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Period & cycle health

Understand the power of your hormones so you can thrive.

woman in sunshine in dungarees listening to music
 

Period & cycle health

Understand the power of your hormones so you can thrive.

woman in the sunshine in dungarees listening to music

Your questions, answered

How can I deal with period pain?

Period pain may be common for those with a menstrual cycle but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to suffer. There are ways you can help reduce any pain you have:

  • Applying some gentle heat to your abdomen or lower back using a hot water bottle or heat pack can help you relax, feel more comfortable and can prevent pain signals from being sent to your brain! [1]
  • One small study found that having small amounts of dark chocolate (yay!) can help ease period pain, cramping, and boost our mood when we might not be feeling our best*[2]
  • During your period, it’s important to stay well hydrated, eat regularly, and get those all-important nutrients in. To find out more, read our article on what you should eat during your menstrual cycle
  • We understand that the last thing you want to do right now is exercise, however gently moving your body can help to relieve the pain you may be feeling [3]

It’s important to remember that you know what’s normal for you, and you don’t have to live through pain each month, so if your period pain starts to become unmanageable, consult your doctor.

*more research is needed on dark chocolate and period pain, but many women believe it is a great comfort during this time.

Read here to find out more about what period pain is, why we experience it and what you can do to support your symptoms. 

 

What's the right period product for me?

With the number of options available, it can be hard to know which is right for you and your flow.

Period pants – similar to your everyday underwear but you can wear them instead of a tampon, pad or cup! They’re leakproof, have no smell, are washable, and should last two to three years while keeping the same level of protection as other products

Period cups – a small device shaped like a cup made out of medical-grade silicone that’s inserted into the vagina to catch blood during your period. Unlike pads or tampons, you only need one size and are non-absorbent, so you simply remove and empty the content down the toilet, wipe with tissue, and reinsert!

Tampons – similarly to period cups, tampons are worn inside the vagina. They’re usually made out of soft, absorbent cotton, which expands until full and should then be removed and replaced with a fresh one

Period pads – these are a piece of absorbent material that you place into the crotch of your knickers to catch blood and avoid leaks. They usually have a sticky bit underneath that presses into your underwear so that it stays in place. Once you feel you’ve worn it long enough, just remove and replace with a fresh one

 

Why do hormones influence my emotions?

We asked Dr Sula Windgassen, a health psychologist, to explain this one for us:

“Oestrogen can stimulate the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and the ‘reward’ hormone, dopamine... [which is]... why you may experience mood swings when oestrogen levels fall before your period starts.

These feelings can become more heightened during perimenopause and menopause, as oestrogen levels fluctuate and decline.”

See what Dr Sula recommends you do to maximise your mood throughout your menstrual cycle here. 

 

How can I sleep better on my period?

 Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, physiologist and sleep expert, gave us her top tip for sleeping better when on your period:

“Regulate your nervous system to calm anxiety and reduce stress, which will help improve sleep. Eat breakfast within 30 to 45 minutes of waking up, making sure that it’s rich in nutrients – try Greek yoghurt with berries or eggs on wholewheat toast.

Reduce your caffeine intake and aim to drink at least two litres of water a day. Go to bed at 9:30pm four nights a week to train your body to rest earlier. Remove your phone from the bedroom and try reading or writing a gratitude journal if you’re not ready to sleep.”

Discover Dr Nerina Ramlakhan secrets for sleep and discover why you may be struggling to sleep on your period here. 

 

Can my hormones affect my energy levels?

“If you feel strong and full of va-va-voom at certain times of the month but drained at others, your menstrual cycle could be at play.

Changing oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels can impact your energy, strength, and ability to recover from exercise. However, improving your cardiovascular fitness and building lean muscle tissue can help you regulate your hormones.”, says Dr Jodie Moss, sports physiologist.

Find out her top tips and what more you can do to work with your energy here. 

 
Dr Coleen Draper

Dr Coleen Draper

Clinical dietician and PhD scientist

'Many people experience a higher sex drive during ovulation.'

What are some common signs and symptoms of a hormonal imbalance?

"If you have irregular periods, fatigue, acne, weight gain, abdominal bloating, mood and behavior changes, changes in gut function, swelling and tenderness of the breasts; you could have a hormonal imbalance. 

These are also symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, which occurs in some people as a result of the decline in oestrogen and progesterone during the week before menstruation. 

Researchers have suggested a hormone imbalance in estrogen and progesterone might contribute to premenstrual symptoms."

Check out our article on how to balance your hormones in seven natural steps here. 

 

What lifestyle factors can affect my hormones?

Nutrition – "Emphasize a Mediterranean style diet with a variety of nutrient dense foods, emphasis on high fiber food choices, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, oily fish, lean meats and proper hydration. 

Reduce intake of concentrated sugar sources and added sugars, moderate salt intake, as well as alcohol. Women report increased protein and calorie intakes during the luteal phase vs. follicular phases of their cycles. 

Early research suggests nutrient needs might be higher during this time but more research is needed. If you find you are hungrier during this time, make sure you increase your intake of healthy, nutrient dense foods and be sure you are eating enough protein at each meal."

Exercise - "Exercising for the recommended amount of time each week (150 minutes of moderate activity) has been shown to enhance physical, mental, and emotional health and if performing regularly, researchers have found that some women actually have fewer painful cramps during menstruation. 

Find the exercise that works best for you and stick with it."

More than one in five women experience leaking during exercise. Discover why that could be happening to you here. 

Sleep – "Sleep is critical for healthy hormones. Typically, a person will spend 8 out of every 24 hours sleeping. That’s 1/3 of a person’s life. 

Following a good sleep hygiene is essential. Know your sleep preferences and abide by them. Go to bed at a consistent time each night. Allow the room to be a bit cooler for a more restful sleep. 

Keep the room dark to optimize your natural melatonin production. 

Finish your last meal within 2-3 hours before going to sleep so your body is not having to digest its food at the same time it is going to sleep. 

Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake, both of which can impact your capacity to get a good night’s rest."

 

How does my libido change throughout the cycle?

"Many people experience a higher sex drive during ovulation, or at the end of the follicular phase, when estrogen is at its highest. This timing seems to align well with the optimal time to conceive."

Find out more about your cycle, and the changes you may experience in your body here. 

 

Is it true that certain phases are better for specific activities like exercise or creative work?

"Muscle strength is at its best during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, when oestrogen levels peak. This is a great time for resistance training. 

However, beware Muscle and tendon injuries occur almost twice as often in the late follicular phase, during ovulation. 

Athletic performance may be worse when estrogen and progesterone have declined during the end of the luteal phase and beginning of the follicular phase (during menstruation). Creativity seems to be improved when estrogen and luteinizing hormone are at their highest during the ovulation phase."

We asked Dr Giada Frontino to explain the phases of your menstrual cycle here. 

 

What is the difference between cervical mucus and ovulation discharge?

"Cervical mucus and ovulation discharge are the same. Cervical mucus, or ovulation discharge, is secreted by glands around the cervix. Wet and slippery cervical mucus indicates fertility. 

You can chart the timing of your change in cervical mucus each month to determine your fertile window."

For more answers to some of the questions you may be having about your menstrual cycle, find our hormones cheat sheet here. 

 

Articles & advice

Services

Linda Agyemang
Real life story

Linda's story

"In the days after my period I feel like a strong woman"

Read Linda's story

Sources

  1. ScienceDaily. Heat Halts Pain Inside The Body. [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 31]. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060705090603.htm.
  2. Nuha, K., et al. 'Single-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial: Comparative Efficacy of Dark Chocolate, Coconut Water, and Ibuprofen in Managing Primary Dysmenorrhea'. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023;20(16):6619. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20166619.
  3. ehnavi, Z., et al. ‘The Effect of aerobic exercise on primary dysmenorrhea: A clinical trial study’. J Educ Health Promot. 2018;7:3. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5791467/.
 
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