Every month around the country, millions of menstruating people experience what some would call an extreme sport: Going about their daily lives with period cramps, headaches, mood swings, irritability, and more. Seriously, we all deserve medals. In fact, 75% of menstruating people experience PMS symptoms each month — which begs the question: Why aren’t more people talking about it? Our guess is that it’s because we were told that it’s “normal,” and therefore we should suck it up.
But that’s actually the worst advice. You, dear reader, should do the opposite of suck it up — because as it turns out, there’s likely a reason why you have those symptoms. And we’re going to give it to you straight: Contrary to popular belief, unbearable period pain is not the norm. Your body does not have to feel that way, even if a doctor has nonchalantly clicked a pen at you and murmured, “That’s just PMS.”
To empower you, we’re diving into why you might have painful period cramps — and how to help get rid of that pain.
Yes, estrogen makes us the lush, gorgeous beings that we are. But only when it’s balanced. When there’s too much in the body, we experience a whole host of problems — like unbearable period pain, bloating, heavy menstruation, weight gain in the hips, butt, and thighs, headaches, PMS, menstrual cramps and more. So how does this happen? Well, things like estrogen-mimicking chemicals from personal care products and non-organic food sources, an overtaxed liver and sluggish gut (if your liver or gut aren’t doing their job, estrogen can build up), and excess sugar, alcohol, stress, and blood sugar imbalances are all factors. It doesn’t sound pretty does it? Luckily, there are some natural remedies to balance out estrogen dominance in the body.
1. Liver: The liver helps your body break down toxins, deactivate hormones, and filter waste (it’s also the only organ in the body that can self-repair!). It just about does it all (except filter out toxic people, unfortunately) — including helping your body get rid of excess estrogen. But if it’s sluggish, that estrogen camps out in your body, turning into painful PMS symptoms. To help your liver function properly, eat foods that are high in soluble and insoluble fiber, like broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, and arugula. Basically, make a salad or roast some brussels to help her out. You’ll also want to be conscious of reducing exposure to toxins in things like makeup and skincare, medication, and plastic bottles. And if you’re wellness-y but not wellness-y enough to know offhand what toxins are in your products, try using the Think Dirty app to help.
2. Gut: Our guts are magic. So magical that the fact that they weren’t named something better lives rent free in our heads on the regular. As part of the digestive system, the gut is another key player in how we get rid of toxic waste and hormones — and it deserves way more attention than it gets. Give your gut the love it needs in order to cut down on those PMS symptoms by eating lots of fiber with every meal, and adding in lots of gut-supporting nutrients, like prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes or bitters. (It helps to make those meals diverse, too!) And we’re just going to go ahead and say it: You have to poop every day in order for your body to get rid of excess estrogen. So, if that’s not happening, the above is for you. Let’s get that excess estrogen out.
3. Stress: While you can’t completely get rid of stress (hello, remember we are still kind of in a pandemic?), you can manage it. Try adding in deep breathing, massages, essential oils, and meditation. And if none of that is your cup of tea, try adding in a heart-pounding exercise class, or — and we can’t stress this enough — an adrenal support supplement like this one that contains the magical herb, Ashwagandha.
4. Supplements: Sometimes your body needs a little extra help, and supplements fit the bill. A great one for estrogen imbalance is DIM, which stands for Diindolylmethane, and is found in cruciferous vegetables and helps support a balanced shift in your estrogen and testosterone levels. Borage oil is also helpful: It helps reduce inflammation in the body, which increases the activity of an enzyme called aromatase. This enzyme can result in elevated estrogen, which elevates your PMS symptoms — which makes you want to curl into a little ball for days. See the chain reaction here? Lastly, try a magnesium supplement during your period — it helps relax period cramps (by relaxing the muscles) and helps you sleep!).
While we aren’t your doctor (though how fun would that be? We’d be the cool doctors), and we always recommend checking with your personal physician before starting any new regime, we do believe that you should always be empowered in your own body. Knowledge is power, and power is not having debilitating, unbearable period pain two weeks out of every month. (Though the eating chocolate part, we’ll keep.)