How To Love Your Period (It’s Possible, I Promise)
I’ve always been awed by the human body. Its ability to maintain equilibrium and balance is truly remarkable. Of the body’s countless processes, menstruation is the one I’m most moved by. I remember being totally flabbergasted as a child learning about the process of getting my period. I’m going to bleed out of my vagina? No way. Chances are you’ve gotten past the utter shock of menstruation, but perhaps don’t totally understand its nuances.
It’s important for both men and women to know the basics of the menstrual cycle.
We all came from a uterus, after all! I’m here to explain the basics of what’s going on down there, and give you some ideas for optimizing your cycle and feeling amazing in your body.
The basics of a woman’s cycle:
Not to take you back to 6th grade, but it’s actually super helpful to be reminded of your anatomy.
Image source: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/uterus
A newborn female baby’s ovaries already contain all of her egg cells. When she reaches puberty, her body begins a monthly cycle of releasing an egg cell from one of the ovaries (it alternates each month – an amazing example of the body’s predisposition to balance). The cell travels through the fallopian tube and into the uterus. This process is known as ovulation, and it’s when pregnancy can occur. Pregnancy occurs if you have sex during ovulation, and a sperm cell fertilizes the egg cell and attaches to the lining of the uterus.
During ovulation, hormone levels rise and the uterine lining becomes rich with nutrients and blood. This is your body preparing to care for an embryo if fertilization takes place.
If a sperm cell doesn’t fertilize the egg during ovulation, then comes menstruation. Through rhythmic contractions (hello, cramps) the outermost tissue of the uterus will detach itself and make its way through the vagina. The shedding is known as menstruation, more commonly known as your period.
The whole cycle ranges from 21 to 35 days. Day 1 is actually the first day of your period, which begins due to a drop in hormone levels, signaling that there’s no embryo in the uterus.
Here are some of my favorite ways to support your cycle:
Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea throughout the month. It’s considered a uterine tonic, meaning it’ll strengthen your uterus, kind of like light weight lifting for your reproductive system. It’s also chalk full of vitamins and minerals that will nourish your entire body.
Eat lots of dark leafy greens like collards, kale, and chard. These are always important to have in your diet, but they’re extra key to have around your menstrual cycle. You’re loosing iron in your menstrual blood, and these tried and true dark leafys will replenish your iron supply.
Drink extra water. It’s an easy and incredibly effective way to encourage the flow of nutrients through the body. Menstruation is a time of natural detoxification, and drinking lots of water supports this incredible process.
Eat fresh fruit before your period. At the onset of cramps (or however you note the looming menstruation), make it a point to incorporate more fruit into your diet.
Fresh fruit is filled with insoluble fiber that works to soften the matter in your digestive system and brings energy downward.
In season, local fresh fruit, along with dried fruits (without added sugar) like dates and apricots, are my pre-menstrual go to’s to get things moving and shaking.
Imbalances like cramps can come from a tired liver and a lack of Vitamin C. Drinking teas like nettle and dandelion support the liver’s natural detoxification process, as well as provide the body with potent Vitamin C. Minimize your alcohol intake in the days leading up to your period to give your liver a rest.
During your period, take it easy on yourself. This can be extremely difficult for all of us. We’re immersed in the whirlwind of constant productivity, and the idea of simply resting and doing what’s internally calming can bring up some serious shame. Experiment with shifting your mindset. Treat yourself to being alone, or skipping the gym to read and have a cup of tea. Let’s face it; the world can be demanding and difficult. You deserve to treat yourself gently.
Tampon ads that have us thinking we should be able to go bungee jumping while on our periods are seriously misleading.
There’s no better time than during menstruation to luxuriate in rest and rejuvenation. Be lazy for a second – it’s nourishing and rebuilding, and will let your body truly detoxify.
Do some gentle stretches. Try lying on the ground (I like doing this on a cushion) and putting your legs up the wall. Stay here for up to 10 minutes – it’s restoring your body by reversing the blood flow in your legs, and supporting your system’s removal of waste. Hop into down dog for 10 breaths. Sit in wide-leg child’s pose for a few minutes. Listen to your body – it’ll tell you what it needs! Just be sure not to get too rigorous, and you may not want to invert your entire body.
I encourage you to get super comfortable with your cycle. Track it, talk about it, look at it, embrace it. Too often I hear people complain about the grotesqueness of their menstrual blood. I want us to celebrate our periods – menstruation is an automatic and completely natural form of detoxification that happens automatically every month. Women are fortunate to have this kind of purging inherent to our systems.
Give it a try; love your period. It’s beautiful, it’s natural, and it’s an integral part of being a woman. No one can take that away from you.
Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] if you have questions about any of these recommendations!