Each of our menstrual phases are such powerful times. Understanding how we can work ‘with’ our cycle and naturally balance it is so valuable, so thank yourself for taking the time to learn more xx
1. Avoid doing strenuous exercise
The quick version is our body utilises blood in 4 ways. Priority is our brain, then our organs, then our skeletal muscles and then menstruation. If we are working out too much we may be affecting our blood levels and therefore our flow. Its like the body literally says “we don’t have enough to make a period”. The day before and the first 2-3 days of your bleed should be restful. Make space just for you. A gentle walk, gentle yoga flow, easy stretches, breath work, meditation. Rest up, be in nature, do things that make you feel nurtured and grounded. You can workout again once your period is coming to an end, and your body will be so grateful you took this time to slow down.
2. Avoid being too social or doing too much
This is a time for you. Do something just for YOU. Take yourself out for a meal, or a tea or chai. Ask hubby, your parents or some friends to take the kids for the night or a few hours. Read a book, be creative. Just as in nature, the cycles of the day and night, the seasons and the moon, our body has cycles ‘within’ the menstrual cycle as well. Ovulation is a time of outward-ness or our yang time. The baby making time. The more creative action time. When we bleed this is our yin time, and as there are so many changes happening physically and emotionally during this time it is important to respect ourselves through this transition and allow for nurturing. Ofcourse you can still be creative and expressive during this time, just notice how you utilise your energy. Try cultivating it more inward rather than outward while bleeding.
3. Avoid being IN cold water
Avoid being in cooler or cold water during both menstruation and ovulation. In Chinese Medicine our uterus is regarded as an extraordinary organ (there are 5 others including the brain) because it is both hollow in nature and can also hold essence, in this case blood. During menstruation and ovulation there is an aspect of ‘opening’. You may have heard the saying ‘bun in the oven’ when someone is pregnant. This highlights that the uterus must be warm for healthy menstruation and therefore conception and pregnancy. If we are submerged in cold water during this ‘open’ time we risk contracting the cold nature inside. The Chinese Medicine pattern of ‘Cold in the uterus’ can be linked to painful periods, dark or purple clotty blood, irregular cycles, growths, amenorrhea (absent period) and infertility.
4. Avoid eating cold and raw foods and drinking cold fluids
This is always a great thing to do, not just during our bleed. This is Chinese Medicine 101. Our digestive organs need to warm up all food to body temperature to even begin the metabolism process. Cold and raw foods burden this system and use up excess and unnecessary energy to do this. A common symptom of this is bloating. If you are prone to binge eat before or during your bleed get prepared with some healthy snacks and nourishing meals. Eat warming, gentle and nourishing foods. like my ‘spiced pumpkin soup’ which is so comforting. Also consume warm gentle drinks - note certain teas can actually be cooling in nature like green and peppermint. Opt more for warming style teas like Rooibos with fresh lemon (the best) or chamomile or make a fresh ginger tea by gently simmering a few pieces in a pot of wateron the stove. You can make a bigger batch and store it in the fridge and just add boiling water to it when drinking some. Ginger is a calmitive, settles the tummy and can calm cramps. Fresh ginger (not dried) is also dispersing in nature which means it moves water. If you are prone to fluid retention around bleed time this can be really beneficial.
5. Avoid poor food choices
Take note if you are drawn to binge or emotional eating just before or during your bleed time. You can balance this out by increasing meal sizes just a little, eating nourishing and nurturing foods and having healthy snack options ready to go. An easy, and delicious option is my ‘choc-nut hemp nourish balls’. Make AND eat food before you have the opportunity to choose something you might regret later. In the week or few days leading up to your flow start incorporating fibre rich starchy foods to work on regulating blood sugars to reduce cravings and help you feel full for longer. Wholegrain bread, rice, legumes, pasta (legume pastas are a great option!), bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and quinoa. These foods can also support the digestive system during this time with many women often noticing their digestion slows down or they are more prone to looser stools.
6. Avoid chemical laden tampons
Depending on what you use for sanitary wear - moon cup, fabric reusable menstrual pads, tampons, or conventional pads, choose organic. Mainstream tampons are made with harsh chemicals to bleach them and small fibres from the tampon can come off during insertion and removal. The vagina is a high mucus membrane area and excessive use of tampons can also dry out this important fluid. Interesting using mainstream tampons over organic cotton ones can increase pain and menstrual discomfort. If you use an applicator this is a great opportunity to begin to get more comfortable with touching your body. Never use tampons while sleeping and always change them regularly. Use the lightest absorbency tampon and try to use pads or fabric pads once your flow is getting lighter in volume. Ideally the best option is to allow your menstrual blood to flow without being restricted, although that’s not always ideal. With time and awareness you may find it easier to time going to the bathroom or shower with blood releasing. This is a great opportunity to view your blood as well. There is no pressure and there are gentle and slow steps you can take with time to incorporate healthier options for your body and lifestyle, so just work with what sanitary option feels right for you now and use this awareness to make changes over time.
7. Avoid sex – this is a time to encourage outward flow
I have heard that some women enjoy sex while menstruating as it can help relieve discomfort. When the uterine lining is shedding it is preparing to be released, moving downward with gravity. Interestingly, and again not talked about enough, within our abdominal cavity, where all our organs are housed, there is a small area that is open to the pelvic area. Where the fallopian tubes reach up and out to hover below the ovaries there is a fine opening. Uterine tissue and blood can creep up the fallopian tubes, what we call ‘retrograde (backwards) menstruation’ and release through this opening moving into the abdominal cavity. Essentially this is what endometriosis is. An often painful condition and part of an irregular menstrual cycle whereby uterine tissue cells grows on tissues outside of the uterus, like organs, the cavity walls or in the pelvis. If you’re wanting to be intimate opt for clitoral stimulation instead of penetration.
8. Avoid any type of inversions
This means any movement that involves your feet above your heart. Often these are included in yoga practices however as point #7 we want to encourage a downward and outward flow. If it feels comfortable lying supported on the ground (or in bed) with pillows under your lower back or knees is great.
9. Avoid hot exercises and excessive sweating
The level of our blood and body fluids interchanges so if we are sweating too much often our blood volume is compromised. I have seen many cases of amenorrhea (no period) or very scant and minimal flow periods in women who exercise excessively and practice hot yoga or pilates. These are two wellness modalities I respect a lot, although with the addition of the hot temperatures it can be detrimental for our health and interfere with our menstrual cycle, especially if you are feeling a little depleted or your periods are very light or absent. I’ve mentioned more about the blood levels in point #1.
10. avoid painkillers or drugs
I know of many women who pop some pills just as their period is coming on, you know, just a preventative. This is such a shame as there are three very important factors we need to consider here. One: any symptom you experience is your body literally communicating with you. Blocking this communication is like telling your body you don’t care what it has to say. It is so so important to listen so we can help ourselves and make better choices to assist our body feel its best to carry us efficiently. Masking the problem with a drug is a bandaid approach. I often use the analogy in my clinic of ‘the engine light in the car coming on and putting a sticke over it and continuing to drive.’ Two: all drugs have their own affects on the body. Consider how the drug is actually working ? For a period to occur there is a cascade of information back and forth through so many of our body systems. Disrupting this with the interference of drugs confuses the whole communication. Three: when you can understand what your body is telling you – especially through pain, it is much easier to be able to help it rebalance. There are many options for pain experienced during menstruation and I highly suggest you seek a registered acupuncturist to help you if you are unsure which avenue to choose. Treating menstrual pain is something qualified acupuncturists (not dry needling) do on a daily basis and there is so much support you can easily receive with this amazing wellness modality and actually fix the underlying cause to prevent it.
So, there are my top 10 things to avoid for a happier and healthier menstrual flow. I hope you find this information useful, and feel free to share the love with your sisters and loved ones to help them feel their best and enjoy their flow too.
with love, Miriam xx