Periods aren’t fun. Period.
Unfortunately, Aunt Flo visits every single month, so the best you can do is manage the mood swings, pain, and other symptoms that she brings with her. To help make that time of the month a bit more bearable, we’ve put together a few tips on how to feel your best even when it seems impossible.
Do you hit pause on your workouts when your period says hi? For most women, going to the gym during their red days is the last thing they’d want to do, especially if they’re already in pain. However, working out on your period is actually a great way to reduce period pain. While you may feel uncomfortable, your period shouldn’t stop you from performing your regular fitness routine. As long as the pain is manageable, you should be able to perform low-intensity workouts like walking, aerobics, and yoga.
Experts are still unsure as to how exercise can ease period pain, but a study suggests that it may be because working out lowers your body’s prostaglandins, which are compounds that cause pain. Workouts also release endorphins (aka the body’s built-in painkiller), which can reduce period pain and boost your mood.
We know it can be tempting to give in to your guilty cravings, but your sugary treats and salty snacks will have to wait. Consuming certain foods can make your period cramps more painful. For example, refined carbs and sugar can cause your body to retain water and contribute to mood swings, so say goodbye to donuts and ice cream for now.
Change your diet and choose to eat healthy instead. Since your body will lose a lot of blood during your period, it’s a good idea to eat iron-rich foods such as nuts, leafy greens, and oats to restore your blood count. For dessert, treat yourself to a tiny piece of dark chocolate — it contains magnesium, a mineral that can reduce muscle pain.
Heat reduces muscle pain, and since the uterine wall is made up of muscles, applying heat can help with period cramps. Use a heating pad to warm your lower abdomen — it’ll be your best friend during your period. Alternatively, you could create a homemade heating pad by wrapping a hot water bottle in a clean cloth, or by heating a damp towel in the oven.
Soaking in a warm bath also works. Don’t worry — in most cases, your blood won’t flow out while you’re in the bathtub. But if you’re worried about it leaking out, you can wear a tampon or menstrual cup. The downside is you won’t be able to get as clean, but if it’s what you need to do to feel comfortable, go for it!
Pop a pain reliever
If the pain gets too severe, it might be time to pop in a pain reliever. Grab a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) or over-the-counter naproxen (e.g. Aleve) to curb period pain. Taking NSAIDS before your period begins is also a great way to keep your prostaglandins low.
For most people, it’s safe to pop in a 200 mg to 400 mg pill every 4 to 6 hours. But to be safe, it’s best to stick to what’s written on the label. If you have other health conditions such as kidney issues, consult your doctor first. Some NSAIDs may counteract other medications and cause serious complications.
Your body retains more water when it’s that time of the month, making you feel bloated (this is why many women feel “fat” on their red days). The solution is — as counterintuitive as it seems — to up your water intake. Drinking water can help ease the common discomforts that come with periods such as cramps, migraines, and general weakness. As a bonus, being well-hydrated is one way to deal with dry and dull skin — something that’s more likely to happen to women on their periods.
According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, women should drink at least 2.7 liters of water a day. If water tastes too bland to you, consider infusing your water with fruits such as oranges and pineapples.
Warm beverages are the way to go when you’re on your period. Say goodbye (or rather, good riddance) to cramps by drinking caffeine-free teas like ginger tea and chamomile tea. Stay away from caffeinated teas such as oolong tea and green tea, as they can constrict your blood vessels and cause even more discomfort.
Take time to de-stress
Stress can increase a person’s sensitivity to pain, so try to stay away from blood-pressure-boosting activities when you’re on your period. If you’re used to having a go-go-go lifestyle, give your body a break from that. Focus on self-care and take advantage of this time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do, whether that’s watercolor painting, knitting, or binge-watching a TV show.
You’ve got this, girl!
Periods are never fun, but with these tips, you can reduce the discomfort that comes every time Aunt Flo visits. And remember, while some period pain is normal, symptoms that are so intense or don’t seem to go away might indicate a more serious condition such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). If you feel that something’s off with your cycle, don’t be afraid to consult your OB-GYN. Menstruation is nothing to be embarrassed about!