Periods and feeling bleh (sometimes pronounced TERRIBLE) seem to go hand in hand. There’s a lot being thrown at your body – bloating, cramps, bleeding, and the all-too-familiar emotional ups and downs caused by hormones on the fritz. And maybe you begin feeling this way BEFORE your period even starts, say hello to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). We get it, this can ALL be rough - thankfully, we’ve got some period hacks to share that will help you know how to feel better on your period and put you at ease.
Feeling pressure in your lower abdomen, lower back, or thighs? If the answer is yes, you’re likely experiencing symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea – otherwise called menstrual cramps. Menstrual cramps are completely normal and can start a day or two before your period and last for a few days. They are caused by muscle contractions within the uterus due to the release of a hormone called prostaglandin – it’s a totally normal part of the menstrual cycle. While some women experience mild symptoms, others can experience severe symptoms like nausea, loose stool, headaches, and dizziness. If experiencing severe symptoms, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor as it may be a sign of something more severe.
If your symptoms are mild, there are some at home period hacks that may help alleviate period cramps and reduce period pain:
Check out this guide to learn more about menstrual cramps causes and treatments.
The period bloat – it’s a common symptom you can experience before and during your period, making you feel like you’ve gained weight or have a tight and swollen abdomen. Not cool period bloating, not cool. While there’s not a perfect cure, there are a few hacks you can do to help reduce bloating.
Water is your friend: It might seem odd that you need to drink more water when you're feeling the most bloated, puffy and full, but the more water you drink, the better. There’s no specific recommendation of how much water each unique person should drink but a common guideline is to drink eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water throughout the day. If you’re on-the-go, be sure to carry a water bottle with you and try to fill it up several times throughout the day.
Eat Healthy Foods: If you’re looking for what kind of food to eat on your period, then try reaching for healthier snacks like fruits and veggies or other low sodium foods that won’t make you balloon. Avoid eating processed foods and too much salt, your belly will thank you later. Processed foods can contain high amounts of salt and contribute to increased bloating, no thank you! Other safe bets for healthy eating are proteins like fish and chicken and healthy fats, like nuts and avocados. If you want (need) a little something sweet, consider dark chocolate – it's a good source of magnesium, which can help regulate serotonin and elevate your mood.
Avoid Caffeine: Caffeine can also irritate your stomach and give you that achy, crampy, bloated feeling, so it's best to limit your intake on your period. In addition to caffeine, it’s a good idea to avoid sweet and carbonated drinks that can also increase bloating. A good caffeine-free drink option is herbal tea. Get a cup of hot tea (i.e. ginger, green tea, peppermint, chamomile, raspberry leaf) to reduce bloating and feel better on your period.
Get in some exercise: Yes, this is probably the last thing you want to do. We get it. But, light exercise during your period can help increase your blood flow which can help alleviate period symptoms like bloating.
Catch plenty of ZZZs: Period fatigue is real and it can be further impacted by period pain. If you’re feeling tired during your period, getting good rest can help your body and mind repair. Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, especially while on your period.
Consider the Pill: Birth control pills and hormone treatments are often used to reduce the effect of prostaglandins, say hello to hormone stability and hopefully less menstrual cramps. As always, talk to your doctor about what’s best for you and your body.
Vaginal odor smelling slightly tangy or even sweet is completely normal and a part of your body’s routine. Vaginas are their own self-cleaning systems and work hard to keep a delicate, slightly acidic balance throughout your period, sex, and ovulation. The balance is aided by small bacteria called lactobacilli and even light vaginal odors resembling bread or beer can be normal as they too contain this helpful bacteria.
Does it smell like sweat down there? That’s okay! Sometimes, worrisome odors are actually just your own musk, since there are a ton of sweat glands in the groin area. You can keep that area clean by washing the outside of your groin with soap and water. You can rinse the inside of your vulva with warm water, don’t use soap as it can irritate and throw off your vagina’s pH balance.
If something smells really off like a strong fishy or yeasty odor and you have itching, burning, or white cottage-cheese like discharge – you could have a yeast infection. No need to panic, yeast infections can happen to anyone and it’s relatively easy to treat them. You can simply get an over-the-counter antifungal suppository or cream at your local drugstore or ask your doctor about a one dose medication to treat it. Learn more about yeast infection symptoms and treatments in this guide.