In my teens and early twenties, I always felt like having my period was this massive burden and secret. Fumbling through my bag for a tampon, stuffing it in my pocket, and racing towards the bathroom before anyone noticed. Embracing the horror of having to ask a friend for a sanitary item. Or even worse, visiting the school nurse and dying of shame when they handed over a giant maxi pad. Now, I battle calling in sick for work because I've been up all night with menstrual cramps. Sound familiar?
Being the owner of a dysfunctional reproductive system to say I've learnt a thing or two about female anatomy would be an understatement. My diagnosis: polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, adenomyosis, and chronic pelvic pain. Since 2017, I've been on a mission to find natural alternatives & products that help to treat women’s reproductive pain. As a registered nurse I've seen the dangerous long term effects of opioid dependency (pain medication) on the body.
The wonderful team at Modibodi have asked me to share with you my top five tips to relieve menstrual cramps. Personally, I have trialled and tested many different methods. I hope these will be helpful for the everyday woman who hates getting cramps as much as I do.
10 minutes of gentle exercise is better than none
Most of us would rather curl up into a ball and hibernate through our periods (including me). But, I have found that very gentle exercise is actually quite effective for menstrual cramps. Endometrial cells (found in the lining of the uterus) produce high levels of prostaglandins before a period begins. These break down and release during the cycle. Prostaglandins constrict blood vessels in the uterus causing the muscle to contract. This produces the well known uterus cramp we refer to as menstrual cramps. Encouraging healthy blood flow in the circulatory system can minimise this. I enjoy going for a slow walk around my neighborhood or doing a yin yoga class at home with Alo Moves. My favourite instructor is Carling Harps. She has beautiful restorative practices I can do during my period to keep my blood moving.
Magnesium = MagicThe week leading up to my period, I like to take a magnesium supplement tablet each day. Magnesium has many benefits. It can aid in muscle cramps and premenstrual symptoms (anxiety, stress, restless sleep, and headaches). There are several ways to take magnesium, so I'd recommend you consult your GP, they can tell you what's best for you. Epsom salt baths are my favourite way to absorb magnesium. My whole body feels very relaxed and I always have a peaceful sleep after. If you don't have the luxury of a bath, foot soaks are easy to do at home. Grab a bucket, some warm water and magnesium salt flakes. As with any vitamin or supplement, always consult with a doctor before taking.
Minimise inflammatory foods
Society has created this image of the typical woman on her period. Curled up under a blanket watching Netflix with a block of chocolate and a tub of ice-cream. How many of you thought ‘yeah that’s me’ when you read that? This is a hard habit to change for those of us, including me, who take comfort in sugary foods. Do you know why we reach for a block of chocolate during our period? It's because our body is craving magnesium. And take a guess which sugary treat is high in magnesium…chocolate! If you want to avoid the chocolate troll coming out for her monthly raid, try increasing your magnesium intake before your next period. Or making a simple swap to the type of chocolate you consume. If you're not allergic to nuts, try swapping out milk chocolate for a dark nutty blend. Nuts are magnesium rich and dark chocolate is high in antioxidants. Making it a much better alternative!
Focus on the most painful areas
Let's get real and talk about meditation. I know what you’re thinking. How am I supposed to meditate when I’m turning into a human pretzel, finding a position where my uterus doesn’t hurt. One night I was having a severe endometriosis flare up and was also on day one of my period (yikes!). The pain was excruciating but I refused to go to the emergency department. I figured that they'd send me straight back out to buy some painkillers. I had tried everything to minimise the pain. It had spread to my whole body and the tears were streaming down at this point. I decided I'd try a meditation for chronic pain on an app I use called Simple Habit. What did I have to lose right? By the end of the 30 minute meditation it was about fifty percent gone. I hadn’t realised that when I was in pain, my body was tensing and holding onto it, only making things worse. When I incorporated my breathing and let go of the tension surrounding the areas of pain, I learnt to relax and better manage my pain. With your phone and some headphones, this is easy to take anywhere with you to reduce your cramps.
Warm up your heat pack and put on some Modibodi undies
Ah yes, the old heat pack. Where would we be without these magic bags that bring so much comfort? But seriously. I created my brand around heat packs because I love them so much. Pair these with a set of gorgeous Modibodi undies and you're set. Modibodi underwear has provided me with the freedom to stop worrying about my period. I can focus on relieving my cramps, taking care of myself, and getting on with my life. I no longer have to deal with changing pads and tampons. Or the fear of forgetting to pack your sanitary items when you're stuck in a public cubicle. I would never wear white on my period in fear of leaking. Now I can wear any colour I want, and sleep peacefully knowing my sheets won't be destroyed by morning.
I hope these tips will be helpful in minimising the cramps in your next period. Remember to keep on top of your reproductive health and get to know what is and isn’t normal. If you aren’t sure about something then please seek help. Don’t let any doctor tell you that you are just a woman and it’s something that you have to deal with. Get to know your body, practice self care, and don't forget to get yourself some Modibodi undies!
This post was written by Emily of The Heat Pack Club, an incredible website and social channel that talks frankly about periods and menstrual pain and how to get through. We were delighted to have Emily as a model for Modibodi at our latest photoshoot. She’s a long-time customer and loves Modibodi just as much as us! We feel so fortunate to come across and work with such inspirational women like Emily.