Fix your periods
Many women suffer fatigue, cramps, erratic moods, tender breasts and acne but there are natural ways improve things, says specialist Nicole Jardim
MENSTRUATION should never be painful or miserable and, if it is, you can bet there’s an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed.
Your period should be used as a barometer for your overall health. Here, we look at a few simple steps to get your period back on track.
Know your cycle
Use a period-tracking app and pay attention to how long your period lasts, what it looks like and any symptoms such as cramps, moodiness and breast pain.
You have four phases – follicular, ovulatory, luteal and menstrual. In the follicular phase, the pituitary gland releases FSH (which stimulates the follicles in one of your ovaries to mature) and LH, which is responsible for ovulation.
This stimulates the next phase (ovulatory), when an egg is released into the Fallopian tube. If the egg is not fertilised, your sex hormones decline as the egg-producing follicle begins producing progesterone to stimulate the growth of the uterine lining – the luteal phase.
Finally, progesterone drops and the uterine lining begins to shed in the menstrual phase – hello again, period – and the cycle restarts.
In the menstrual phase, because of this hormonal shift (and the fact that menstruation is an inflammatory process), it’s normal for women to feel mildly fatigued, withdrawn and introspective.
Moving towards ovulation, our oestrogen and testosterone levels peak, which means our energy levels, sex drive and the ability to be bold start to dominate. This is a great time for more physical activity, to ask for a pay rise or have important conversations as brain skills become enhanced.
In the luteal phase, when progesterone starts to rise, natural feelings of nesting and introspection are common.
Balance your blood sugar
Sugar and other refined carbs (think anything made of flour) can badly affect your endocrine system – the collection of glands that produce hormones. I recommend cutting out refined flour and sugar and loading your plate with leafy green vegetables and beans.
Always pair carbs with protein and fat to keep your blood sugar stable between meals.
Xenoestrogens, including parabens and pesticides, act like oestrogen in the body, disrupting our hormonal messenger system and leading to conditions like oestrogen dominance (when your oestrogen levels are abnormally high relative to your progesterone).
This imbalance alone is to blame for a host of period problems, including weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness, mood swings, fatigue and low libido.
Switch out your beauty products for more natural options, cleaning supplies for greener alternatives and avoid plastic, particularly drinks bottles and cups that contain bisphenol A (BPA).
Stress leads to overproduction of cortisol, causing fatigue, brain fog and driving down melatonin to inhibit sleep.
High cortisol levels also disrupt the conversation between your brain and ovaries, indirectly telling the ovaries to decrease production of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. As a result, the whole menstrual cycle goes haywire.
Mitigate the effects by getting out in nature once a day, asking for help with chores, practising meditation or scheduling in a chance to catch up with friends.
Magnesium supports the nervous system and provides a calming effect and aids in blood-sugar balancing and PMS relief. It’s the go-to for all women, especially those suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome. Magnesium, together with B6, alleviates anxietyrelated PMS symptoms, as well as menstrual weight gain, breast tenderness and cramps.
Prioritise quality sleep
If you don’t sleep well, your cortisol might be too high or too low in the morning. It sets you up for intermittent energy slumps, sugar cravings and low moods.
Too much or too little melatonin – the night time hormone that helps dictate our circadian rhythm – can impact ovulation, fertility and our menstrual cycles.
Begin a relaxing routine, make your bedroom as dark as possible and reduce your exposure to blue light from screens after sunset.
Get your thyroid tested
If you’re having heavy or missing periods, your thyroid may be the key. Very low or very high thyroid hormones can cause light, heavy, irregular or non-existent periods and disrupt ovulation.
If you suspect dysfunction, ask for comprehensive blood tests that screen all of the thyroid hormones, not just TSH and/or T4, which GPs usually offer. Fix Your Period by Nicole Jardim is out now (£14.99, Vermilion).