Bloating. Cramps. Irritability. Food cravings. Fatigue. Breast tenderness. These are just a few of the symptoms that millions of women face each month, around the time of their periods. But just because something is common, it doesn’t mean it’s normal! You shouldn’t have to deal with severe pain or disruption of your life because of your menstrual cycle. And thankfully, there are many natural options to bring your body back into balance.
I’ve struggled with my cycle since I was a teenager, relying on heavy-duty painkillers and taking time away from work and school to rest every single month. I spent nearly a decade on birth control pills too. Nowadays, things are much more calm, and I can ride through my periods with minimal issues. But it took time and commitment to get to where I am now, using natural methods to balance my hormones and manage pain.
Whether you’re currently taking hormonal birth control or not, there are steps you can take to get into a better rhythm with your monthly cycle. Here are my top areas of focus, for naturally regaining stability and calm no matter the time of the month:
Mother Nature’s medicine is often the first place I go, when working with someone with menstrual cycle issues. There are many different herbs that have effects on our endocrine system, some of which mimic the actions of estrogen or progesterone. Depending on your unique issue, you may need more or less of certain herbs, but for many people, a basic hormonal health formula (like Dr. Morse’s Female Reproductive Tonic) may be a good place to start.
Some of my favorite herbs to balance the menstrual cycle are:
- Vitex (chaste berry)
- Wild yam
- Blue cohosh
- Red raspberry leaf
Note that herbal medicine takes longer to work than pharmaceuticals, so give it time. Many women notice positive changes within 2-3 months.
I used to have such bad menstrual cramps, they would keep me stuck on the couch, on the verge of tears. For many years, I used high doses of ibuprofen to take the edge off, but paid the price on with several bouts of gastritis and other GI issues. If you struggle with severe pain and cramping during that time of the month, I encourage you to explore some natural and holistic options. Incorporating herbs, like the ones listed above, may reduce your cramps over time, and reduce your need for pain relief.
But in the meantime, here are some of my favorite options:
- Ginger and cinnamon tea
- Heating pads (herbal heat pack or wearable ones)
- CBD oil
- Essential oil blends for pain relief (I use doTERRA Deep Blue)
- Acupuncture or acupressure
- Meditation and deep breathing
Most of us know that what we eat affects us, but this is particularly true for menstruating people! When you have hormones that naturally fluctuate throughout the month, and you’re shedding uterine lining every cycle, it’s important to adjust your food to best support your body. Building upon a foundation of whole, unprocessed, mostly raw, plant-based eating, there are a few other considerations for your monthly cycle.
Generally speaking, minerals are of higher importance during that time of the month. Balancing things like calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and other similar compounds can make a big difference in the ease of your periods.
My favorite foods to regulate menstruation, as well as beat cramps and fatigue, are:
- Leafy greens, especially bitter, wild greens
- Oranges and other fresh citrus
- Sprouts, especially alfalfa and red clover
- Seaweeds and algaes like dulse, nori, chlorella, and spirulina
Adjusting your diet to include more mineralizing foods around your monthly cycle can help replenish your body’s stores, and reduce the pain and tiredness that many of us face.
The average woman’s period involves dozens of potentially-hazardous chemicals, which can disrupt hormones, irritate sensitive skin, and add to overall body burden of toxins. From tampons and pads, to creams and patches, products marketed for menstrual management can come with a high health cost. Thankfully, there are other options out there today, for a more natural, non-toxic period. Not to mention, a much more eco-friendly one!
It took me a while to make the switch, but now, I couldn’t imagine going back. If you want to get away from menstrual products that are sprayed with pesticides and bleach, made from petrochemicals, or have harsh fragrances or dyes.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Swap tampons for a reusable menstrual cup
- Swap pads and liners for reusable period underwear, or washable organic liners
- Swap pain pills, creams, or patches for some options I mentioned in #2
Making these changes can not only save you money in the long run, but you’ll dramatically reduce your waste, and cut down on the chemicals your body has to deal with.
Whether you’ve been struggling with unruly periods, or you simply want to get in better touch with your body, I highly recommend tracking or journaling throughout the month. When we can objectively see all the factors that may be contributing to how we’re feeling on any given day, we can be more empowered to make changes. And for hormones in particular, measuring basal body temperature can give you pretty precise data on where you are in your cycle.
There are some decent tracking apps out there today, but you can also use a journal or paper tracker too.
Here are some things you might wish to keep an eye on:
- Basal body temperature
- Herbs or supplements you’re taking
- Sleep quality
- Caffeine consumption
- When your periods come and how long they last
- Mood changes
Our current culture tells us that our menstrual cycles are supposed to be painful and disruptive, and that dealing with uncomfortable symptoms is normal. However, serious pain, fatigue, and mood swings are often a sign that something is out of balance!
With these tips, you can ease into more graceful, predictable, and comfortable monthly cycles.