Eliminating Menstrual Cramps, PMS, Bloating & Excessive Bleeding – For Good!
How I converted my menstruation from frustration to vacation . . .
My Period Ritual; A Refined System for an Enjoyable Menstruation
Two days before I expect my period I begin to drink more water. I eat grapefruits, apples, oranges, smoothies and salads. Everything is geared toward hydration and consuming more minerals.
The day before my period I pull the cream-colored sheets off my bed and put on black sheets and pillow cases. I switch out my tan-colored coyuchi towel for an old black towel in the bathroom. When showering, I make sure the bathtub is clean and ready for me to get into it should I decide to use it.
When I go grocery shopping the week before my period I make sure to purchase organic frozen raspberries and oranges – two of the most effective foods I've found for combating menstrual cramps.
These days, the ritual is a fine-tuned, easily flowing system. But that wasn't always the case for me.
The Typical, Modern Experience of Menstruation
I used to be one of those women who was subject to the curse of monthly moon-time. My period would come as a surprise to me in the middle of a long drive or in the midst of a class or at work.
It would come to me with sudden pain, heavy bleeding, and bloating. It would be preceded by a week of pessimistic PMSing, and yet I still never managed to plan for it. For over a decade I dealt with cyclical, surprise suffering.
Now, having been menstruating for eighteen years, I can finally say that I have a system that has brought me from endless menstrual frustration to feeling like I get a special monthly vacation as a woman.
This shift didn't happen overnight. Years of trial and error has gone into developing a system that works. Most importantly, much presence has gone into it. I started listening to my body.
If you're interested in the full details of what my period used to be like, why it was so bad, and some of my journey from there to here, click here to read more about it. This article will primarily focus on the solutions I've found.
My body isn't the same as yours, but it is similar enough as a fellow human being that I believe you will benefit from my discoveries greatly. So I will now innumerate for you the many findings and discovered solutions of my journey.
Plan Accordingly For Your Period
If you use birth control such as the pill, you might not have to worry about your period coming at unexpected times. However, if you're on the pill and you suffer from any unpleasant symptoms such as breast soreness, bloating, vaginal dryness, recurring headaches, etc, then you might want to consider alternatives to putting unnatural hormones in your body.
I benefited tremendously from going off the pill after using it for eight years. I was astonished to watch myself lose ten pounds, have more mental stability, significantly decreased breast pain, and significantly increased sexual pleasure.
For those of you who don't have any external method that determines your cycle, I highly recommend using google calendar. I tried many other systems, but they have not offered me the benefits of google calendar:
- I can create separate calendars. Some shared, some just for me. I've created a separate calendar which I've titled "Raederle's Period." Unlike my regular calendars which I share with everyone, my period calendar is just for me and a couple of the people closest to me.
- I can color-code my different calendars. I've made my period calendar red, my "possibilities" calendar gray (so that it doesn't stick out as overtly, since they're just possibilities), and my actual plans and commitments purple.
- I can hide or display whichever calendars I want, including the calendars of my friends and family. This allows me to see how my period overlaps with my plans as well as the plans of people close to me.
- I can access my calendar on any device where I can log-in to my google account, which is also connected to my e-mail, youtube, etc, making calendar access incredibly easy – even when I travel without a cellphone or laptop (which I do regularly).
This calendar system, in short, allows me to see when my last period was, when I expect my next period to be, and to plan my life around my period.
I plan to "do nothing" for three days when my period is expected, and I create buffer around it. If you don't create your own hours at your work life, you may find it extreme to take off work for your period every month (or impossible), but you can at least ensure that you don't have commitments outside of work on those days.
When I get my period, I switch my calendar event that says "Period Estimation" to just say "Period."
In the 'event details' section I log anything I want to note about my experiences. I always note anything down which was particularly helpful to any symptoms such as oranges, cucumbers, specific essential oils, a particular massage technique, and so on. I'll get into these as the article goes on.
I create my "Period Estimation" event based on 28 days from the start of my last period. So after creating my "Period" event, I look at the next two months, and if they don't already have "Period Estimation" events on them, I create them. If they do, I may adjust their timing depending on when this period came. If my period came at day 30 instead of day 28, then I shift the other "Period Estimations" back so that they stay 28 days after the start of the last period.
Cut Stress While Menstruating
I find that everything I'm sensitive to, I'm more sensitive to when I'm on the rag. So I ensure that any possible stress-inducing factors are eliminated or minimized during my flow. For me, this includes avoiding leaving the house, social situations, bright lights, fumes, cars, and loud noises. All of these things can increase the severity of menstrual cramps.
I now think of menstruation as a spiritual practice that is given to women in our bodies. We have a built-in monthly time for introspection, contemplation, relaxation and self-focus. The more we actually embrace this and make it a time for self-love, the less the negative symptoms crop up.
The symptoms are only there to guide us inward. Pain draws focus to oneself. If you're already focused deeply on yourself, then there is no need for the pain to arise.
But watch out! You might think you're focused on yourself when you're actually denying large swaths of your own feelings and thoughts. I've fallen into this trap many times, and the severity of my menstrual cramps will inform me of where I'm at with that.
Get Extra Minerals While Menstruating
Not getting enough minerals is shown to increase the severity of menstrual cramps and the amount of bleeding. I take Naturally Calm in water, which is essentially magnesium when I'm expecting my period within a day or two, and continue to take it throughout my menstruation.
I've also found that taking calcium noticeably helps. Be sure that if you take calcium supplements to take a calcium-citrate which is more readily absorbed and utilized by your body. Read the ingredients and avoid calcium-carbonate in supplements.
Extra Credit Reading: Do we actually need supplements? Can't we get everything we need from food?
If you want to take the food approach, rather than the supplement approach (or better yet, combine supplements with the right foods), then dramatically increase your intake of greens. Leafy greens are very, very rich in minerals, especially magnesium and calcium. There are absolutely no other foods as rich per calorie in minerals as green leaves.
Hydrate Before, During and After Your Menstruation
Most people drink less than half as much water as they need to function optimally. To compound this, you lose a lot of water when you menstruate.
If muscle tension is common for you and you have severe menstrual cramps, then not getting enough water may be a part of the general cause for both. Aim for at least a half gallon of water a day on the days preceding your period as well as on your period.
Avoid Dehydrating Foods Around Your Period
Dried fruits, refined sweeteners, nuts, seeds, chips, crackers and animal products are highly dehydrating. These foods tend to not only rob your body of water, but also minerals. Thus, they lead to much more intense menstrual symptoms.
These same foods also tend to contribute to general bloating, breast soreness (due to lymphatic overload), flora imbalance (and thereby irritable bowels and candida), excess weight, fatigue and troubled skin. Caffeine and alcohol are also highly dehydrating. I recommend limiting caffeine to green tea, and scheduling your caffeine-containing coffee as a rare treat consumed only a few times a year, well away from your menstruation.
I've personally found, even as a raw foodist, that it is very possible to bring on rough menstrual cramps through dehydrating foods. Some of the worst cramps I ever had in my life came in 2012 when I was staying in a beach house in Florida and teaching a family how to eat a raw diet.
I had just made them a very fancy dinner the previous night which had concluded with a coconut cream pie made up of dried coconut, dates, fresh coconut, banana, vanilla powder, and a light dusting of fresh strawberries and cacao powder. The pie tasted and looked incredible.
I use a photo of that very same pie on my business cards. And every time I see one of my business cards, I'm reminded what not to eat the day before my period! It really was a very delightful meal:
The following morning was very tough. I only managed to pull through the fancy-fun meal preparations of the next day at all by keeping up a steady supply of celery-kale-lemon-spinach-cucumber juice, lots of rest, and lots of declining of potential tourism.
Eliminating Menstrual Cramps
Menstrual cramps are dramatically worsened by stuff stuck in your colon. Consider that the skin between your vagina and your colon is just a thin layer of skin. There is a lot of condition-sharing between your reproductive organs and your digestive organs.
This is why it is common to find constipation, candida, vaginal yeast infections, kidney problems, adrenal problems and urinary tract infections all in the same individual. They're all highly linked, and any of these will increase your likelihood of having bad menstrual cramps.
Enemas for Menstrual Cramps
To improve your odds, get your colon clean before your period! You can do this the quick-and-easy-don't-have-eat-differently way with daily enemas. While an enema is uncomfortable for a short time (like, five minutes), it is much less uncomfortable than menstrual cramps.
I've had migraines, menstrual cramps and severe stomach cramps easily relieved with a simple process that only takes twenty minutes from start to finish, including all cleaning up. Most of that time is spent pooping. Hurray!
If you're not keen on enemas (which most people aren't, so don't feel bad), you can still clean out your colon by eliminating dehydrating foods from your diet (as described above) and consuming a diet rich in fiber, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and water content. For extra colon-cleaning kick you can drink psyllium husk in water, chia seeds in water, aloe juice, rehydrated and blended prunes, and magnesium-citrate in water.
Foods for Menstrual Cramps
Besides cleaning your colon, you can add foods rich in antioxidants that specifically combat menstrual cramps. The most effective foods I've found are as follows (from most effective to partially helpful):
- Raspberries, thawed from frozen or fresh
- Oranges, with pith (not orange juice)
- Raspberry-leaf tea with a pinch of licorice
- Cucumber-celery-kale-lemon juice, freshly made at home
- Pomegranate arils, whole (not store-bought pomegranate juice)
- Blueberries, thawed from frozen or fresh
- Cucumber sliced, peeled, with organic, unsweetened mustard
- Celery ribs and peeled carrots
- Romaine lettuce, plain, washed thoroughly to remove natural latex coating
- Grapefruit and other whole citrus (not store-bought juices)
- Kiwi, pineapple, mango and other water-rich fruits excepting pears and apples
Some people may find it difficult to eat only the above foods, but I recommend trying it if you have severe menstrual cramps. If you feel the need to include other foods you might try adding a little flax oil to a salad of mostly lettuce, apple and celery. You might have some rolled oats with hot water and raspberries. You might have a little rice (very thoroughly chewed!) with dinner.
You'll find recipes below to give you more ideas.
Essential Oils for Menstrual Cramps
I've also found aroma therapy to be a quite useful tool for going into the menstrual cramps and healing them from within through conscious focus on sensory input and bodily feelings.
In particular, these are the most helpful essential oils for menstrual cramps, listed from most effective to marginally helpful. You can use these to massage the area, or to simply inhale and focus inward. Using oils as a gateway to internal presence is a powerfully helpful form of consciousness alchemy.
- Eucalyptus globulus
- Clary sage
Use the above oils before and during your period for less menstrual cramping, increased circulation, decreased stress, and improved hormonal balance. A blend including some combination of the following is very helpful to smell while you're experiencing cramps: helichrysum, wintergreen, rose, chamomile, peppermint, cinnamon, and clove.
While experiencing pre-menstruation symptoms such as anxiety, a blend including some of the following is particularly helpful: rose, chamomile, peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus globulus, ylang-ylang, and clary sage.
All month you may find balancing, soothing help from marjoram, clary sage, geranium, rose, ylang-ylang, yarrow, motherwort, and ginger. These can be massaged onto your abdomen and thighs as well as being breathed in through "tented" hands for aroma therapy.
Your Delighted & Delightful Period Protocol
So here's a review of what to do to make your period go smoothly:
- Treat your menstruation as a time of introspection and relaxation.
- Avoid commons stress-inducing factors in your life.
- Drink at least a half-gallon of water per day, starting on day 26 of your cycle.
- Switch to sheets, towels, underwear, pants, etc, that are either black or that you're unconcerned about staining.
- Consume no dehydrating foods (nuts, seeds, meat, dairy, eggs, sweeteners, coffee, alcohol, etc).
- Three days prior to your period begin eating recipes made up of nothing but fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, cold-pressed flax oil (or hemp or chia oil), sprouts, spices, vinegar and sea salt. Recipes below.
- Fresh ginger before your period, but not during.
- Include at least one vegetable juice in the day prior to your period and one the first day of your period. Emphasize celery and cucumber in this juice.
- Lay down and cover your eyes while you're experiencing menstrual cramps, then begin breathing in essential oils (as listed above) and focusing on your bodily experience.
- Do an enema the night before you expect your period to arrive.
- Drink a shot of aloe juice every morning and night starting two days before you expect your period to help clean out your intestines.
- Stock your kitchen with foods that are going to make you feel uplifted, energized, hydrated and balanced. (See below for details on this.)
Stock Your Refrigerator & Kitchen Appropriately
The week you're expecting your period, change your grocery-shopping habits. Your body is going on a cleanse whether or not you want to. Resisting the cleanse will make it a painful experience. Going into the cleanse with your feelings, your diet, your environment, your behaviors and your thoughts will make it flow smoothly and easily – as it is meant to!
There is a lot in this article about what not to eat and what to eat. Here are some photos I've taken of my various kitchens are various times over the past few years to give you an idea what your counters and refrigerator might look like while you're cleansing.
Refrigerator door – notice the aloe juice!
Raspberries for Inward Focus
- 10 ounces raspberries, thawed from frozen
- ½ cup hot rolled oats or unsweetened cashew yogurt or unsweetened coconut yogurt or chia seeds hydrated in water
- 1 pinch cardamom, ceylon cinnamon or allspice
Stir cool, thawed raspberries with your other chosen ingredients. Consume as many as thirty ounces of raspberries on the first day of your period for increased clarity of mind and relaxed abdominal muscles.
Apple Slices Delight
Put all ingredients as evenly over the apple slices as you can. Enjoy.
Carob pudding garnished with a cacao bean*
- 2 bananas, ripe, peeled
- 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons raw carob powder
- 2 pinches vanilla powder (optional)
Mash bananas with a fork. Add carob and vanilla and fold into the bananas. Continue to mash for about a minute. Then eat and savor.
Often I make banana carob-cacao pudding. *Cacao tends to make menstrual cramps worse, so leave this out when on your period!
- 2 pears, ripe, cubed
- ½-inch ginger root, peeled, minced
- ¼ cup dried mulberries or 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 1-2 dashes cinnamon
- 1 pinch cloves and/or cardamom and/or turmeric and/or allspice
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
- 1 dash vanilla powder (optional)
If using honey, combine honey with minced ginger and spices first, then stir with pear cubes. If using mulberries, simply add all ingredients to the bowl and stir. While stirring, allow the pears to be somewhat mashed, lending their juices to the ginger, spices and mulberries.
Chia Pudding (center), Banana-Carob Pudding (in the glasses)
- 3 orange's juice
- 1 lemon's juice (optional)
- 1 teaspoon raw honey or 2 tablespoons dried mulberries (optional)
- 1 pinch vanilla powder (optional)
- ½ cup chia seeds
Juice oranges and lemon with hand-juicer or citrus juicer. Stir in honey, mulberries and vanilla powder. Add chia seeds and stir. Let set in fridge for at least two hours. Enjoy!
- 10 ounces chopped romaine lettuce, or 1 head, chopped
- 5-10 ounces spring mix, baby kale or spinach
- 2 apples, diced or 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 2 scoops Akea powder or other probiotic powder
- 1 teaspoon adobo (optional)
- 3 tablespoons flax oil
- 1 lemon's juice or 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (optional)
- 5 sheets nori, torn into little pieces
- 1½ tablespoons dill seeds (optional)
Put greens and apples or tomatoes into a large salad bowl. Sprinkle all powders over the top. Add flax oil so that it combines with most of the powders. Add vinegar or lemon juice. Add dill seeds, nori and other desired toppings (such as chopped dried apricot).
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