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Are Your Period Choices Affecting Your Health? What An Expert Has To Say

| Reviewed By Dr. Arya Krishnan

For the 'hand-picked by god' ones, menstruation or periods may not be a big deal. But for the rest of us, it is easily one of the most frustrating time in a month. You are in pain, you are stressed, irritated, confused and sad for no reason. Yes, it can get pretty annoying and bothersome.

Although the pain and confusion can get quite vexatious, there are ways you could adopt to manage it. Such as using a hot water bag, munching on some dark chocolate, getting yourself some light exercise and so on.

That being said, it is safe to say that your periods and your health are interlinked and that should not come as a surprise to anyone with a uterus. Everything you do; from the time you sleep to the amount of food you eat during your periods has the provision of affecting your overall health.

We have all read about the ways to regulate your period, the timing of the first period and its link to overall health, how menstruation affects your health and so on. Today, we will take a look at the ways and means through which your period choices can affect your overall health, with inputs from Boldsky health expert Dr Arya Krishnan.

Your Period Choices & Its Impact On Your Health

We are all aware of the fact that your health plays a major role in your menstrual cycle. But did you know that the choices you make while on your periods play a major role in your overall health as well? Let us take a look at the ways your period choices can impact your health.

So what are period choices? It is nothing but things such as eating, exercising, sleeping and other similar things you do, but while on your periods.

This article will be considering the following aspects as critical period choices.

  • Eating habit
  • Sleeping time
  • Exercise and rest
  • Period products used

1. Eating habit

Your diet has a major impact on your menstrual cycle. The way you eat and what you eat can affect the PMS symptoms, and possibly even disrupt menstrual cycles. The type of foods you consume determines the functioning and performance of your body's vital biological processes [1] . Maintaining a healthy diet and following the same during your time of the month is one of the best ways to have a stress-less period.

An unhealthy diet encompassed of refined and processed foods can increase menstrual pain and foods high in saturated and trans fats also cause this. It is critical to have a well-rounded and wholesome diet packed with fibre-rich foods. Because, eating less healthy food and more nutritious foods can stress your hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands [2] . These glands are responsible for maintaining your hormone balance which is directly linked to your periods.

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To have a happy and pain-free period as well as a healthy body, consider the following steps [3] [4] .

  • Follow a carbohydrate-rich diet because a low-carb diet can disrupt your thyroid function and lower leptin levels in the body.
  • Avoid a high-fibre diet.
  • Include healthy fats as they help support hormone levels and ovulation. You can get healthy fats from foods such as salmon, vegetable oils, walnuts and flax seeds.
  • Eat folate-rich foods broccoli, beetroot, eggs, legumes, asparagus etc.
  • Do not eat salty foods such as bacon, chips, canned soups etc. due to their high sodium content.
  • Avoid candy and snacks and instead, have fruits.
  • Avoid spicy foods as consuming them can lead to bloating and gas.

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Apart from these, certain specific types of food are exceptionally beneficial during periods [5] .

  • Eat bananas for the vast amounts of magnesium and potassium; however, do not eat more than two a day.
  • Eat papaya as it contains carotene, a nutrient that supports oestrogen levels and also help the uterus contract.
  • Pineapples are beneficial for your health during your periods as it contains the enzyme bromelain, which can aid with blood flow and generation of red and white blood cells.

Choosing what to eat during your periods is important because, with your body functioning slightly different than its usual manner, it is critical that you chose the right kinds of food as it also affects your overall health [6] . Because as aforementioned, what you eat determines how well your body performs vital biological processes.

2. Sleeping habit

While on your periods, it is important to get the right amount of sleep. Lack of sleep can hinder with your bodily functions, disrupt your cycle and make the symptoms worse. With severe pain and extra bleeding, your body and mind can get tired and eventually causing you to be unable to function and carry out your day-to-day activities [7] [8] .

Lack of sleep can also be a side effect of stress, where both of these factors are connected. A healthy amount of sleeping hour can help put your mind at ease and thereby help manage your stress level and vice versa, that is, managing your stress levels can help improve your sleep quality as well [9] . Lack of sleep during your periods will weaken our body and cause headaches and slow down your thinking process.

Consume foods such as kiwi, almonds, chamomile tea, cherry etc. to help improve your sleep quality which in turn will help get your body some rest, which is essential during your time of the month [9] . Studies have pointed out that some women find it difficult to sleep during this time, while some sleep extra hours. However, sleeping a bit extra during this time is not at all a problem, agrees Dr Krishnan.

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You can fix your sleeping problems by adopting the following measures [10] [4] .

  • Set your bedroom to your optimal temperature before sleeping.
  • Avoid heavy meals before bedtime.
  • Try changing your sleep position, adding or subtracting pillows, or using a heating pad.
  • Avoid caffeine for several hours before bed.

3. Exercise & rest

While on your periods, it is critical to get your body moving. You may feel too weak and tired to even lift a finger but, overcoming that laziness and getting your jog shoes on has amazing benefits on your health in the long run [11] . Although it may seem like a counterintuitive thing to do but exercising while on your periods not only alleviate the menstrual symptoms but also promote a healthy lifestyle.

Exercising can aid in relieving symptoms such as pain, cramps, bloating, mood swings, irritability, fatigue and nausea. Apart from these, exercising during your menstrual cycle is beneficial for one's general physical fitness and can help in reducing the risk and onset of various medical issues and health problems such as heart attack, stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and so on [12] .

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The physical, as well as the chemical changes that happen in a woman's body during her periods, can be managed with some light exercise. Getting your body to move will help increase the production of endorphins, the feel-good hormones and reduce anxiety and pain and thereby improving your mood [11] .

To help yourself during periods and for your overall health, you can follow the below-mentioned exercises [13] [14] .

  • Walking
  • Light cardio or aerobic exercise
  • Strength training
  • Gentle stretch and balancing

DO NOT get yourself into any extensive exercise routines as it will not help your body in any way. Along with this, it is imperative that you give your body rest. Apart from sleeping, your body requires rest because, during menstruation, the female hormones are at its lowest. With the defence system weak and low energy levels, you will not be at a position to function efficiently. Therefore, making rest an important factor [15] [13] . Likewise, a lack of rest can lead to a heightened risk for serious body and health issues.

4. Period products

Feminine hygiene products are at always at the centre of discussions, whether it be the period tax or the negative impact it can have on the environment, pads, tampons and menstrual cups are something that allows you to go on with your life - without being completely worried about the 'possible' bloodstains.

Choosing the right kind of menstrual product may seem easy but let me tell you for the ones in the back, it is not [16] [17] . Factors such as physical activity level, cost, sustainability - is it reusable or disposable, ease of use and time efficiency - how long can you wear the product before it needs to be replaced or cleaned must be considered when identifying the best product for your body and lifestyle.

While choosing the right period product for you, it is essential to choose one that is not only right for you but also right for the environment. A normal sanitary napkin or a tampon contains large amounts of plastic, which can take up to 500-800 years to decompose [18]. With the rampant rise in the levels of global pollution and environmental crisis - time has come to renew your conventional ways and chose sustainable menstruation [19] . A single person uses 11,000 sanitary pads or napkins in their lifetime and now, multiply that with the number of the female population who are menstruating - that's a lot.

Menstrual cups are one of the most cost-effective as well as inexpensive menstrual hygiene product that has a life span of 10 years. The medical-grade silicone used in the manufacturing of menstrual cups has very low chances of contracting any infections or irritations [20] . In comparison to sanitary napkins and tampons, menstrual cups can accommodate larger volumes and avoid any spill and does not emit any odour. Contrary to popular belief, menstrual cups are travel-friendly and do not need to be changed every 5-6 hours - making it the best possible option [21] .

On A Final Note...

Your period choices do have an impact on your overall health. Consequently, everything you do has an impact on your health. However, you have the power and are provided with an abundance of options and choices to chose sustainably and efficiently - so chose wisely and treat your body right!

Infographics by Sharan Jayanth

View Article References
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  3. [3] Karout, N. (2016). Knowledge and beliefs regarding menstruation among Saudi nursing students. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 6(1), 23.
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  6. [6] Mohamed, A. G., & Hables, R. M. (2019). Menstrual Profile and Body Mass Index among Female University Students. American Journal of Nursing, 7(3), 360-364.
  7. [7] Baldwin, K., Nguyen, A., Wayer, S., Leclaire, S., Morrison, K., & Han, H. Y. (2019). The Correlation between Menstrual Symptoms and College Academic Activities [University of West Florida]. Journal of Student Research.
  8. [8] Rajagopal, A., & Sigua, N. L. (2018). Women and Sleep. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 197(11), P19-P20.
  9. [9] Kala, S., Priya, A. J., & Devi, R. G. (2019). Correlation between heavy menstruation and weight gain. Drug Invention Today, 12(6).
  10. [10] Romans, S. E., Kreindler, D., Einstein, G., Laredo, S., Petrovic, M. J., & Stanley, J. (2015). Sleep quality and the menstrual cycle. Sleep medicine, 16(4), 489-495.
  11. [11] Cunha, G. M., Porto, L. G. G., Saint Martin, D., Soares, E., Garcia, G. L. G. L., Cruz, C. J., & Molina, G. E. (2019). Effect Of Menstrual Cycle On Resting, Exercise And Post-exercise Heart Rate In Healthy Women: 2132: Board# 288 May 30 3: 30 PM-5: 00 PM. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 51(6), 582.
  12. [12] Hayashida, H., & Yoshida, S. (2015). Changes in Salivary Stress Markers After Moderate and Low Intensity Exercise During Menstruation: 306 Board# 157 May 27, 1100 AM-1230 PM. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 47(5S), 74.
  13. [13] Harms, C. A., Smith, J. R., & Kurti, S. P. (2016). Sex Differences in Normal Pulmonary Structure and Function at Rest and During Exercise. In Gender, Sex Hormones and Respiratory Disease (pp. 1-26). Humana Press, Cham.
  14. [14] Smith, J. R., Brown, K. R., Murphy, J. D., & Harms, C. A. (2015). Does menstrual cycle phase affect lung diffusion capacity during exercise?. Respiratory physiology & neurobiology, 205, 99-104.
  15. [15] Christensen, M. J., Eller, E., Mortz, C. G., Brockow, K., & Bindslev-Jensen, C. (2018). Exercise lowers threshold and increases severity, but wheat-dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis can be elicited at rest. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, 6(2), 514-520.
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Arya KrishnanGeneral Medicine
MBBS
Arya Krishnan

Read more about: menstruation periods
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