While many of the tweets are funny and this whole thing is supposed to somehow empower women and society to feel more comfortable with menstruation and fight the “stigma” of periods, truth is, I find it kind of sad.
While scrolling through the tweets, the majority were so negative: Evidently, during your period, you’re angry, fat, miserable, lazy, stupid, bitchy, ugly and unpredictable.
How in the world is that empowering? Sounds like the same stereotypical, demeaning claptrap we’ve been spoon-fed over the decades being regurgitated in mildly amusing memes.
(See, I told you this wasn’t going to be a well-liked tip. But, read on because it suddenly gets super-helpful!)
Okay, yes, I can appreciate the humor in the tweets. I’m not dead inside. However, when it comes to menstruation and hormones, I take a more realistic, scientific and, frankly, uplifting approach:
First of all, your period week has the potential to be awesome. That’s because a few hours after you start to bleed, estrogen rises after having fallen for six days straight. And this rising estrogen is the exact antidote you need to quash any bothersome premenstrual symptoms you’ve experienced, such as irritability, the blues, breast pain, constipation and water retention.
What’s more, estrogen continues to rise all throughout your period week–and as the level of this hormone climbs higher and higher, it boosts your mood, energy, memory, verbal abilities, desire to socialize, motivation, willpower and libido. Seriously, it’s like the superhero of hormones.
When some women see red, they may think it means “stop”. But, I’m more like a bull: When I see red, it makes me want to charge forward. That’s because I know when my period starts, it means for the next two weeks I’m in for a fun-filled, action-packed time when rising estrogen is pushing me to strive toward all my goals and take on the world.
So, then why are there so many negative tweets about menstruation?
I think it comes down to a constellation of factors women are experiencing–all of which can be remedied:
> Women are suffering needlessly from painful menstrual cramps: Unless you have severe menstrual cramps that don’t respond to any treatment, there are a multitude of ways to diminish and even silence menstrual cramp pain either naturally or using over-the-counter medications.
One of my favorite cramp-busting tips is a study-proven way to prevent menstrual cramps or greatly reduce cramps before they even begin. Here’s how to do it:
On the three days leading up to your period (you can guesstimate), take one ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) every 8 hours until you get your period (never exceeding recommended dosages on the label). If you can’t take ibuprofen or prefer a natural approach, take one gram of fish oil daily on the three days leading up to your period. If you can’t take fish oil or you’re a vegetarian, take one vegetarian micro-algae supplement daily like this one on the three days leading up to your period.
How do they work? Ibuprofen and the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil and microalgae prevent the build-up of prostaglandins–hormone-like chemicals behind period pain. No prostaglandins=less cramp discomfort or, for many, no period pain at all. Great, right?
In fact, this is why taking ibuprofen after your period has already started works so little: Your body has already produced prostaglandins, so you’re just playing catch-up.
If you forget to take your pre-period cramp-prevention doses or still have pain, then use a heat patch, sip chamomile tea or use any of these other study-proven menstrual cramp remedies to quiet the aches.
Once you get period pain under control, chances are, irritability and a desire to soothe pain with junk food get reined in, too.
> Women are low in iron: You know the fatigue, mental fogginess and/or blue moods you experience during your period? Well, on the first day, it could be due to low estrogen, since this hormone is still just getting off the ground floor. But, you could also simply be low in iron. The level of this essential mineral dips as you bleed–and when that happens, your energy, brain sharpness and mood all go south with it.
Luckily, you can avoid these low-iron symptoms by eating more iron-rich foods (such as beans, spinach, tofu and lean beef) and/or taking a daily iron supplement (15 mg. for ages 14-18; 18 mg. for ages 19-50). But, be sure to do this every day of your cycle–not just during your period–to keep your iron stores high once menstruation rolls around.
> Women are sleep-deprived: During your premenstrual week, you are likely to have the worst sleep of your entire cycle. That’s because plunging estrogen can make it difficult to get to sleep. stay asleep and reach the deeper, more restorative stages of slumber that make you fully rested.
So, by the time your period arrives, you’ve just spent nearly a week in lousy-sleepville and it’s catching up to you.
Fact of the matter is, now that you’ve got your period, it means estrogen is rising and that’s helping you get longer, deeper sleep. So, catch up on all those lost zzz’s by turning in early, sleeping late or sneaking in a nap. By doing so, you’ll boost your energy and mood and feel mentally sharper.
Have trouble sleeping during your period? The biggest factor that can thwart rising estrogen’s sleep-boosting effect during menstruation are cramps–which you just read you can greatly diminish or prevent altogether.
If you’re still having trouble getting shut-eye, try sipping chamomile tea a couple of hours prior to turning it, using progressive muscle relaxation (where you tense, then release, all the muscle groups in your body from your toes to your head) or listen to soothing music an hour before bedtime. All are study-proven ways to get better sleep.
> Women are running to the bathroom: Yes, it’s true that you’re more likely to have loose stool and frequently urinate during your period. The diarrhea is thought to be caused by a build up of those cramp-causing prostaglandins. And the nonstop peeing is because your body is now shedding all that extra liquid its been holding onto during the second half of your monthly cycle.
I think this is one of those “Do you see the potty half-full or half-empty?” kind of situations because, personally, I like it when my body gets rid of all the excess heaviness in my belly. I feel lighter and more refreshed. So, I just let it all come out. You, however, may have meetings and appointments that can’t be rudely interrupted by multiple bathroom breaks. To slow the movement in your bowels, you can use an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication or simply load up on calcium-rich foods since calcium has a mild anti-diarrheal effect.
> Women expect to have a crappy period: This is not going to win me any fans, but it’s true: If you expect your period week to suck, it’s going to suck. If you expect your period week to be good, it’s going to be good. It’s not just some New Age mumbo-jumbo. It’s real science. It’s called “catastrophizing”, which means fear and anxiety you have about something (like your period) makes you anticipate the worst, which ratchets up physical or emotional pain you experience during it. In fact, this study shows catastrophizing has the power to make menstrual cramps more painful than they would normally have been.
What can you do to thwart this tendency to catastrophize? Try writing a list of ways you would ease period pain, boost your mood, reduce fatigue or make your period week better in other ways. A fear of not being able to control a situation worsens catastrophizing. Therefore, doing something that boosts your sense of control can help ease the anxiety that’s intensifying it.
So, those are all my tips to making your period week great. I hope you try them. By solving any period-related problems you face, you can take advantage of all the rising estrogen benefits this hormone has to offer on these days in your cycle. Then, together we can change the story, smash the negative stereotypes and make periods truly positive and empowering.
In fact, I’m hoping so many women find this post helpful that soon I’ll be reading tweets that look more like this:
Totally fkn awesome–just got my period! Let the fun begin! #LiveTweetYourPeriod
Saw red. Happy dance ensues! #LiveTweetYourPeriod
First day of menstruation=first day estrogen rises. Hormone powers activate! #LiveTweetYourPeriod
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[Photo: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget]