If you struggle finding comfort during your "lady holiday" (as I just recently heard it referred), perhaps try some of the below natural remedies which I learned from my Ayurvedic doctor in India, as well as through reading Maya Tiwari's book, Women’s Power to Heal Through Inner Medicine.
1. Eat fresh, organic, nutritious meals that are light, soft and warm
Aim for simple foods that are easy to digest and do not tax the digestive system. Avoid junk foods, frozen and refined foods, meat, dairy products, raw foods, cold drinks and carbonated beverages.
2. Increase sweet tasting foods
By sweet, I do not mean made of white sugar. Sweet tasting foods are things like whole grains, root veggies (carrots, beets, pumpkin, sweet potato), and fruit. The sweet taste provides nourishment and sustenance; it increases bodily tissues, nurtures, and gives strength and stability to the body. Eating healthy sweet tasting foods will take care of sweet cravings (for chocolate, etc) and cool the body down.
3. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables with a mild laxative effect
Many women experience dryness in the body before and during their period which makes them prone to uncomfortable constipation. Try the following fruits and vegetables which can help move things through your digestive tract more easily.
Fruits: peeled and cooked apple, soaked prunes and raisins, baked rhubarb, strawberries, and peaches. Or try a chopped up banana with 1 tsp melted ghee and pinch of cardamom
Veg: fennel, daikon radish, cooked spinach
4. Drink lots of warm water
You need to ensure you stay hydrated so that the fluids in the body stay moving. Warm water is more hydrating than cold water and will not cause any stagnation in the organs.
5. Cut out all non-essential activity
As I mentioned before, I understand that in this day and age we cannot take the week off work, or stop looking after the kids. By non-essential, I mean housework (don’t mop the floors that week), cooking (perhaps your sweet husband/boyfriend or roommate will cook for you?), gardening, or any other errands that you would normally do. They can wait a week!
6. Little to no exercise
Ayurveda recommends no exercise or yoga during the actual menstrual period. If you really feel like you need to move, do a short walk, but nothing strenuous. This is not the time for body pump or spin classes.
7. Create a stress free environment at home and at work
This is something you would want all the time, not just on your period, but it is especially important to minimise stress and anxiety during this time. Do some meditation, take a bath, write in a journal, or whatever else makes you feel calm and relaxed.
8. Avoid swimming and take only warm showers/baths
Tiwari, in her book, actually advises against having baths/showers at all during the cycle. That’s probably too much to ask of us crazy hygienic Westerners so perhaps try minimising showers/baths during the first few crucial days of the cycle, or just ensure that you use only warm water, definitely not cold.
9. Minimise over-the-counter pain killers
Paracetamol and other such pain relief medicines are full of chemicals, tax the liver and cause constipation. Best to avoid. If you’re in agony with low belly/back pains or cramps, try rubbing warm castor oil on the area and applying a heat pack.
10. Chew some cumin seeds or make cumin-fennel-coriander tea
For relief from menstrual pain, try roasting some cumin seeds in an ungreased pan until they smell pungent. When they are cool, chew about 1 tablespoon slowly, and follow with one tablespoon aloe vera juice. Otherwise, make a tea with the above spices which are great natural anti-spasmotics to use for cramps and abdominal pain.
"To permanently rid yourself of menstrual ailments, you will need to bring your menstrual cycle in alignment with the new moon phase.” Maya Tiwari explains that women’s biorhythms, and specifically menstrual cycle, are closely connected with the lunar cycle. The new moon marks the time of rebirth and renewal which is when women should have their monthly bleed. The beginning of the full moon is the natural cycle for ovulation as it is the time of hope and rejuvenation. Tiwari asserts that being disconnected with the moon’s rhythms can have negative implications on women’s reproductive health.
I had heard people talk about getting their period in tune with the appropriate phase of the moon but I brushed it as ’too hippie for me.’ Ha, after reading this book, I may I’ve come around. In Tiwari’s book, which is entirely centred upon this principle of keeping our inner rhythms in alignment with those of Mother Nature, she puts forward a strong point relating the life of the individual to the life of the universe. Our health as women depends on reconnecting our own cycles and rhythms with the daily and seasonal cycles within nature. If you are keen to understand more about feminine health and lunar cycles, I would definitely recommend reading this book - Women’s Power to Heal through Inner Medicine by Sri Swamini Mayatitananda (Maya Tiwari). Or if all this moon cycles business is too airy-fairy for you, then perhaps just have a think about taking better care and going easy on yourself during your next cycle and see how you feel.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and/or if you have any other tips or tricks for adding to the remedy lists above!