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5 Steps For Better Periods

Periods shouldn't be painful. If each month you're struggling with pain, mood swings, headaches, increased fatigue, and overall debilitating PMS- it's your body's way of telling you to pay attention.

So often women who experience issues around their period are cast aside, told that "it's just part of being a woman," when in reality, it doesn't have to be that way. Hormonal birth control is not the only option. In fact, hormonal birth control is masking symptoms, shutting down natural hormone production, and coming with side effects that can leave you feeling worse off.

Paying attention to these signs and symptoms can help women become an advocate for their health, allowing for a faster diagnosis and treatment plan for menstrual disorders such as PCOS, PMDD, and Endometriosis.

No matter where you are on your menstrual health journey, these tips can be helpful at supporting your body as a whole. Keep in mind, this is not medical advice, or recommendations specifically for you, but rather, general guidelines to help you approach your painful periods with curiosity.

1) Track Your Cycle & Start Cycle Syncing :

Your cycle has 4 phases: menstrual, follicular, ovulation, luteal. These phases all have slightly different energetic and physical needs that, when understood and accounted for, can help you support your body. For example, ever notice how you feel a little more extroverted in the first half of your cycle, compared to the second half where you'd rather stay at home and relax?

You can begin tracking your cycle through an app like Clue, or using a paper calendar. The easiest place to start is the first day of your period, marking how long your menstrual phase (bleeding phase) was, keeping track of symptoms, noting ovulation, and getting a sense with how long your follicular and luteal phases are.

Not sure if you're ovulating? Ovulation will come with a thick, milky white, cervical mucous/ discharge. You can also keep track of your temperature using the fertility awareness method to help you decipher if ovulation is occurring.

I go into more details around cycle syncing in this free Masterclass so feel free to check it out! Basically you want to establish and understand the patterns you have during each phase of your cycle so you can better anticipate your needs.

Example: to elaborate on the previous example around being introverted vs. extroverted- use this in your favor! Plan for social gatherings, calls for work, client sessions, and group presentations during your follicular phase vs. planning for more relaxation, small gatherings at home, and movie nights during you luteal phase.

2) Liver & Detoxification Support

An overlooked area for hormonal health is detoxification (and gut health for that matter). The liver is a BIG player in overall health, especially when it comes to hormones! Your liver is responsible for essentially "turning on, and turning off" hormones. An example of this is how thyroid hormone is turned into it's active form in the liver, and how estrogen can be "turned off" in the liver.

The problem: the liver is often burdened with excess chemicals and toxins from our environment and food, and put through extra stress with substances like medications, alcohol, and blood sugar imbalances. While it does detoxify on it's own everyday, you can see that it could use some additional support and help to do it's job as best as it can. It's like if your boss had you do 10 projects all at once, then threw task, after task, on top of what was already being asked of you. It adds up.

In addition, there can be issues with the body not excreting toxins properly. Whether there's digestive issues, stagnant lymphatic flow, "stuck" bile flow, difficulty sweating, or lack of movement, these can all play a factor in issues with detoxification. This is a problem when it comes to your periods as symptoms such as sore breasts, inflammation, bloat, and acne can be more prevalent with an increase circulation of estrogen (detoxification and gut health support helps keep estrogen in alignment).

You'll want to make sure you're reducing toxic load as much as possible to avoid putting extra stress on the system. In addition, optimizing food quality, reducing consumption of heavily processed foods and sugars, and reducing alcohol consumption can be helpful.

One thing to keep in mind is that the lymphatic system, the system that helps remove toxins from various areas of the body, does not have a pump to help it flow. Compared to the circulatory system that has the heart to keep the blood pumping, the lymphatic system requires movement on your behalf in order to get it moving. Utilizing techniques like cold plunges, and saunas can be supportive for the lymphatic system as well.

The idea: sweat, move, and provide your body with the most natural, quality support you can! Targeted supplemental protocols can also be beneficial depending on your specific needs!

3) Nervous System Support

If your body is getting the signal that there's something it has to run or fight it will shut down sex hormone function. Think about it, the body knows it's not safe to reproduce. Often when women are stuck in fight or flight mode they become imbalanced with their hormones, leaving issues with periods, an absence of their period, low sexual desire, and increased risk of burnout.

Supporting the nervous system can be impactful for all areas of healing because healing happens when you're in a parasympathetic state. It doesn't mean you can never experience stress, but rather you are providing your body with the right support to recover, replenish, and sustain a certain level of energy. You are not meant to be stuck in "go" mode 24/7. You need to be able to settle in and recover when necessary.

Some ideas to help with the nervous system: get enough sleep (more on this later), cycle sync (as discussed before), include time to rest, and practices such as breathwork, meditation, time in nature, and journaling can be beneficial. Making sure all basic needs are met are also vital for the nervous system to feel supported. Especially feeling safe in your environment so you can relax and unwind. Nutrition will play a big part in this as well, which we'll talk more in depth about next!

4) Blood Sugar Balance

As you've probably gathered by now, nutrition plays a large role in supporting your body. The food you eat is the building block of your cellular structure, you want to be made of the highest quality ingredients! Factors such as location, resources, and availability will play a factor into each persons accessibility to high quality nutrition, so doing the best with what you have available to you is as much as we can ask for.

Once you grab all the quality ingredients then it's time to put it all together in a way to balance your blood sugar. This looks like ensuring you're getting quality protein, healthy fat, and natural carbohydrate at every meal.

Examples of quality protein: grass fed meats, wild caught seafood, pasture raised eggs, temphe, lentils.

Examples of healthy fats: avocado, coconut, olives/ olive oil, chia seeds, flaxseeds, grass fed dairy.

Examples of natural carbohydrates: think produce (fruits, veggies, potatoes), rice, quinoa, organic oats.

Supporting blood sugar helps reduce inflammation and internal stress on the system, plus helps with liver support. When blood sugar is out of balance it creates these energy highs and lows. When the blood sugar gets too low it triggers release of stress hormone to release glycogen (stored glucose) into the bloodstream, this is why someone could feel anxious and "hangry" when blood sugar dips.

As you know by now, high cortisol can throw off sex hormone, so we want to keep that as low as possible and one of the ways to do that is to support blood sugar.

Eating this way can also help with sustainable energy and liver health (non alcoholic fatty liver disease is often a result of blood sugar imbalances).

5) Essential Nutrients

To take it a little deeper with nutrition, ensuring that your diet isn't missing out on any essential nutrients that are needed for menstrual health is vital to rule out any nutrient deficiencies. The work I do is focused on Nutritional Therapy, where you ensure you're providing your body with all the nutritional support needed, and in some cases, a temporary surplus to provide deeper healing.

Some of the essential nutrients I would make sure my clients are getting adequate supply of for better periods would be Magnesium, B vitamins (particularly vitamin B6 to help with cramps and B 12 for energy), Vitamin D, and all the other essential vitamins and minerals. Most likely having clients supplement with magnsium glycinate and a high quality prenatal vitamin to help ensure the body is getting all it needs, in addition to a high quality diet. This is a great pack of nutrients designed specifically for better periods! Use code HEALTHWITHSHANNON to save you $$.

Getting better periods requires a deep understanding into your body's needs. Unfortunately so many women don't know how to adequately support their periods because they were never taught how. I love removing the uncertainty around menstrual health, allowing my clients to navigate hormonal health with ease.

If you're looking to spend your month feeling more like you each month vs. being stuck on the couch in misery due to menstrual cramps be sure to check out my self paced course, Feminine Vitality. This 5 week course is designed to help you support your periods, balance hormones, and boost fertility! Covering topics such as cycle syncing, adrenal health, nutrition, fitness, getting off the Pill, pregnancy, and SO much more! Click here for the details.

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