It may be common, but it’s not normal to have miserable or excruciating periods each month. In fact, they can and hopefully *should* be relatively symptomless.
As a teenager, I was quickly prescribed hormonal birth control because I had awful acne and even worse periods. You know that friend where it hits “that time of the month” and they just go down for the count? Unbearable cramps, heavy bleeding, not leaving the house because they were glued to the couch… I was definitely that friend.
I wish I could back in time and tell my younger self so many things about how to take care of myself better.
Women’s Don’t Get Much Education On Their Body or Menstrual Cycles
Women’s health and education about our body is unfortunately one of those things that doesn’t get enough attention and spotlight. Growing up or even as an adult, girls and women don’t get much education how their body + menstrual cycle work.
We don’t learn much about hormones. Let alone how to alleviate any symptoms we may be suffering or dealing with. We also don’t receive much education on how to avoid becoming pregnant, information on the various birth control options available to us, nor the common side effects, symptoms, and things to watch out should we utilize hormonal contraceptives.
Your menstrual cycle is timely and monthly feedback on your underlying health
Something I didn’t learn until I was 28 years old is that your menstrual cycle is timely and monthly feedback on how your body is responding to various inputs, habits, and decisions in your daily life.
This might include your nutrition and exercise habits, digestion, gut health, environmental exposures, lifestyle choices like how much you are or are not sleeping, alcohol consumption and frequency, stress, and so on.
If “that time of the month” is the WORST time of the month and we’re dealing with tons of symptoms, keep it mind that it may also indicate bigger underlying health concerns we may be dealing with that may need attention — such as Endometriosis, PCOS, thyroid issues, etc.
Your period each month can be relatively symptomless.
Given that my memo at 16 years old was super-embarrassing-pizza-face and horrifically uncomfortable and heavy periods, clearly my teenage body was not doing so well “under the hood” and my body was not picking up what I was putting down (lol at not knowing I was lactose intolerant and can’t do gluten until I was in my late twenties – yikes!)
I never really had the education until that last few years that the way we eat, exercise, and live life can play a big role on our hormone health, emotional health, and overall wellbeing. I have been off hormonal birth control for quiteeee a few years now, but happy to report that my menstrual cycles are pretty clockwork present day and I definitely don’t deal with many symptoms or issues like I used to. Hell, I’ve even PR’d quite a few times on the first day or two of my cycle (:
My Top 3 Women’s Health Books:
Ultimately, it’s on you to be the CEO of your own health and wellness, to be educated about your body, and to have a basic understanding of how your body works. It can definitely be overwhelming to know where to start if we’re not feeling well.
If i could only choose 2-3 books that every woman should read, I would say Dr Lara Briden’s Period Repair Manual and Hormone Repair Manual (ages 35 and beyond), and Dr. Jolene Brighten’s Beyond the Pill.
All the resources below are great though. I’ll forever be a big believer that education = empowerment that can equip you to advocate for yourself, take action, and care of yourself (:
^^ I will reiterate that recommendations in these books are often geared more towards general population people, moreso than athletes (which is typically who I work with and am talking to). If you’re active, you’re likely gonna feel better eating ample carbs to support that activity. So be careful with dietary protocols like Intermittent Fasting, Keto, High Fat/Low Carb diets, and so on.
Something to keep in mind:
A lot of hormone and thyroid stuff is really “zooming out” and managing the bigger picture of how much stress our body is under. Stress can come in a lot of forms, whether that’s our day-to-day relationships, our job, not eating enough food for our activity and lifestyle, the foods we eat, how often we frequent alcohol, not getting enough sleep, exercise habits, poor digestion, etc.
^ Speaking of exercise: if you want fun and effective workouts that prioritize sustainability, ample rest days, and helping people look and feel their best, you should check out our workouts and online community at @paragontrainingmethods.
My 3 biggest suggestions:
- Be the CEO of your body and your health by taking education and understanding into your own hands. Read books, listen to podcasts, and be educated on women’s health so that if certain signs or symptoms begin popping up, you know to reach out to your doctor, that it might be good to pull lab work, etc etc.
- Have a doctor you love and trust and that listens to your concerns and mades you feel seen and heard. You’re a paying customer and you also deserve to look and feel your best. If unhappy with your doctor’s service – on to the next until you find a doctor you love.
- “Test, don’t guess.” Hormone and thyroid testing is worth every penny for a proper diagnosis and quick treatment so you can quickly travel from A to B and get back to feeling your best. Beware of “hormone balancing supplements” and the like – your health and wellbeing isn’t something you want to DIY.