The Myth Of Painful Periods
Do you dread that time of the month? Do you find yourself moody, suffering from painful cramps, and wanting to eat everything in sight?
Many women think that such symptoms are expected with their menstrual cycle, that they just have live with it.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to suffer from painful periods. In fact, According to Dr. Andrea Maxim author of MAXIMized Health, “you shouldn’t even feel your period coming.” In her most recent podcast interview on the Dr. Lo Radio Show, she discusses the importance of regulating your hormones in order to feel your very best, even during your menstrual cycle.
For some women, understanding how their menstrual cycle actually works can be a daunting task, so let’s make it simple!
For the average woman, the menstrual cycle lasts about 28 day, but in actuality it can range from 21-35 days. Based on the 28-day cycle model, the first 2 weeks is known as the Follicular Phase and is mostly Estrogen dominant. Estrogen is a hormone that is produced by the ovaries and is very important for bone, skin, cardiovascular, cognitive, immune, and gastrointestinal health and function. On Day 14, ovulation occurs, the internal body temperature rises due to the increasing activity of the reproductive organs. It’s during this time that fertilization is at its’ prime. The last 2 weeks is known as the Luteal Phase and is mostly Progesterone dominant. Progesterone is a hormone responsible for increased appetite, emotional swings, bloating, and ligament laxity. It balances the effects of Estrogen, decreases the immune response, promotes bone formation, protects the brain and has a calming affect on mood. It is also a precursor hormone for other sex hormones as well as Cortisol (stress hormone) and interacts intimately with the thyroid to regulate metabolism.
In a perfect world, when these hormones are balanced, typically, you should not be experiencing any symptoms of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) or know that you are even having your period. But, unfortunately, we live in a fast paced world where stress demands are high and our bodies are on over-drive.
Some common themes seen are low progesterone, estrogen dominance. Cortisol levels are either too low or too high, which can also disrupt your sex hormones. If your stress is too high, then your sex hormones usually drop and your Cortisol levels go up. When this happens, you might start experiencing symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, increased appetite, mood swings, change in your bowels, and difficulty losing weight, just to name a few.
In addition to your sex hormones, if your body continuously remains under stress, this will eventually change the function of your thyroid and adrenals as well. Your thyroid acts to regulate metabolism, as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance. Your adrenals are like your “battery packs” that sit right on top of your kidneys. Together, they function to maintain a perfectly balanced organism. When stress is high, this can bring the thyroid down and result in poor hormonal balance and adrenal dysfunction, which can wreak havoc on how you feel and function everyday.
So what is a woman to do?!
I recommend finding a functional medicine practitioner that will thoroughly evaluate you based on your symptoms and individual needs. Some recommended tests can include a salivary and/or blood hormone panel as well as a complete thyroid check for TSH, free T3 and T4, TG, TPO, and reverse T3.
Looking for a more natural way to regulate your hormones and symptoms? Look no further!
Start small by eliminating processed sugars, carbohydrates, and gluten from your diet. These increase inflammation in the body releasing inflammatory markers that contribute to your symptoms. Start your day by eating/juicing super foods that are high in antioxidants and other vital nutrients that help support healthy nervous tissue, especially the brain. Super foods include dark leafy greens such as kale, swiss chard, and spinach to name a few. Berries are also a great source of antioxidants that have a low glycemic index so it won’t spike up your blood sugar like processed sugars do.
According to Dr. Maxim, during the first 2 weeks of your cycle try adding 2 Tbsp of fresh ground flax seed to your diet. Flax seed is Estrogen stabilizing. The next 2 weeks, add 2 Tbsp of sesame seeds to your diet for Progesterone support. If the food route isn’t for you, studies suggest adding herbs and supplements into your day, which can include Flax oil, Primrose, Vitex (Chasteberry) and Vit B 6 which have all been shown to help regulate hormones for a more balanced menstrual cycle.
For PMS (premenstrual syndrome) relief, I like to use magnesium. CALM by Natural Vitality. Taking a nice bath with magnesium bath flakes also helps to relax the muscles in your body and decrease inflammation. Essential oils are also wonderful. Many people don’t even realize how powerful they can really be! Try using a therapeutic grade essential oil, such as ClaryCalm to massage on your abdomen and back. Remember, essential oils are very potent as they are the essence of the plant they are derived from, so use only as directed. Typically, 1-2 drops mixed with a carrier such as 100% pure un-refined coconut oil or olive oil is sufficient enough. Heating pads also work wonders to ease cramping and aches.
To help regulate mood swings, studies have shown that a daily regimen of Omega-3 Fatty acids (fish oil with high EPA) at least 850mg or even double during your menstrual cycle can help stabilize your mood, improve concentration, and may even reduce PMS symptoms including bloating, headaches, and breast tenderness. 
So, how do we further help create that mind body connection to feel your absolute best?
Visceral manipulation is a wonderful therapeutic modality that can help to restore normal function of your pelvic organs. It’s not only important to balance yourself from a nutritional perspective, but also from any physical restrictions that can be contributing to poor visceral mobility. Normal organ motion also seems to send a pattern of stimulus to the brain, which it recognizes and uses as a part of a communication system between the brain and other systems. 
Like with all holistic and natural treatment modalities, consistency and time are major determining factors. It is definitely possible to regulate your hormones, but it may take some time. So, don’t get frustrated, eventually the body will catch up!
If you’d like to learn more about how nutrition and manual therapy can help you optimize your wellness potential, call the office and schedule your appointment today!
1. Whelan AM, Jurgens TM, Naylor H. Herbs, vitamins and minerals in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a systematic review. Can J Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Fall;16(3):e407-29.
2. Sohrabi N, Kashanian M, Ghafoori SS, Malakouti SK. Evaluation of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of premenstural syndrome: "a pilot trial". Complement Ther Med. 2013;21(3):141-6.
3. Barral, J. Urogenital Manipulation. Seatlle, WA: Eastland Press, Inc. 2006. Print.
4. Schleip, R. (2003) Fascial Plasticity-A New Neurobiological Explanation Part 1. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. pages 11-19
The blog content on this website is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding treatment, medications/supplements, or any medical diagnoses. This information is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way to substitute the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.