Painful Periods 101.

I used to have this routine where I would get my period and within 2 hours of beginning to bleed I’d have a vaso-vagal episode (faint, essentially) due to the intense pain. I’d wake up from my little episode feeling horrible, take some advil and then the rest of my period would be a breeze. The problem with this is that I’d often be alone when it happened, resulting in me hitting my head on things. It wasn’t until I got my hormones more in balance and properly dealt with my stress that this has finally stopped occurring so often. Period pain started to rule my life and what I could do around that time of the month.

Does this sound like you? Are your periods sheer hell?

There are many things that can cause painful or heavy periods, and definitely some things that can help.

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What exactly causes the pain?

By now you know that menstruation is the shedding of your uterine lining which bleeds and falls out of your vagina. As the lining sheds, it releases hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins, which cause you to feel pain. Advil, Tylenol, Midol, etc. all work physiologically by decreasing the amount of prostaglandins circulating in your system, therefore reducing pain.

Instead of relying on drugs to band-aid the pain each month, it may be time for you to investigate why you have such a LARGE release of prostaglandins. I want to talk about a few (but not all) of the common causes for severe period pain:

Hormonal Imbalance

A number of imbalances can lead to painful periods, but a common one in our stressed out, undernourished and overworked world of women is estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency. Simply put, our bodies overproduce estrogen based on all the chemicals in our environment and that which we put on our body (most body products are hormone bombs), the mass-produced and hormonally fed food that we eat, and our high stress lifestyle. Often when our estrogen is too high, our progesterone is too low, and this mix can cause and increase in prostaglandin release.

Endometriosis

Is a condition when the the inner lining of the uterus (the Endometrium) starts to actually grow on other parts of the uterus where it shouldn’t, like on the outside. This can cause serious pain with intercourse, pain with urination, and can cause constipation because the endometrial tissue can also grow on your bowel. It also can lead to infertility.

Adenomyosis

Is similar to Endometriosis except the Endometrial tissue actually breaks through the uterine wall to the outside and can cause many of the same symptoms as Endo, but you may also feel lots of lower abdominal bloating and pressure due to uterine enlargement.

Uterine fibroids

Are non-cancerous clumps of tissue that grow in and on the uterus, and can cause all of the above symptoms. Sometimes they grow to be as large as a baby!

“Make it go away!”

Regardless of the cause of your period pain, try addressing a potential hormonal imbalance/inflammation first. Give it an honest effort for three months and if your periods are still just as bad, investigate for a more serious causes with your doctor.

If you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten. The world is not set up for women to have healthy periods and cycles, and it takes awhile to learn what you need to avoid and how to eat better but unless you put in the effort to learn, you’ll be in the same cycle (pun not intended ;))

8 first steps to addressing your painful periods:

  1. Decrease/eliminate dairy intake.
    • Dairy Is often causes inflammation in humans. Some people have no issue with it – some do. One way you can find out if you have an issue with it is to try cutting it out. If you notice your acne clears up, your digestion improves, and your periods improve – you’re one of em’!
  2. Decrease/eliminate alcohol & caffine intake.
    • I know. What horrible advice. But the truth is that both of these substances increase prostaglandin production, so if you’re suffering, you may need to consider this.
  3. Avoid hormone disrupting chemicals
    • Found in household products, plastics & body/make up products. Theres a list of about a million things to avoid but check out the environmental working group for a top list of things to avoid.
  1. Address your stress and your emotional shit.
    • I’m not going to talk about how to handle your financial and traffic commute stress, what I’m talking about here are things like: How you feel like you have to constantly support a close family member because they rely on you heavily but its really draining your energy. How you actually have low-key trust and fidelity concerns with your partner based on unresolved issues from your guys’ past. How you don’t feel heard by your partner in your marriage and it keeps bringing up little arguments and spats on the day to day, and is actually over time seriously dimming your marriage. How you still struggle emotionally with abuse from your past and it eats you up inside. How you have horrible body image issues and its controlling your life and how you interact with the world.

THESE are the types of stresses that eat away at us on a low-key level. If you aren’t sure what it is that’s bothering you, start by making a journal of your thoughts for a few days in a row. Keep track of the things you think about and your thought patterns during the day. See if any recurring negative topics come up and work to address them.

  1. Get your 7-8 servings of veggies a day
    1. There are countless different diets out there right now but almost all of them support the idea of increasing your daily vegetable intake. Vegtables provide the fibre to support excess hormone elimination, and many of them contain phytonutrients that help process hormones within the body as well.
  2. Decrease your sugar intake
    1. Theres no other way to slice it: sugar is an inflammatory substance. More Inflammation = more pain. Also to note, replacing sugar with artificial sweetener is also not ideal because it can disrupt gut health, which in turn disrupts the endocrine system. (This includes chewing gum!)
  3. Cut down on eating out
    1. Especially from fast food joints, and I don’t just mean Mcdonalds… I’m also talking about subway and other “healthy” fast food joints. While they do offer healthier options like salads, they’ll often serve it with a side of soy-laiden chicken (soy being a major hormone disruptor), or a dressing that is highly processed made with oils that wreak havoc on your endocrine system (canola oil, soybean oil.) Save yourself the money and when you want to eat out, go to a nice sit-down restaurant that is reputable for using real, whole, local ingredients.

Lastly: Ya’ll know I’m all about supplements but I think when it comes to chronic, horrible periods, you need to figure out what your triggers are first, and you need to focus on making space in your diet for the essential nutrients you need first. And if that still doesn’t work, maybe you need to focus on your gut health so that you can better absorb the nutrients from your food. And if this all doesn’t help, it might be worth your money to see a naturopathic doctor who can suggest a supplement based on your needs!

 

Periods are not meant to cause you excruciating pain, and if they are, its your body trying tell you something. If you have done certain things that have helped ease your cycle, share with the rest of us below in the comments!

 

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