Periods can be weird, no doubt about it. In fact, the female body can really trip you up during your ‘time of the month’. Hormones and the changes instigated by your menstrual cycle make your body behave in strange ways. (As if we didn’t have enough to deal with when it comes to periods).
Want to know how to get rid of period cramps, or what foods you can eat to make you feel better?
Fear not, we have you covered with all the weird things that happen to people before their periods — including why they happen, and how you can combat them.
First the cramps, and now sore breasts as well? Don’t worry — breast sensitivity is normal before and during your period.
Sore and tender breasts happen to a lot of women as they approach their period. In fact, many women take increasingly sensitive breasts as a sign of their impending period.
Breast tenderness is caused by fluctuating hormone levels, though there is some ambiguity over the exact mechanism; and we still don’t know why menstrual breast pain affects some more than others.
The increased oestrogen levels leading up to your period cause your breasts to get slightly bigger, and then later on in your cycle, increased progesterone affects your milk ducts. (Progesterone also causes breast tenderness during pregnancy.)
Remember that frequently aching breasts could be a sign of other health conditions — when in doubt, check them out.
Wear comfortable underwear (or none at all), and keep breasts in place during exercise with good sports bras.
Everyone dreads period cramps — but do you know what actually causes them?
Period cramps are actually caused by your uterine lining contracting and they are medically known as dysmenorrhea. Some women have light cramping, whereas others have more serious cramps that stop them from being able to work.
Is it possible to get rid of your period cramps? It’s certainly possible to get some relief from them. Period cramp relief can be found in heat, bathing, massage, and even foods like ginger.
More serious cramping can be caused by conditions like endometriosis and uterine fibroids.
Period cramps can actually improve with age and even disappear after a woman has given birth.
The decrease in serotonin levels you experience during a period can leave you with intense sugar and carb cravings.
Though it’s tempting to reach for the chocolate, it’s better for you to actually cut your salt and sugar intake during your period (the same goes for caffeine and alcohol).
Stock up on slow-release carbs and healthy fats instead — almonds are reputed to be a good PMS snack, as are bananas and leafy green veg.
When it comes to your skin, it’s all about the hormones again. Rising progesterone levels cause your sebaceous glands to secrete more sebum, as well as the swelling and compression of pores. Sebum deposits on your skin can easily erupt into spots.
The other reason behind common period breakouts is increased levels of the male hormone testosterone in your system during the lead up to your period.
In order to combat sebum build-up, make sure you stick to your skincare routine, eat skin-boosting foods, and stay hydrated. For bad breakouts, you can get acne creams and ointments.
Mood swings & brain fuzz
One of the most common symptoms of PMS is intense mood swings. These can be nothing to laugh about for the women who get them. But why does our mood change so dramatically just before our period starts?
It’s actually a drop in hormone levels which can lead to a lower mood, sadness, irritability, anxiety and anger. This change can be sudden and feel unexplained, so you might not even realise that it’s PMS mood swings.
You can also feel a type of ‘brain fuzz’ during your period due to hormonal changes, with lapses in energy and concentration. You may find work harder than normal, or struggle remembering things.
As well as exercising, upping your calcium intake, and better stress management, you may also want to consider speaking to a doctor if you find your period moods extreme.
Hormonal changes can make you feel tired and sluggish, and it can get harder to fall asleep and sleep comfortably during the lead up to your period.
Fight the hormones and the fatigue by exercising in order to tire your body out and benefit from endorphins, but be gentle on yourself. Pilates and yoga can be great for menstruation exercise.
You’ll probably also notice that your temperature fluctuates around the time of your period. This is because of the rise in progesterone, which is linked to an increase in body temperature. Unfortunately, one of the common side effects of this hormone change is difficulty sleeping.
Keeping your bedroom cool by opening your window or using a fan can help, as can summer bedsheets and breathable pyjamas.
Here are some helpful tips on how to get a better night’s sleep on your period.
Bloating & tummy trouble
Wind, bloating, needing to go to the toilet more often than usual — these all not very pleasant things that can happen to women as part of their menstrual cycle. You’ll probably notice this leading up to and during your period.
The rise and fall of sex hormones lead to water and salt retention in the body, making you feel more bloated.
And the change in hormone levels affects our gastrointestinal tract and having more prostaglandins in your system can lead to constipation. Nightmare.
So what can you do to feel better and beat the PMS battle?
Here are some top tips, but don’t forget to go easy on yourself — don’t feel the need to push yourself too hard:
- Reduce caffeine intake
- Reduce salt and sugar intake
- Stay hydrated
- Get enough rest
- Soothe cramping with heat.
Most importantly, take care of yourself and take it easy!