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Menstrual Cycle Explained - The Bloody Chapter

  • by Clara Marschall

Recently, we heard a great comparison that we had to share with you – that the different phases of our cycle are like the four seasons. Might sound weird at first but hear us out.

Let's start with winter, or menstruation, when some of us prefer to hibernate. For some menstruators, it's a time when they prefer to crawl into bed with a hot water bottle and chocolate, binging one too many episodes from their new favorite show (we’re speaking from experience).

If we remind ourselves of what’s going on in our bodies during this time, it makes perfect sense. During your period, the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone reach their lowest point. If the egg wasn't fertilized at ovulation (meaning you don't get pregnant), it can't nest in the lining of the uterus. As a result, the uterine lining tissue sheds while the uterine muscles contract - hello period cramps! Together with blood, this tissue then flows out of the vagina as your period. It’s no wonder that all of this action leaves many of us feeling drained and worn-out.

Those who are plagued by bloating during their period can thank the so-called prostaglandins. On one hand, they cause contractions of the uterus, but on the other hand they also have an effect on the colon and can stimulate digestion. Combine this with the common period symptom of water retention - caused by the increase in hormones before the period and you’ve got a real mess.

Unfortunately, menstruators are still expected to “function” as per usual or flawlessly during this time whether at work, during sports or in everyday life.

It's no wonder that with such expectations in the back of your mind, you might put yourself under pressure to perform as usual with regular conditions. Sound familiar? Then this is your friendly (but firm) reminder that it's not only totally O.K., but super important to give yourself and your body the rest it needs during this time.

While your menstruation isn’t a weakness (on the contrary, it's a superpower), remember that your body and mind are challenged by it.

So cut yourself some slack and give yourself permission to take it easy.

Menstrual Cycle Explained Period

Of course, each menstruator experiences their inner “winter” individually. Some of us may have more energy and are able to power through as usual. The key is to listen to your inner voice and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. Personally, this has been incredibly helpful to us, so we'd like to share with you our top tips to help you feel good and fit: 

  1. First things first: You deserve some me-time! Use menstruation time to focus inwards and concentrate on yourself. Meetings with friends, parties, intense sports and other challenging activities are actually better off during your spring or summer - (pre)-ovulation.
  2. Sports during your period, yes or no? It all depends on how you feel! If your energy levels are down and you dread the thought of exercise, then better put your sports routine on standby. Yes, sometimes it’s necessary do that. This is the only way you can gather strength to power through again when your energy returns!

For those who feel motivated to exercise during their period, suitable workouts can be quite beneficial. After all, the right kind of exercise can not only help with cramps and pain, but also have an amazing effect on your mood. Again, it’s important to adapt to your own energy levels.

Don’t expect from yourself to keep up with anything high intensity i.e., intensive cardio or interval and strength training at this time of the month. Instead, stick to light forms of cardio - a walk with your bestie will do just fine. Light forms of yoga and Pilates, which focus on holding strengthening positions, stretching and breathing, can also be very beneficial for the body and mind.

In conclusion, there's nothing wrong with exercising during your period as long as you listen to your body! For those of us who experience more comfortable periods with few symptoms, we can also continue our workout routine as usual. For more info, check out our workout guide.

  1. Good old period cravings, who doesn't know them... Unfortunately, many of our go-to snacks can contain ingredients that are problematic to our hormonal health and can even worsen symptoms.

 

Here are the don'ts:

Caffeine: Our favorite pick-me-up, caffeine unfortunately can constrict blood vessels, leading to poorer blood flow and more severe cramping.

Sugar: A real baddie during your period. It's pro-inflammatory and can promote hormone imbalances. Ouch. As if that wasn't enough, sugar sends our blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride, which in turn can cause mood swings and energy lows.   

Salty: No question, salty snacks like chips are super delicious. But too much salt is associated with worsened cramps, bloating and water retention.

Trans fats: Found in fried foods and junk food, they're known to promote inflammation in the body and negatively impact period symptoms.

 

And here are the dooos:

Iron and magnesium: Essential nutrients to pay special attention to during your period. Contained in green leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale, nuts, seeds and cocoa.

Omega-3 fatty acids: They regulate hormonal systems and are even said to relieve menstrual cramps. Contained in flaxseed, nuts and algae oil, for example.

Vitamin B6: Can help with cramps and water retention. Find it in bananas, avocados, carrots and spinach, for example.

Turmeric and Ginger: These wonder spices have an anti-inflammatory effect and are known to reduce discomfort around the period. They’re extra delicious when consumed inside Golden Milk.

Tea: Raspberry leaf, nettle, chamomile, mint, cinnamon - to name just a few of the teas that can have a positive effect on menstrual cramps.

All well and good, but still craving salty snacks? Then check out our healthier version of chips, brought to you in this super yummy recipe. Not only will it satisfy your cravings, but make your hormones happy, too!   

 

The Bottom Line

A cold, long and dark winter can be really crappy and ruin your mood. But do we fight against the season? Nope, cause there’s no point! We accept it and make the best of it. And that's exactly what we should do during the “winter” phase of our cycle. If we adjust and adapt to our menstruation, this time of the month - like a cold winter - can be okay, sometimes even quite good! After all, in winter we don't go out in summer clothes and expect to have a great time.

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