It’s ‘that’ time of month…........again!

It’s ‘that’ time of month….

I’ve been thinking about how as a culture over time we have created some sort of ‘taboo’ around menstruation. I know not everyone feels like this, or acts like this, but in general it seems still to be a largely hush hush and private ‘hygiene’ topic. A visit from aunty Flo, monthlies, code red, moon cycle, girl flu…. are just some of the many names we use for our periods. By not naming it properly are we compounding the idea that menstruation is something shameful or secret?

It is said that the average woman will have around 450 periods in her lifetime which equates to approximately 10 years of bleeding. Besides the basics of how to deal with it, it seems a lot of girls are still only taught the very basics of this complex monthly cycle – let alone boys. What if we stopped mystifying our periods and talked more about to it to girls, boys, and people of all ages? Our periods are about as natural and human as it gets, so why not elevate awareness?

The first period is a milestone in becoming a woman, the missed period that indicates pregnancy, the first period after having a baby, menopause at the end of a woman’s fertility journey…. They are all such important markers in our lifetimes.

Recently my book club read ‘The Red Tent’ by Anita Diamant and fantasised about how nice it would be to have a communal place to gather with other women every time we bleed, as they do in the book, which is set in Biblical times. How great if we could celebrate and honour this incredible cycle together. But it seems the cultural expectations are that we plug up, carry on, and function at our best every day, including the days we are bleeding.

The Menstrual Cycle

Periods are only one part of the menstrual cycle, the most obvious part perhaps (code red). When we consider the cycle is anywhere between 25-35 days, the bleeding is just a small part of the picture. The whole process is orchestrated by a complex interaction of hormones which most of us know little detail about. If we pay attention to the whole cycle and how our body changes so intuitively along with it, we can start to appreciate and respect menstruation more. Like any other cycle in nature, the seasons, the tides, the breath - our periods are mind blowing in their own way.

Your cycle has 3 phases; 

- Phase 1 ( Days 1 to 14) is known as the Follicular phase, the follicles (sacs which contain an egg) in the ovary begin to mature.

- Phase 2/Ovulation (Typically days 13, 14, 15) occurs once the dominant follicle has reached maturity and the egg is released into the fallopian tube.

- Phase 3 (Days 16-28) is known as the Luteal phase, here the uterus lining becomes thicker in preparation for a fertilised egg. If the egg is not fertilised the lining breaks down, resulting in menstruation. Then the cycle begins again!

This natural cycle is how we produce our primary sex hormones, estradiol and progesterone each month. As well as being important players in the female reproductive system these two hormones also play a role in other key areas;

- Nervous system support, boosting mood and calming anxiety

- Bone and muscle growth

- Brain and heart health

- Skin and hair nourishment 

- Influencing libido

- Stimulates thyroid hormone (progesterone) and improves insulin sensitivity (estradiol)

When things go wrong & we need support

It’s normal that we all have times when we feel more or less energised, more or less confident, more or less comfortable, but is it not "normal" to suffer from problematic symptoms like PMS and painful periods. These symptoms are different for each women, but can include mood swings, tender breasts, exhaustion, anxiety, cramps, abdominal bloating, low self esteem, food cravings and acne.

There's a lot that can be done to help relieve these symptoms, a Naturopath that specialises in female repro is a great place to start as they can have a comprehensive in-depth look at you and access your individual needs. 

For PMS, calcium, MAGNESIUM, vitamin E , essential fatty acids, zinc and vitamin B-6 have all been reported to soothe symptoms.

Then we have supportive herbs such as Ginger (for digestion and bloating), Vitex (Chasteberry), Maca root, Shatavari (all for balancing hormones), Turmeric (anti-inflammatory) and Cinnamon (regulates blood sugar levels and reduces sugar cravings) to name a few.

Supporting the liver with herbs such as Dandelion root and St Mary's Thistle can also be very beneficial for hormonal health, as well as reducing stress with adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha and Reishi mushroom.

A nourishing whole-food diet full of heathy fats, protein and fresh vegetables coupled with a dash of self care and love can also work wonders for hormonal health. 

For a warm cuppa to reduce stress and create balance grab 'REPLENISH' (daytime support) or 'SUPPORT' (night time calming ). For digestion and bloating turn to 'VITALITY' and for fluid retention and nutrient support 'NOURISH' is your brew.