Did you know that the average woman will have roughly 480 periods in her lifetime? If you're thinking that's a lot of periods, we agree!
We also hope that you'll agree with us when we say that since it's such a frequent event in every woman's life, it's important to know how you can have healthy periods.
Before we continue, think back to your last period. How were your bowel movements? Did you notice anything different between your period days and non-period days?
Did you know that you could improve your period symptoms by supporting your gut? Learn how by working with one of our nutritionists. Find out morehere.
The link between your period and your gut health
Chances are, if you're like most women, you experience painful symptoms during that time of the month.
Studies show that women with or without IBS symptoms tend to have digestive discomfort during their period. Symptoms such as bloating, nausea, diarrhoea and pains in the tummy are all common, with bloating during the second half of the cycle being heightened. (1)
And why is this? Well, it's in one part down to the female sex hormone oestrogen. This is responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system.
During the first part of your period, hormones (progesterone and oestrogen) rise as they prepare for a possible pregnancy. This in turn changes our digestive movement as we have receptors (molecules on or in cells) for these hormones in our gut lining. Since the digestive tract is designed to react and sense these hormones, it's common for these events to cause symptoms such as constipation and gas.
Once the egg is released, the second cycle starts working and if the egg is not fertilised, you will start to bleed. This also triggers another hormone (prostaglandins) to spike, which causes the lining of the uterus to shed. In addition, prostaglandins cause muscle contractions in the uterus, which you know as menstrual cramps.
Tired of the bloating during your period? Watch this video to learn quick tips:
These events happening in your body can also change your bowel movements and lead to loose stools. At the same time, progesterone and oestrogen will drop, which also means possible tummy pains. So as you can see, your period and the changes in your gut symptoms at the time of your menstrual cycle are absolutely connected and though very uncomfortable, they're normal reactions. (2)
How to improve your gut symptoms during your period
Your period has cycles and each cycle triggers certain symptoms. During the first stage of your cycle, for example, gas and constipation are common. To reduce constipation, focus on your water intake as this helps move things along.
You should also limit or eliminate caffeine and alcohol intake as both of these lead to dehydration, and thus cause constipation.
You can reduce both bloating and gas with light exercise. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but exercise can improve digestion and clear that annoying gas. Try different exercise ideas online and see which ones you like. What you eat, how much you eat and the speed in which you eat also play a huge role in your symptoms.
Eat smaller portions and eat (and chew) your food slowly to reduce both bloating and gas.
If you have loose stools, take a look at your caffeine and particularly, coffee intake. Try switching to some hormone-loving herbal teas like ginger, green tea, chamomile, fennel, cinnamon, turmeric and red raspberry leaf tea.
You can even enjoy chicory coffee, which is naturally decaffeinated and full of gut-loving probiotics.
Loose stools can also be caused by the following:
Sugar and artificial sweeteners
Fried or fatty foods
As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can help improve your period symptoms by paying attention to your diet and lifestyle choices.
Let's take a closer look at how you can support your gut with some delicious whole foods.
Gut and hormone loving foods
One of the best things you can do throughout your period and beyond is to eat foods that promote hormone balance. For example, when hormones are high at the start of your cycle, anti-inflammatory-rich foods will do wonders. Examples of anti-inflammatory rich foods include:
Oily fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel
Legumes like black beans and chickpeas
Grains including ones high in phytonutrients (the plant compounds) brown rice, buckwheat, oats, whole rye and quinoa
Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale
Fruits such as berries, oranges, cherries, and strawberries
Warm foods are also comforting during your period so throw some of these anti-inflammatory rich foods into a pot and slow cook or roast them. For instance, roasted veggies with mackerel or brown rice with slow cooked veggies and salmon. Yummy!
And don't forget to spice up your life! Healing spices such as cloves, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, fennel, pepper (black and pink), saffron and turmeric will just boost your already healthy dishes.
When these hormones go down in the second part of your cycle, add magnesium-rich foods to your diet. These include:
Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach
Dark chocolate (70%)
These will give you an energy boost and support your overall gut health.
Support you gut all month, every month with 1-1 online nutrition programme
Whether you struggle with painful periods due to underlying gut issues or simply want to feel your best regardless of the time of the month, you'll highly benefit from our personalised programmes.
If you want to reduce symptoms or learn how to listen to and understand your body better, our 1-to-1 nutrition coaching can help you on this journey. Once you're assigned one of our amazing nutritionists, you'll get the following:
A food program that's tailored to you
Personalised supplement recommendation
Lifestyle tips and guidance that you can implement - no matter how busy you are
A report after your 1-to-1 consultations
All this is done through zoom (or if you prefer, over the phone) while you're in the comfort of your own. Curious to know whether this can really help you or not? Find out more here.
Subscribers to our 3-in-1 gut supplement will also have access to a nutritionist as part of their subscription.
It's really important to practise self-love and compassion during your menstrual cycle. Look after your body through good nutrition, pack your plate with all the suggestions we have provided, drink plenty of water and herbal teas. Limit or eliminate caffeine and alcohol. Get moving, gentle exercise is essential, and have a warm magnesium-rich Epsom salt bath to replace any lost minerals.
Iron and B12 levels are important when on your period. Eat plenty of All meats, organ meats like liver, fish, eggs, and cheese. If you are vegetarian or vegan, really pay attention during this time of the month. If you're vegan, supplement with a bioavailable form of B12 (Methylcobalamin). Eat meals rich in chickpeas, legumes, almonds, spinach, whole wheat. Yeast flakes are high in B12 and can be a cheese addition to any meal.
Did you know…?
That for some women, their period can be as painful as labour pain.