What is that one common thing you talk about with your girlfriends every time you meet – a topic that makes everyone join the fray, armed with gruesome experiences, clever analogies, and smart hacks?
The woes of the uterus: PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and period.
Quite understandable. Any woman who spends half the month on the mercy of capricious hormones would! Yes, half a month!
Barely a couple of weeks pass after your period and you suddenly notice you’re dragging your body around (feels like someone else’s) even as your lower back refuses to cooperate, your mood is plummeting to new lows, your anger is right under your skin (possibly that’s what’s erupting into vicious-looking zits all over your face), you have a raging migraine, a stubborn craving for foods you shouldn’t touch with a barge pole, and you couldn’t care if the world ended right away! Hello PMS!
No sooner than you readjust, it’s time for Aunt Flo. Your period is here, and as ever, it isn’t a kindly visitor. But like a stoic, you have popped a painkiller and strapped a hot water bag to your belly, ready to carry on with your chores. They are the only way to deal with Aunt Flo’s vicious sucker punches.
Most, if not all, of your friends have similar stories to share. Really, how many women do you know who say their periods are like placid dreams and they have no idea what all the brouhaha about PMS is. Zero?
But hey, just because a debilitating PMS and painful periods are way too common, they don’t have to be normal.
What’s a Normal Period Like?
A normal period is indeed like a placid dream, a time of rest and recharge, a time of fresh beginnings. A woman on her normal period is supposed to have:
- No pain (you read that right!)
- Bright red blood, without clots, stickiness, and foul smell
- A consistent flow across 3–7 days, neither too heavy nor too light
So what you and most women experience are not normal, rather, a typical example of imbalance.
That’s good news! Because it means, you can change how awful you feel at least for half the month. How? By staying close to your innate metabolic personality – what we call staying in balance.
Would you ever have imagined, your period is who you are! Look at the adjectives that could define you: heavy, light, or het up. Whichever you pick, you could use for your period too.
By now you are aware that your metabolic personality is made of three functional energies, light and quick, slow and steady, and intense. All three are involved in different phases of all functional cycles in the body, including the menstrual cycle.
- Light and quick energy is responsible for movement and loss or decay. This energy is most prominent during the phase of blood loss, that is menstruation or period.
- Slow and steady energy is responsible for accumulation, growth, and nourishment. It peaks in the follicular phase between menstruation and ovulation. Think maturation of the follicle into egg and the thickening of the inside wall (endometrium) of the uterus.
- Intense energy is responsible for transformation – here, the transformation of the egg and the endometrium. It is dominant in the luteal phase between ovulation and the next period.
So, in which part of the cycle you feel the heat – that is whether you have a raging PMS, a gutting period, or a listless ovulation – depends on your metabolic personality.
You have been tracking your period dates. How about journaling how you feel too? It’s a bit of detective work, tracing your way back to the beginning of the trouble.
Erratic and Moody: Light and Quick
Periods are tough for you worriers. Leave alone the harrowing pain, the volatile tears, and the insane cravings, you are more worried about getting your period on time … if at all.
- You can always tell when you are PMSing. The change in your mood, concentration, and bowel movements are tell-tale. The cramps have arrived, the spotting has followed it, but you can’t tell when the period would!
- Even when the period shows up, it’s a bloody tease! Spotting for days, followed by a light drizzle for a couple of days, and then back to spotting. Has it started? Is it over? Agh, the unending drama!
- The blood itself is frothy and dark – proof that it’s been waiting inside for days, keeping you on tenterhooks.
- The ab cramps are the worst! Those sharp spasms of pain that could knock the wind out of you and make you double up in pain, cold and clammy all over. Have you also noticed how cold you feel during this time? It’s because of the drop in the core body temperature thanks to dipping progesterone and estrogen levels. Nothing helps except a long drugged sleep hugging a hot water bag to your belly.
- To make matters worse, you have constipation, your tummy feels bloated and hard, your bowel movements are more irregular than ever, and you’ve caught a pesky cold.
- No wonder, finishing up any task, however interesting, takes hours, and you end up even more worried and exhausted.
The only way out of this monthly drama (and away from painkillers) is to know your cycle really well. Recall the adjectives that define you: dry, light, quick, and cold and in the days leading up to your PMS, do things that have just the opposite qualities (moist, heavy, slow, and warm).
Your watchword: Stay hot!
- Eat well-cooked, hot, moist, heavy, and oily foods on the days before the period. But when you’re on your period, eat light but moist. Add more healthy fats to your diet and drink a lot of warm water and herbal teas. Licorice and ashwagandha could be your kinda herbs now.
- Work out. It improves blood circulation, which could keep off the pain. But once you are chumming, take it really easy. Spend more time on the couch, relaxing yourself with music, films, and books.
- Massage yourself well with warm oil, especially the abs. Take a warm bath.
- Meditate and practice deep breathing to relieve stress. Stress narrows down blood vessels and makes the pain worse.
Did you know: travel across time zones, especially air travel, changes in routine, cold weather, and emotional stress could make your periods worse? How about planning your vacays and tours in the other half of the month?
Heavy and Gloomy: Slow and Steady
You don’t dislike periods quite that much, do you? It’s the time before ovulation that’s worse, thanks to estrogen. All that nourishing and prepping the body for a baby (maybe) means you’re putting on weight, retaining water, especially in the breasts which makes them engorged and sore, bloating up, and feeling heavy and worn out. (The only good thing about this period is your glowing skin!)
Compared to that, your period is quite okay, though, of course, it’s a different type of a bother.
- Your PMS is bad. As though portending a great evil, it keeps you feeling gloomy, depressed, and questioning your self-worth. If your friends understand you’re near your period, it’s because they have to make an extra effort to make you smile and drag you out of lonely corners during your PMS.
- Once the period starts, you’d be faring much better moodwise, provided you get enough (more) sleep! Well, it’s justified. You have a rather heavy flow and a dull pain for the first couple of days, which would exhaust anyone.
- The blood itself is dark and clotted, which is common in heavy flow. The dull cramping can be blamed on this. The cervix needs to dilate to let the clots pass.
- After the first couple days of lethargy, heaviness, and sluggishness, you’re ready to bounce back.
Recall again the adjectives that define you: moist, heavy, slow, and cold. Start doing activities that balance these out right after ovulation.
Your motto: Keep it light!
- Eat warm, well-cooked, but light food. Go easy on sweet and oily foods. But that doesn’t mean dull food. Put life in your food with more warming and flavorful spices. Go-to herbs? Cinnamon and ginger, in everything!
- Work out, work out, work out as heavily and consistently as you can. Go for runs, hikes, and treks. Keep moving around purposefully. Not only will it ease your pain later, it will also keep your mood upbeat.
- Give yourself massages with a light oil. Take warm showers.
- Practice warming breath and walking meditation.
- You would tend to oversleep during this time; so it’s essential to be stricter with your sleep-wake routine.
Did you know: couch potatoes have worse periods. Get moving before it starts. In the phase before ovulation, do anything that involves learning (read books, take courses, attend classes). This is a great time to accumulate experiences and make memories.
Hot and Angry: Intense
You can tackle your period fine, ovulation is no big deal either, but it’s just the PMS that wants you to turn the world inside out and let the lava flow! Blame it on the increased progesterone which ratchets up the core body temperature.
- Everyone knows when you are going through PMS because they need to stay the hell out of your way. You feel, competitive, self-critical, and oh-so-ANGRY! It doesn’t help that your face looks like a minefield of pimples, or that you have got the stomach bug, or that something in your head wants to throb its way out of the skull!
- Periods are way nicer to you. You have a moderately heavy flow of bright red strong-smelling blood, but your energy doesn’t feel sapped.
- Sometimes, though, the flow is heavier and you feel like you are burning up inside. The stomach too does seem to have settled from the PMS days. Thankfully, the ordeal is over in 3–4 days, and you can get back to feeling more comfy in your skin.
Your adjectives are sharp, light, quick, and hot. So find the opposites in balancing activities before your PMS starts.
Your mantra: Stay cool!
- Eat cooling foods like raw veggies and watery fruits in nourishing salads or light soups. Spicy food shouldn’t cross your palate. If you have to try one herb, try shatavari.
- Work out but don’t wear yourself out. A hot and heavy period isn’t the prize you’re looking for. Always cool down. Use the evenings to stay close to nature and engage yourself in creative activities.
- Massage yourself with cooling oils like coconut oil and take cold or slightly warm baths.
- Practice the cooling breath and meditate to keep your mind calm.
- Don’t criticize, neither yourself nor others. Sweep all judgment under the carpet, at least for now.
Did you know: anything that’s made you collect excess heat – whether spicy food or pro-level exercise or an argument – can make PMS symptoms worse for you than they usually are.
Start now to get ready in time for the next visit from Aunt Flo.
Here’s to period peace!