy cravings reoccur so often. And, while protein may not be so appetizing at this time, trying to get enough will help stabilize your blood sugar as well.
3. Drink Water or Tea. Getting enough fluids can help your body rid itself of menstration-related toxins and reduce obnoxious bloating.
4. Avoid too much salt. Don't dig into that bag of salty potato chips, it'll only make bloating worse!

Exercises to Do (and Avoid)
1. Walking - If you're feeling up to it, a walk at any pace can help your body stay productive and release some endorphins to help with cramps. Plus, moving around helps you not feel so stiff. And if you are up for a jog or even run, go for it! Just count me out.
2. Yoga - Gentle poses can really help ease stiffness, aches, and pains and get your body's circulation going better than laying on the couch (or floor...). Just avoid inverted poses, as you don't want to hang on to what your body's trying so hard to get rid of.
3. Gentle Stretching - The idea of going for a walk or twisting your body make you cringe? Take it back to basics with gentle stretches for your back, hips, hamstrings, and quads, the areas most affected during your period.
4. Avoid rigorous exercises or exercises that require good motor control - Believe it or not, women are more succeptable to injury during their periods because they have an increase in motor skills. So try to avoid activities that require it to lessen chances of injuring yourself.

Common Symptoms and How to Help Them

Fatigue - This one's pretty straightforward...get enough rest, take naps, don't binge on sugar, limit caffeine, and don't overexert yourself/
Stomach Aches/Bloating - Avoid caffeine as much as you can (it irritates your stomach lining), try drinking peppermint tea or eating something with peppermint to soothe your stomach, replace sugar/salt binging with complex carbs and light proteins, and if it gets really bad use an ice pack or heating pad placed over your tummy (trust me, this one really works well).
Cramps - There's only so much you can do about this one...take pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, do gentle stretches or gentle walking, sit somewhere comfortable (avoid the wooden chairs and the floor as they're hard on your hips), use a heating pad or ice pack, and wear comfortable clothing. Try distracting yourself with things you love like your favorite book or movie, pinterest, writing, etc.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I will be doing a separate post on this in the future, but I wanted to make mention of it mamaw, mother, and I all have endometriosis, a reproductive disease where uterine tissue is found outside of the uterus. This condition causes irregular periods, intense pain, and many, many other symptoms. If you talk to family and your OBGYN and they say it's all just a part of being a woman or is in your head, THAT IS FALSE. If this is the case, you NEED to do your own homework, and rule out any other conditions such as endometriosis, cysts, fibroids, etc! Don't ever let someone tell you to just deal with it!

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