My Period Survival Kit
Periods. Every woman with a healthy reproductive system has encountered at least one period throughout her lifetime. I know: it’s not the most fun time, or the most attractive topic for discussion. It is, however, what is needed for our bodies to function properly, and is the key to our reproductive potential as well as a signpost for our health. Your period is so much more than just your period, and I have a whole blog post on this topic- which you can find right here.
Regardless of your feelings on menstruation, if you are a woman of sexual maturity you’ve no doubt had these times before and will be having more in the future. We all want to pretend like we have no problems navigating our periods, that we can do anything a man can do while bleeding… but the truth is that we need to carve out time to care for our bodies and minds while we menstruate. When we don’t give ourselves the optimal conditions to thrive, we risk burnout, mental health crisis, and further perpetuate the stigma around menstruation and reproduction.
In efforts to openly talk about periods and create a discussion on the topic, I compiled a list of items and habits that I find myself falling back on monthly-or wishing I had practiced when it is all said and done. Because self care! Here is my typical “period survival kit” and how I cope with my period.
Disclaimer: I am not trying to replace the advice of a doctor, or administer medical advice. I am talking from my personal experience and the research I’ve done! I also did not receive any payment or sponsorship for the products I list here. They are here just because I love them and they make my life easier.
- Dark Chocolate.
For real. You need this. Just take it.
While some claim that chocolate is bad for you, others affirm my WHOLEHEARTED belief that it is good for you. The key is the kind of chocolate you are consuming. Dark chocolate, specifically, is high in flavonoids, an antioxidant which can help with stress and fight free radicals. Studies have been done on the effectiveness of dark chocolate as a menstrual pain aid, and the results show a clear and significant benefit in managing the discomforts of that special time of the month. This is good news!
This delightful chocolate usually has less cream and sugar contents and more cocoa content, which is why it is the superior chocolate. Cocoa stimulates the brain with feel good chemicals, and can help stave off that trademark PMS irritation. Excess sugar, however, is not good for you at this time because it spikes your insulin and can lead to your energy tanking abruptly after consumption. That is definitely NOT something I want when I’m trying to navigate bloating, cramps, and mood swings! So, although it is tempting, I try to avoid sugary sweets and stick to good old dark chocolate, which is low in sugar and reaps other benefits. Your body will thank you!
2. Non Bleached, Fragrance Free, Organic Cotton Tampons
Preferably no applicator.
I am of the firm belief that if you are going to be putting anything in your body, it should be serving you. I think most women know by now that putting bleached, or chemical ridden fragranced tampons inside our bodies is not only bad for us, (Toxic shock syndrome, anyone?) but bad for the environment as well.
While I wish I didn’t for environmental reasons, I do really hate menstrual cups. They just do not work for me! If you are like me and want to make eco-friendly solutions and don’t like menstrual cups, you are not alone. Please don’t feel pressured to use one if you don’t like them just for the environmental reasons! Menstruation should be about making yourself comfortable and going with the flow (see what I did there), not forcing yourself to fit into using a product that does not work for you.
Instead, I always opt for organic, unbleached, fragrance free, cotton tampons without an applicator. If I can’t find any without an applicator, I find a plant plastic or cardboard applicator. While I don’t like the environmental effects of using tampons, I can choose a slightly more environmentally friendly tampon and reduce a little bit of waste by not buying plastic applicators. I’m not perfect and will never be, but I can choose the lesser of two evils and make slightly more sustainable choices.
Thinx is a great brand that sells leak-proof period panties. You did read that right. While many are skeptical, I’ve been using them for four years (!!!) and they are my favorite product to help curb the adverse affects of my period. They’re absorbent, delightfully comfy, and a dream to use.
TMI: I used to have to throw away so many pairs of underwear because I would have such bad problems with leaking. It was awful! It didn’t matter how many panty liners I used, how many times I ran to the bathroom, I would be throwing them out by the half dozens every few months because of the stains. Luckily, I have not had to throw away a single pair of undies because of period stains in the last four years, and Thinx is why!
Pair them with your favorite menstrual cup or tampon brand, or bleed freely. Whatever floats your boat. I’ve used them both ways and have found them effective, although you should adjust depending on your comfort levels, flow, and take into account that you will need to wash them soon after using them. Washing them is easy enough; just follow the instructions and line dry. If you don’t feel comfortable line drying them, I have used them in the dryer before and they were fine, but I did notice that they wear out a little faster this way.
Overall, for the benefit of no leaks and avoiding those embarrassing bloody moments on the go, this product is worth it. They come in all different colors, styles, and accommodations for the kind of flow you have. And did I mention they are super comfortable? No diaper feelings here, and I am 100% on board with that!
4. Drink Enough Water
Being hydrated is absolutely essential to making sure your body is running properly. Without water, we would be shriveled up mummies. Fact.
Jokes aside, the fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone in our bodies during our periods can lead to retaining water, gas, and bloating. No fun. It seems counterintuitive sometimes to say “drink more water” because honestly who wants to drink more water when we are already bloated? Not me. However, drinking enough water can help these symptoms and flush out waste to keep things working in good order.
Drinking enough water on your period can help with headaches, cramping, and help you feel fuller so you don’t reach for those ultra salty or sugary foods, which can lead you to bloat more. It’s recommended that we drink 2.7 liters of water a day, so make sure you drink this and then some just before and while you are on your period.
5. Limit Caffeine Intake
Excuse me? You may be thinking. I know, I know, I really don’t say this just to be rude, I promise. Caffeine restricts your blood flow, releasing a stress hormone called cortisol. Increased levels of cortisol are what cause tension, anxiety, and flight or fight responses. Think twice about that second (or third) cup of coffee!
Coffee is also a diuretic, which means it actually dehydrates you the more you drink it. While it’s super tempting to turn to coffee as a pick-me-up throughout the day, especially when the afternoon slump hits and you are suffering from PMS, this could actually be making things so much worse. Instead, opt for a cup of green tea to get a hint of caffeine as well as some antioxidants. You can also brew some herbal tea if you are trying to avoid caffeine altogether, or make yourself some yummy golden milk.
6. Guilt-free Carbs
Annie’s gluten free mac and cheese, specifically.
I know, I know. But you know what? A girl just needs some carbs every once in a while! I’m not anti-carb (I eat white rice just about every darn day) but I am anti-bloaty awfulness that comes after eating what I really want and constantly crave while on my period — mac and cheese. So, in order to counterbalance this, I opt for a less inflammatory option which is gluten free. I add in some steamed broccoli florets, real cheddar, and have my husband make the sauce (he’s a magical cook) and bam! I have a semi-healthy carb-y treat that satisfies my cravings for carbs and cheese, without breaking the bank AND getting a few servings of veggies in….win-win right? This option is so much better than ordering panera bread and entering a carb coma directly afterwards.
7. Extra Sleep
Because don’t we all need extra sleep?
Sleep is one of the main ways our bodies repairs itself. If we skimp on sleep, it can lead to imbalanced hormones, lack of cognitive function, and can even increase your risk of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Nobody wants to be sleep deprived, it’s true, so putting a routine in place to make sure you get enough sleep is vital.
Some things to consider are: your screen time before bed, what you’re eating in the evenings, your sugar and caffeine intakes, and your stress levels. All of these can be big contributors to not getting sleep, so do yourself a solid and assess your pre-bedtime habits. You may need to go to bed a little earlier on your pre-menstrual days. Take it slow, and avoid burnout by taking care of and listening to your body.
I 100% always need a little extra sleep pre-menstruation and find that letting myself sleep in always benefits me way more than forcing myself to get up just to get more things done. If you have trouble getting to sleep, instead of opting for over the counter drugs, try drinking some chamomile tea brewed at double strength, or one of the many sleepy tea blends there are out on the market. Ease the process by putting your phone away at least 15 minutes before you go to sleep, or take a hot shower before you hit the hay to relax your muscles at the end of a long day. If you have chronic insomnia, definitely talk to your doctor about ways to get better rest.
8. GoodWipes “Down There Wipes”
I honestly love these little wipes and I am not afraid to admit it!
These little packets of magic are just what you want when you are bleeding heavily: a lovely little wipe that makes everything better. These wipes are specifically are made to be flushable and septic safe, so no throwing it into the trash. PH balanced for optimal vaginal health, they’re also scented. That may not be your thing, but I do really enjoy the fresh rosewater and aloe scent. There are other brands of flushable wipes that are unscented, but I could not find any unscented Goodwipes brand “Down There Wipes” at my local Target.
You can buy them in resealable packages, or in boxes of individually wrapped goodness. I really like using the individually packaged ones because they are discreet and can fit in your pocket along with my no-applicator tampons for when I’m at work, or out in the world running errands. Sometimes a girl just has to bring along her flushable individually wrapped wipes cause it makes her feel like a human.
They also say “You’re a Vagenius” on the packaging, which I think is funny and cute.
While more studies are needed, probiotics do seem to have positive impacts on vaginal health. One strain in particular seems to be the most effective: L. acidophilus. They keep the flora in there alive and kicking so you have less of a chance of developing an infection, which is always a good thing. Having a healthy microbiome is key to not allowing any of the “bad” bacteria overgrow and cause a number of uncomfortable and unpleasant things, like bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections.
Probiotics are no substitute for proper treatment for these vaginal imbalances, but there is evidence shown that women who ate yogurt with the strain of probiotic L. acidophilus present were less likely to have vaginal imbalances like BV. Probiotics are found in a number of fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, and pickles. You can also find probiotic supplements, which do the trick as well.
10. Tracking my Cycle
Tracking my cycle monthly is a great way to keep tabs on my health. Apps like Clue can help you track all your symptoms, like mood, gas, bloating, headaches, your birth control methods, sex, energy levels and so, so, SO much more. It keeps track of and predicts your periods for you, as well as your fertile periods if you are ovulating. Keeping track of your cycle is a great way to invest in your health and wellbeing because you can look at the data you’ve recorded and gain useful information about it, and find ways to manage your symptoms.
They have a free option and a paid option as well, so there’s no pressure for you to try it out. Download Clue or a similar app to track your period health, you will be so glad you did!
While I do practice these health suggestions, I do so imperfectly. The truth is having a period every single month can be stressful, but not having one can be just as stressful too. Every woman is different and experiences life differently. Let’s face it: being a woman is hard, and if there is anything out there that can ease the pain of existence just a little bit, I say go for it. We should always try to keep our holistic health in mind, especially while on our periods. So, be kind to yourself, listen to your body, and menstruate. Cause it’s kinda cool!
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Originally published at http://imperfectionfreak.wordpress.com on September 9, 2020.