The beginning of your menstrual cycle - day one of your period, can be a day to dread. Take some time during the first few days of your cycle to rest. Your body is going through a lot in that first day of your period so give yourself time and space. If you do need to work or have activities to do on the first day, make the effort to let yourself rest in any moment that you have time. Rest even more during your lunch and other breaks, take extra moments during your day to meditate, and try to avoid doing any extra errands. Anything that doesn’t need to be done on that exact day, put it off to the next day when your body will have more energy to do it. Just Say no. (more on this another time) Pro-Tip have an acu-nap for extra rest and relaxation. It is also the most potent time to regulate your qi.
Mid Cycle, when you are ovulating, is the time when your body is producing the most estrogen and testosterone. This is good news for everyone.
If you are one of the many women that start to feel anxiety, sadness, and/or moodiness in the second half of your cycle after ovulation the probable cause is rapidly dropping estrogen levels. Estrogen's best friend is serotonin, the feel-good chemical, so low Estrogen levels make you feel blah. The good news is that you can increase your serotonin levels naturally by eating certain foods. Serotonin is made primarily in your intestinal tract and when it diminishes along with your estrogen you'll start craving bad carbs like sweets and bread. Pro-Tip, eat sweet vegetables like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and pumpkin. These veggies are energetically grounding and will kill those sweet cravings!
Unfortunately dropping estrogen levels also diminish your bodies ability to suppress pain. Pro-tip: On days 23-28 of your cycle avoid getting your bikini wax, going to your OB/GYN or the dentist or any other painful procedures because they will feel so much worse than say around ovulation. You may also notice that you feel your acupuncture needles more around this time. As a general rule of thumb; the more estrogen reserves your body has the better it can handle pain.
As the Estrogen leaves your body in the second half of your cycle, your Progesterone levels go up. Progesterone's main purpose is to create a healthy uterine environment for baby but it also has the effect of relaxing your smooth tissue. As your intestinal tract is made up of smooth tissue this often means your digestive system slows down and you can become constipated. Exercising is especially important during this period to help keep things moving. Pro-tip: take a good quality magnesium supplement to keep your bowels moving. You'll thank yourself when the cramping starts and your uterus has room to move without coming up against a full bowel.
For further help managing period cramps read on....
Watch your diet
Though this time of the month can make one want to reach for a bag of chips, chocolate or any slew of unhealthy (but oh-so-tasty) foods, our bodies would be better off if we fought these urges. Eating warm, nutritious foods will give our bleeding bodies the nutrients it is currently depleting as well as lower pains brought on by the liver working in over-drive trying to process what we've just consumed. The more fried fatty food, sugary or artificial the foods, the harder (and more painful) it will be for your liver to process. You'll notice eliminating these foods during your period will relieve lower back pain and reduce cramping drastically. Avoiding cold foods and drinks during this time of the month and instead focussing on bringing internal heat with warm meals will greatly help relieve cramping.
Bring the Heat
Make a hot water bottle or heating pad your best friend. Bringing heat to the abdomen will increase blood flow to the area and reduce tension. Apply the heat as needed throughout the day for relief as needed. If you get cold easily, be sure to keep your abdomen warm and snug while you go about your day away from the companionship of a direct heat source. In Japan, it is common to wrap a wool scarf or wear a special article of clothing called a Haramaki around your abdomen to ease back pain, aid digestion and increase circulation. It comes from the Japanese philosophy that a warm core equals a warm body. Try your best to keep your core warm on your next period, and you will notice the huge impact a little applied heat can make !
Drink some (caffeine-free) tea
Herbal tea blends can be a great addition to a health regimen, especially with regards to menstruation. Herbs such as red raspberry leaf, cramp bark, valerian, motherwort and more provide support to the entire uterine system. There are many great pre-bleneded herbal teas and tinctures on the market to take for specific times throughout your cycle--look for one that focusses specifically for support on your period. Tea can also be nice to hold on your abdomen as a "drinkable heating pad" for the ultimate cozy feeling. If you don't notice results right away, be patient! Taking these teas or tinctures over several cycles will begin to progressively reduce your symptoms. Of course, avoid drinking anything with caffeine or sugar (namely coffee and alcohol) as these will only further your cramping.
Treat yourself to a little R &R
Your period is literally draining you of lifeblood! The week of your period try not to overwork yourself or spread yourself too thin. Think of this week as a little vacation (I know you're probably saying, 'YEAH RIGHT!') to take it easy and treat yourself. Draw a bath or take a hot shower, light some candles go to bed early, sleep in a little, do a little diy spa treatment or whatever makes you feel good. You'll feel less like a bloated bleeding monster and more like the beautiful [bleeding] woman that you are! Giving your body adequate rest while keeping stress and work to a minimum will allow your body to settle and sort itself out during this tumultuous time.
"What?!" you might say, " Isn't that the exact opposite of resting?" Yes! But if you feel up for it, try to get moving on your period. Exercise not only releases feel-good endorphins, but it can also help reduce stress, anxiety and headaches that come with on our periods as well. It doesn't have to be anything too intense, but enough to get your blood flowing. You might find that a little exercise serves as a perfect distraction from your current pains and worries. Follow-up your exercise with the R&R tip above and you'll be feeling good...well, at least as good as you can feel on your period!
Acupuncture can be an incredible tool for overcoming your menstrual woes. Not only is acupuncture an effective hormone regulator, it also provides relief from bloating, fatigue, lower back pain, emotional stress and other symptoms related to PMS. Making acupuncture a part of your monthly menstruation will give your body the support and boost it needs to power through that time. Including acupuncture in a monthly regimen will improve your overall cycle, flow and PMS symptoms over a period of time.