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Monthly Coping

Filed Under: Women's Health at 4:27 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
DespairWhen I’m watching TV, the commercials that irk me the most are the ads about your period. In the most aggravating ones, women sit in restaurants and spout medical jargon as if they had all received PhDs and done extensive menstruation research post-degree. In real life, women do sit around and talk about their periods. Except, the lamenting is more along the lines of “Oh God, someone get me chocolate” and “Why does my body hate me?” There’s nothing scientific about it. It’s primarily moaning, with a touch of whining. While, to men, the complaints may seem excessive, the truth is a woman’s period can be debilitating in any number of ways.

Menstruation isn’t just bleeding.  The accompaniments range from mood swings to aches and pains to gastro complications. They begin before the dreaded week even starts and last, often, right through to the end. For many, they are slight road bumps in daily life, but for others, they are massively disruptive. Ten million women experience heavy bleeding (average flow results in losing four to five ounces per cycle). Two-thirds are afflicted with PMS; eight percent have it to such a degree that it affects their personal relationships. And almost all women are plagued with cramps. Some are so severe that they constitute calling out of work or school. Typically, women turn to over-the-counter or prescription medications for relief. However, those don’t always work and can carry harmful side effects, so what are the alternatives?

Abnormally heavy bleeding is the part of your period that can truly only be combated by talking with your doctor and considering birth control or similar medications;  however, other menstrual-related symptoms can be warded off with dietary changes:

• Cramps – research suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can alleviate severe cramping. Women with low omega-3 intakes typically have more painful periods.
• PMS – oddly enough, calcium supplements, in conjunction with regular exercise, effectively treat PMS symptoms. And you get the added bonus of taking in a mineral you probably don’t get enough of.
• Gas, Diarrhea, Constipation – it’s not rocket science. Fiber is going to help your gastro problems. Aim for 30 grams a day, but don’t jump in too quickly. A sudden surge in fiber can worsen your diarrhea.

If you’re still having problems severe enough to disrupt your life, talk to your doctor. The most severe part of your period should be your chocolate craving not your paralyzing pains.

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