Diet & Nutrition

Menstrual cycle messing with your life? Here’s what you can do

Common period side effects include acne, mood swings, food or alcohol cravings, insomnia aches and pains, and even clumsiness. So what can you do?

It is synonymous with womanhood, and while some women embrace it, the majority of us loathe it.
But whether you welcome your monthly period or wish it would go away, there is no denying that its monthly arrival can wreak havoc with your life.
Dr Vijaya Chetty says that she is overwhelmed by the number of women she sees that are looking for help with a period problem.
Common side effects include acne, mood swings, food or alcohol cravings, insomnia aches and pains (particularly tender breasts), and even clumsiness.
And the list doesn’t stop there. In fact, Dr Chetty says that there are at least 27 specific side effects that can interrupt our lives on a monthly basis.
At the more extreme end of the spectrum, Dr Chetty says that our menstrual cycle can be responsible for suspiciousness, impulsivity and even some criminal offences.
So what can we do to take control of our hormones?
Eat regularly and eat well
According to Dr Chetty, a healthy diet can help keep our hormone levels balanced. “By improving diet, hormonal imbalances can be corrected,” she says.
In particular, Dr Chetty recommends eating mainly fresh and unprocessed food and drinking plenty of water.
She also notes that it is a good idea to keep salt levels in check.
Get plenty of sleep
With our hectic lifestyles, sleep deprivation has become a common problem. But did you know that missing out on your Zzz's can trigger hormone disruption?
“People who are sleep deprived are more likely to have lower levels of thyroid and sex hormones. These decreased levels trigger increased intake of sweets and starch in order to increase hormone production,” Dr Chetty explains.
Get enough light
Dr Chetty says that light has a big impact on our hormones. To make the most of this, she suggests trying to increase light exposure during the day and limiting light exposure at night (for example, block out any street lights with black-out curtains).
Stay positive
While a chirpy positive mood might not be realistic when you have PMS, maintaining a good mood at other times could help you stay on top of your hormones.
“Positive attitudes and emotions along with good news all contribute to better hormonal levels. Meditation increases DHEA, Melatonin and normalises cortisol. Friendly physical contact increases oxytocin in levels,” Dr Chetty explains.
Take stock
Dr Chetty suggests that women who feel they are ruled by their hormones can take stock by making an inventory of their healthy and unhealthy habits. This will give them some insight into things they can improve to create better hormone balance.
Of course, if you are really struggling with the monthly disruption your period brings, then it’s a good idea to check in with your GP to get some advice.
Dr Chetty says that hormones make us who we are. “You can make choices that improve your hormone balance so you feel healthy, calmer, and mentally sharp,” she says.
“Strive for happier, healthier and longer life.”
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