So, can we make it and easier on ourselves? Well, according to this panel of experts (well, they are all women after all) – the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
Here our Moral Maze panel, host Jo Lamble, Dr Alia Nasser, Fiona Caddies and Emma Markezic, talk it up – from changing your gym routine, to taking supplements, to being your vagina’s own very best cheer squad (yes, believe us – one of these women actually says “It’s part of you, you need to own it and you need to respect it and you need other people to respect that as well.”). All good advice on managing your period, including why using products like Verona can make a difference.
Want to know more? Just hit ‘play’.
Jo Lamble: Welcome back to the Moral Maze, I’m Jo Lamble and I’m joined by Fiona Caddies, Dr Alia Nasser and Emma Markezic and today we are talking about the age old question of how to make the monthly cycle a little easier. Recently Britain’s number one tennis player, Heather Watson bombed out of the Australian open and she put it down to having her period at the time and the news immediately hit the headlines – and that’s gotta be tough.
Now Alia obviously our bodies are going through incredible upheaval during menstruation, are there any ways that we can relieve the physical aspects?
Dr Alia Nasser: Yes so when we are about to have a menstrual cycle, so which is the pre-menstrual time and then during menstruation as well we get a lot of hormonal changes, mainly oestrogen, progesterone and others as well but these are the ones, because they drop down to real low levels at that time so we get a little of mental, emotional issues with that as well and because oestrogen and progesterone they effect the brain and serotonin levels and as we know we need serotonin it’s like a relaxant agent and anti-anxiety as well so we to get a lot of emotional problems.
Jo Lamble: So Alia, with all those changes going on is that why we don’t sleep well before our period?
Dr Alia Nasser: That’s right, because we know as I mentioned serotonin levels go down and the other thing that goes down is progesterone, progesterone is a very important hormone for our relaxation and feeling well so it helps with us getting rid of the fluid, so less bloating, less headaches. We get palpitations and anxiety around the period and progesterone is great for that, it’s a great relaxing hormone. To go on from that again as I said before talking about vaginal changes that will usually happen during our period, is our pH changes, low pH, which is an acidic pH, is quite important to maintain a healthy vaginal environment and that helps the healthy bacteria in the vagina, similar to the one in the gut it’s the lactobacillus and lactobacillus is quite important for fighting the bad bacteria and then keeping the yeast at bay as well, so we don’t get over-growth of the bad bacteria and that’s called bacterial vaginosis which is the most common vaginal infection. Then the second one would be thrush, which is from the over growth of yeast as well. So these things usually happen around our period, our menstrual cycle too, menstruation time.
Emma Markezic: Wow, it’s gotta be like a Goldilocks pH at all times, amazing… ‘Just right!’.
Dr Alia Nasser: (Laughs) Exactly, and that’s one again, it’s important not to use harsh chemicals to wash – some girls even use scented tampons and pads, to you know, to have a nice smell around there and they are usually quite bad for you as well.
Jo Lamble: I didn’t know they existed… that’s good!
Fiona Caddies: So what about nutritionally? Do you recommend to eat fermented foods, or take a probiotic supplements to improve that environment as well?
Dr Alia Nasser: Yes, so girls that get thrush a lot or they get bacterial vaginosis or just that they feel a little irritation, then I recommend a pro biotic and then, as I mentioned before, supplements of the vitamins and magnesium.
Jo Lamble: Wonderful information.. Emma, obviously it’s got to be off putting for some to be announcing, like this tennis player, that you had your period to the whole world but do you think being more open about it will break those social taboos?
Emma Markezic: Yeah, I do. I think it’s amazing that in this day in age that people still have difficulty talking about this. I mean the human race wouldn’t exist without periods right? Menstruation is the most natural and necessary function that our bodies do. To be honest, if it were men that were menstruating we’d have like ‘Menstruation Leave’ and we’d have, Guinness Book of Records for ‘Best Menstruator’ (laughs). Even as it is in this country we have a national Prostate Awareness Month but the same air time isn’t really given to vaginas at all, which I think is incredible. Even the word ‘vagina’ still makes some people cringe which, most people have a pet name for it which I think is incredible – like it’s not a Chihuahua, it’s part of your body – and I think you should be able to use that word. Periods aren’t pretty but you know in saying that, the vagina isn’t this vacuum-sealed hyper-clean environment that we’d like people to think it is. It’s absolutely this amazing self-lubricating and, yes quite bacteria filled, environment that fluctuates pretty wildly during the month in terms of discharges and smells and hormones and all that kind of thing. I think you still need to own that. It’s part of you, you need to own it and you need to respect it and you need other people to respect that as well. And I think that talking about it is a huge step towards that. I just think it’s incredible that we as woman don’t have this conversation more and that’s something that we still don’t like to discuss because it’s a bit dirty and I think that, yeah, we all need to get it out there.
Jo Lamble: And we are doing that today! Fiona obviously in the first few days of a period woman don’t want to exercise, they don’t feel up to it. Do you vary the routine?
Fiona Caddies: Yes definitely, so when it’s right at the beginning of your period you have quite a lot of distention around your belly. So, apart from it being internal the muscles, on the outside they can’t contract the same as what they can through the normal rest of the month. So go lighter weights, don’t go for any big PB’s or particularly anything like a dead lift in the gym because you’re putting a lot of load on your lower back if you can’t support through the core section and that’s when you’re at high risk of back injury, say like, a slipped disc or something like that so it can do some serious damage. In the yoga world you could look at just taking it easy, put your feet up on the wall for a more restorative pose instead of doing inversions or taking on any new crazy pose where you might need a lot of core activation. So to take it nice and easy on yourself and it’s totally okay. Even in the lead up towards the days you know 1-5 when, as Alia was saying, you can feel quite weak and sometimes you don’t even realise that’s why. But you know, if you just don’t feel up to it that day – just take it easy and listen to your body.
Fiona Caddies: So Jo, what would you say, like in today’s society we have so many people just trying to mask that it’s that time of the month and trying to just go-go-go! What would you say when they are not wanting to appear weak?
Jo Lamble: I think we’ve got to remind ourselves that our periods are the way our bodies are telling us that we’re healthy and it’s working as it should be. So rather than hide it, just celebrate, yay! You know, it’s still going well on clock work and what a perfect excuse especially hearing you guys talk, what a perfect excuse for being gentle on ourselves.. “Sorry I need to take a bath”, “Get me that hot water bottle please” (laughs) you know.. “I’m suffering here because apparently all this stuffs going on that I didn’t even know about”, so that’s a great excuse. But you know I’m so impressed with young people. They don’t seem to have much problem talking about it, they are so open about their periods and I think it’s good, I think there’s this generational change that people by the time they are grandmothers, then I think everybody will be openly discussing periods and vaginas..
Emma Markezic: That’s our goal! (laughs).
Jo Lamble: Thanks guys.. and considering that we have approximately 450 periods each during our life time I’m hoping that these tips will make your next one a little easier. For more tips go to thecarousel.com and we’ll see you soon..
And if you’d like a few more tips on how to get through your period feeling fresher, click here.