It’s no secret that your body changes during your period; however, most of the widely discussed changes are negative ones–headaches, cramps, and mood swings to name a few. In fact, for something that happens every month, menstrual care is not a widely discussed topic.
Self-care may seem like a trendy topic but, when it comes to your period, it’s critical. If you want to feel your best during your cycle, you need to employ menstrual care strategies like eating well, gentle movement, optimizing sleep, and heat therapy.
Using warmth is actually one of my favorite menstrual care approaches to promote muscle relaxation and generate feelings of comfort. You can apply a heating pad directly to your lower abdomen or low back, take a warm bath or shower, add cozy layers of clothing, and/or sip warm beverages such as herbal tea. Anything that you can do to keep your body warm will help with overall comfort and relaxation.
Food to support your menstrual cycle
Despite cravings for carbs and sweets during your period, they are not the ideal foods to support menstrual care (In fact this is often your body craving protein instead). Sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to bloating, water retention, poor concentration, and irritability–all symptoms you want to reduce, not amplify, during your period. Here are some general suggestions for eating to support your menstrual cycle:
Fill up on fiber
Fiber will promote healthy digestion and elimination, just make sure you are drinking plenty of water as you boost your fiber intake. Include foods like almonds, apples, beans, berries, avocado, sweet potatoes, and whole grains.
Make sure you are getting enough calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins E, B6, B12, and omega-3s from the foods you are eating or supplements you’re taking. Always check with your doctor before starting new supplements.
Include protein-rich foods
Protein helps stabilize your blood sugar and reduces cravings. Wild-caught fish, organic and grass-fed meat, high-quality nut/seed butters are some options to include.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Drinking enough water fights fatigue and dehydration, boosts brain activity, increases digestive regularity, and regulates hormones. Aim for half an ounce of water for each pound of body weight (150 lbs = 75 oz). Remember, hormones can affect your hydration levels so make sure you are drinking extra water during your period.
Exercise might be the last thing you feel like doing during your menstrual cycle, but movement increases circulation and releases endorphins that may help with your PMS symptoms. The good news is that strenuous activity is not necessary to reap the benefits of moving your body during your cycle. Exercise will boost your mood, improve blood circulation, and reduce stress, which help combat cramps, headaches, and anxiety.
Naturally, I’m a huge fan of yoga as part of any menstrual care program. Since yoga integrates stretching, breathing, and meditation exercises it can help relax the body and mind and ameliorate pain, discomfort, and anxiety. Start with a Mindful FLOW class with Ohana Yoga + Barre. It’s a great way to integrate light movement into your menstrual care program along with meditation.
Make space for creativity
From the start of your period and lasting for 10 to 14 days, is considered the Follicular Phase of your menstrual cycle. During this time, your access to creative energy is at its peak making it a great time to try new things and be open to fresh ideas and big dreams. To get the juices flowing try one of these creative outlets and see what happens for you.
Paint or Draw
As children, we all knew that we were artists. Embrace this same way of thinking by grabbing some paints or a pen and paper and just start scribbling. It doesn’t need to be museum worth your even something you show to anyone. Just let yourself explore some new materials and see what comes out of you.
I love to collage journal. I save old magazines and catalogs and cut out words and images to create my own work of art. I keep a small sketchbook that is always available to glue in some newfound scraps or write down thoughts.
Journaling is a great way to let go of any built-up thoughts or emotions that are stuck on replay in our heads. Writing with a pen and paper has been shown to be the best way to release this energy and move forward. So don’t feel like your journal needs to be pretty or that the grammar has to be correct. Use this space to let go and make mistakes. It’s for your eyes only.
Self-Care During Your Monthly Flow
Your menstrual cycle is a part of you and present every day of the month. Practicing self-care to support our monthly flow just means that we’re present with what our bodies need. Pay attention to when you start to feel your energy change or your way of thinking change. You can even download an app like Natural Cycles or Flo to keep track of your cycle and your symptoms. The more you know about your body the better you can support it.
Want to give your body monthly support and learn to tune in? Sign up for Ohana Online and have access to unlimited yoga + barre classes both livestreamed and in the on-demand library. Get your first two weeks free!
Erin Entlich is a certified yoga instructor, personal trainer, holistic health coach, and writer. She believes doing good starts with feeling good, which is why she loves helping people weave movement, mindfulness, and healthy eating into their daily lives. Find out more at www.erinentlich.com.