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For many women their monthly visit from 'Mother Nature', can bring an array of painful, embarrassing, and even debilitating symptoms. The discomfort that women often feel during their menstrual cycle, more commonly known as period pains, can last anywhere from 1-5 days and can be from mild to severe. Other symptoms women experience include bloating,, tender breasts, backache, fluid retention, weight gain, food cravings (especially salty and sweet), mood swings, depression, fatigue, irritability and hormonal acne. Over 80% of women experience at least one of these symptoms regularly, with 40% experiencing severe symptoms.
Nutritionist Sarah Flower offers her top tips and natural alternatives to help you survive your period this month:
Up Your Magnesium Levels: Adding a daily magnesium citrate formula can reduce the symptoms of PMS and the related symptoms, including pain, bloating, headaches, blood sugar imbalances, fluid retention and fatigue. Magnesium is also nature's muscle relaxant, so can greatly help with the pain around menstruation, helping to prevent the uterus contracting.
Give Fennel Seed Extract a Go: Fennel seed extract can be used as a form of pain killer to help ease menstrual cramps and has been shown in trials to be as good as conventional pain relief when taking 30mg every four hours for 3 days before menstruation and continue until the 15th day of your period. It can increase blood flow so it is advised to take a little ginger with the fennel, as this also helps to reduce cramps, nausea, boost mood and can help reduce the bleeding. Try taking Power Health's Fennel Seed Extract supplement, renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties (available to buy at www.powerhealth.co.uk).
The Effect of Evening Primrose Oil: The uterus produces prostaglandins to help contract the uterus and shed the uterine lining. This surge of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins can lead to pain and cramps. Correcting a prostaglandin imbalance involves reducing omega 6 foods from your diet, such as vegetable oils, whilst at the same time increasing our intake of omega 3 foods, such as oily fish. You can also take an Evening Primrose Oil daily, which has been shown to help balance prostaglandins and, has an anti-inflammatory affect.
Take Control of your Gut Health: Your health is dictated by our digestive health. Poor gut and bowel health means a decreased immune system, but also, in relation to our hormones, it can contribute to high levels of oestrogen. Keeping your bowel moving regularly helps eliminate toxins and excess oestrogen, therefore a healthy bowel flora, adequate levels of fibre and plenty of hydration is key.
Look After Your Liver: The liver plays a key role in the removal of oestrogens via bile, faeces and urine. A clogged up, stagnant liver can inhibit detoxification which is why many nutritionists also recommend a diet rich in antioxidants and cruciferous vegetables to help cleanse the liver, as well as Phosphatidyl choline found in lecithin to help hepatocyte function. Milk thistle is also an excellent herb to help cleanse and detoxify the liver, ultimately helping to ease menstrual cramps.
Dietary Changes: A diet rich in processed foods, unhealthy fats, high dairy and low in fibre can increase oestrogen levels, causing an oestrogen imbalance. Aim for a diet rich in natural foods, low in sugar, high in good quality fats and lean protein. Drinking plenty of water is also key, as it can help with the bloating. Caffeine can also make the PMT symptoms worse, so best to reduce intake if a regular coffee drinker.
Reduce the Chemicals You Use: Exposure to agrochemicals, cleaning products and environmental pollutants such as car fumes, can also play a part in contributing to period pains. High oestrogen/low progesterone, can cause PMS and is also linked to hormonal cancers such as breast and uterine. There are over 50 different endocrine disruptors that can interfere with our reproductive system, thyroid and adrenal system. Xenoestrogens imitates oestrogen; they can be either synthetic or natural chemical compounds, such as canned foods and plastic food containers that leak (bisphenol-A (BPA), synthetic hormones found in dairy products, pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals from our cosmetics and body creams. These can cause menstrual irregularities, increase the risk of certain hormonal cancers, affect fertility, increase weight and disrupt normal puberty.