Let’s face it, no woman looks forward to having her menstrual cycle every month. If you have premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), or dysmenorrhea, this time of the month is even more challenging. Now, add weight loss to the list when your hormones are all over the place. What is a girl to do? Where are the sugary pastries, candies, ice cream, and salty chips when your mood is off? How do you cope with all of that? Well, I am going to share with you some of my experiences dealing with my menstrual cycle and how I cope. First, let’s discuss some common menstrual cycle challenges.
What is Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?
According to Cleveland Clinic (2022), PMS can negatively affect women who experience it physically and emotionally. Symptoms of PMS oftentimes appear before a woman begins her menstrual cycle, but then improve as she approaches the end of her cycle. Some physical symptoms of PMS may include feeling bloated, feeling fatigued, cramps, acne, tender breasts, and/or headaches. Some emotional symptoms of PMS may include feeling irritable, experiencing mood swings, changes in sex drive, feeling anxious or depressed, having issues concentrating, having an increase or decrease in appetite, taking multiple naps or trouble sleeping, and/or withdrawing from family, friends, or from activities that interest you.
What is Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)?
According to Women’s Health (2021), women who experience PMDD may have a history of anxiety or depression. PMDD is very similar to PMS, except it can have more severe emotional effects on women than PMS. Women can expect to experience symptoms within a week or two of their menstrual cycle. Symptoms of PMDD typically subside after the first two to three days after her menstrual cycle starts. Some emotional symptoms of PMDD may include severe irritability, depression, anxiety, sadness, despair, tension, panic attacks, mood swings, thoughts of suicide, low energy, trouble thinking and focusing, insomnia, and binge eating. Like PMS, PMDD’s physical symptoms may include cramps, bloating, tender breasts, and headaches, in addition, to joint or muscle pain.
What is Dysmenorrhea?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine (n.d.), dysmenorrhea causes severe and frequent cramping during a woman’s menstrual cycle. It can come from severe and abnormal uterine contractions due to a chemical imbalance in the body or from physical conditions such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). It can also come from endometriosis, where the endometrial tissue implants outside the uterus causing internal bleeding, infection, and pelvic pain. Other causes of dysmenorrhea may be uterine fibroids, abnormal pregnancy (i.e. miscarriage, ectopic), infection, tumors, or polyps in the pelvic cavity. Symptoms of dysmenorrhea may include cramping and pain in the lower abdomen, low back pain, pain radiating down the legs, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness, fainting, and headaches.
Well, what about those emotions?
As previously mentioned, women can experience all kinds of negative emotions before or during their menstrual cycle as I have. Also, if you, like me, have a history of emotional eating, this may particularly be difficult for you. What do I mean? Well, women, for example, have been known to eat more fatty, sugary, salty, and overall unhealthy foods right before or during their menstrual cycle. If you are anything like me, you cannot eat those kinds of unhealthy foods and lose weight. Unhealthy, processed foods can seemingly provide emotional support during a woman’s menstrual cycle, but in my case, those unhealthy foods, actually cause a lot more pain and discomfort. What may help some women emotionally, can actually hurt others physically.
So what can I do then?
If a woman feels like she suffers from any physical or emotional challenges due to her menstrual cycle, she should definitely have a conversation with her physician as soon as possible. There could be something going on that has gone undetected for a while. With that said, I too have an appointment scheduled to see what is going on with my body. In the meantime, here are some strategies I have tried to help.
Right before I know my menstrual cycle is about to start, I start decreasing the amount of meat and heavy foods I consume. This means I eat foods that will not need to work hard to digest in my body. Over the past year, I have done a modified fast by only consuming smoothies and healthy drinks. Since I already eat pretty clean, I found that eating an almost vegetarian-style diet, within the guidelines of Trim Healthy Mama, has worked for me during my menstrual cycle. I have also used Motrin to help in severe cases, but I have been warned by my doctor not to use it much since it can increase my high blood pressure.
I recently started drinking coffee to help me stay awake, so I could be present and safely drive my two toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder to various appointments. I historically never liked coffee, but a friend helped me find a coffee that I liked. After I started drinking coffee, I found out the hard way that caffeine was the worse thing to consume during my menstrual cycle. I found myself in a more painful situation, to the point of lying in bed in the fetal position even more than I used to.
So after I weaned my daughter at 13 months postpartum and my menstrual cycle came back in full force, I was hit with severe cramping and pain. I’m talking worse than in my teens and twenties. It pretty much felt like going into labor every month unless I made the necessary diet and lifestyle changes. I also went back to using a synergy blend of essential oils by Edens Garden that helped the first couple of times postpartum, but then those cramps came down hard. You see, as I entered my thirties and before I had children, the essential oil blend used to work very well, but not anymore.
About a month or two later, I purchased a CBD oil mixed with MCT oil from a local farmers market that worked very well topically for a couple of months. I used the CBD oil in conjunction with the essential synergy blend, which worked together, but again, the cramping and pain came back hard. I have since then switched to a couple of different CBD oil options from Trim Healthy Mama that I now take internally. Lastly, even though it has been a while since I have tried this, red raspberry leaf tea has also been shown to help with cramping and pain during a woman’s menstrual cycle. I think I am going to give it a try again next month, so stay tuned for any updates.
So until I am examined by an OBGYN, I found that slowing down and resting helps. I also find that modifying my diet and using a combination of CBD oil and a synergy blend of essential oils helps. Once my cramping dies down, I have also found that exercising, reading words of affirmation or scripture, praying or concentrating on good things, and being around positive people also help promote healthy emotions.
Melissa Spriggs nor Naturally Spriggs are trained or licensed medical professionals. With that said, no statement or advice should be used to diagnose or treat any condition discussed. Please seek medical advice from a trained and licensed medical professional. All information in this blog is based on personal research and personal experience. Thank you for understanding.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). (2021, February 22). Office on Women’s Health. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome/premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-pmdd
Premenstrual Syndrome. (2022, October 12). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/24288-pms-premenstrual-syndrome
Dysmenorrhea. (n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/dysmenorrhea
*All photos came from canva.com