Women’s Guide: Keeping A Healthy Period
Written by: Kavata Kithome
By now you probably know that I am not one to shy away from a taboo topic, like the time I talked about BV, or the other time I talked snot, maybe you remember the time I talked about poop. So this topic should come as no surprise (gentleman, this may be your cue to leave and let us ladies have a girl talk session).
If you are anything like me, you have probably wondered, at least once, if your period is normal. As the perfectionist I am, I have compared mine to women around me from my sister to my best friend, asking them questions like how bad are your cramps? Do you have weird cravings? Does your face breakout? Are you overly emotional and just want to cry when you are sad and happy? Do you wish you could call into work and stay under the cover when your period comes?
The truth is that every woman has a different period experience. And on top of that, every monthly menstrual cycle can look different for every woman.
As a health coach who happens to be a lady, I am interested in overall wellness and health and I am delighted to say that talking about our monthly visitor isn’t so taboo anymore. The movement for healthier periods has been strong – we even have an underwear designed specifically for our cycle called Thinx.
In order to learn more about my menstrual cycle health, I went searching. With the help of my gynecologist, I learned that there are some basics that I should look for.
Note: Keep in mind that these rules are for women who are not on the birth control pill, as the pill changes your cycle in many ways and the bleed you experience each month is a withdrawal bleed from not taking the pills, not a natural menstrual cycle.
Here are the top signs of a healthy, regular period:
1. Your periods should come with regularity each month and ideally be spaced out 28 to 35 days apart (with the first day of bleeding being cycle day one).
2. Your period should come on quietly. Meaning that there should be minimum of premenstrual symptoms, slight breast tenderness, minimal cramping and a touch of moodiness.
3. Your period should last four to six days, starting heavier on cycle days one and two (about eight tablespoons of blood or about three to four super tampons or six to eight regular tampons) and then slowly taper off the last few days (anywhere between two and six tablespoons of blood or one to two super tampons or three or so regular tampons).
4. Bleeding should not at any point be excessive, this means you should be able to go a few hours with a super tampon in and not leak.
5. As much as you may want it, bleeding should also not be super light. You shouldn’t be able to get by with only wearing a panty liner during the first few days of your cycle.
6. The blood with your period should be a garnet-like fresh red color; it shouldn’t be dark brown or pale pink.
7. Small, wet Kleenex-tissue-like, dime-size clots are normal; bigger quarter-size ones are not.
One really important thing to remember about your period is that in order for any irregularity to be considered problematic, it has to happen three months in a row. Some months you may get a random heavy period and it could just be a fluke.
I also learned that you can’t really talk about menstruation without talking about ovulation, as it is the key to your menstrual cycle. The days leading up to ovulation are when you are the most fertile.
Here’s how to know if your ovulation schedule is on track and healthy:
1. Efficient ovulation occurs between cycle days 14 to 21 (again, with cycle day one being the first day of your menstrual flow).
2. The day of ovulation varies depending on your average menstrual cycle length, but it usually falls about midway between the cycle. Meaning, if you have a 30-day cycle, you should ovulate right around cycle day 15.
3. Ovulation should come on with a few days of clear, uncooked-egg-white cervical mucus (or vaginal discharge). Most women see this type of discharge for a few days leading up to ovulation. They typically see it when they wipe and just notice an increased feeling of wetness down there.
4. When you are about to ovulate, your sex drive should increase.
5. Some women feel a slight twinge or heaviness in the lower abdomen (where their ovaries are located) when ovulation is occurring, although not every woman feels this. Some women experience slight breast tenderness with ovulation.
Here is what you should NOT see: You should not feel a sharp, stabbing pain during ovulation, or see blood mid-cycle (it’s not normal to see blood at any point during the cycle, other than during your menstrual flow).
If your natural menstrual cycle consistently does not look like what I described, I would recommend talking with your gynecologist for guidance. Meanwhile, you can always do something to remedy the situation naturally by making lifestyle and dietary shifts that support hormonal balance.
Here are 5 things you begin doing today to help regulate your cycle:
1. Add at least three servings of cruciferous vegetables a day.
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower) stick to excess estrogen in your gut and flush it out.
Specifically, there’s a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that helps your body metabolize estrogen.
Taking it raw is best, with lightly boiled or steamed as second place. In addition, cruciferous vegetables must be chopped, crushed, or chewed well for maximal benefit. Try to use pesticide-free vegetables when possible, as pesticides are also hormone disruptors!
2. Stop using plastic food or drink containers.
BPA is a known estrogen-mimicker that can throw off your hormones. Now there is evidence that even non-BPA plastics are dangerous. This is a hard one, but minimize your plastic use, especially heated plastic (like food or drink containers). Organifi.com has a wonderful glass bottle that is great for your juices and water.
3. Read your labels and avoid parabens.
These are chemicals found in cosmetics, shampoos and other personal care products. They are also known to be hormone disruptors.
4. Make sure you get the magical snooze hormone.
Sleep 7 to 9 hours to give your body time to release, rebalance and replenish hormones. HGH (human growth hormone) is released during stage-3 sleep, which is when your brain is producing slower moving waves and you’re less responsive to environmental stimuli. This hormone is also called the “magic youth hormone” and is also the one used to improve performance. When we skimp on sleep, we are shorting ourselves HGH (and so many other beneficial hormones).
5. Insist on making time to sit with your thoughts and relax.
I know it’s not easy to squeeze in meditation when you’re busy, but the benefits are undeniable. Try deep breathing, meditation, prayer, yoga – whatever it takes for you to be present and take your mind off your to-do list. Start with just 10 minutes; it can be split up over the day today.
Cortisol and stress hormones create havoc to on your other hormones when you are constantly stressed, primarily using a process called pregnenolone steal syndrome. Your body steals from your other hormones to make more cortisol, giving you all the symptoms above – not good.
Note: You may want to check your baseline hormones through blood or salivary testing.
Because I want to support you in your menstrual health, here is a simple broccoli recipe that I absolutely love, courtesy of our friends at bless her heart y’all.
Skinny Greek Yogurt Broccoli Salad
- 3 small heads of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- ½ cup of walnuts or sunflower seeds (or both!)
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup bacon, crumbled
- ¾ cup plain greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp raw sugar (OR sugar substitute of your choice)
- 1½ tsp white wine vinegar
1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the greek yogurt, sugar (substitute) and vinegar together thoroughly. Set aside.
2. In a larger bowl, add in the broccoli, onion, nuts or seeds, cranberries, and bacon.
3. Drizzle the dressing over top the salad and toss until evenly coated. Enjoy!
*Note: Any leftovers should be kept chilled in the refrigerator.
While the above information is not meant to replace any medical opinion, it is a great place to start if you want to normalize and regulate, not just your menstrual cycle, but your hormones in general. This can all help you feel less tired, lose your hard-to-lose weight (especially in your middle or in your thighs), lessen your food cravings and decrease bloating and constipation.
I would love to hear about the foods, supplements or practices that helped you not only balance your hormones, but also regulate your menstrual cycle; we can all help each other!
Kavata Kithome is an advocate for living your best life, full of health and longevity. While working closely with gym owners and personal trainers, she was able to sculpt a well-rounded view of fitness and understands how to incorporate it with a healthy balanced diet. She is a regular contributor to the One More Step Lifestyle brand.
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