Many women consider their period a monthly hassle — especially when that time of the month consists of less than desirable symptoms like cramps. Yet, in many ways, your menstrual cycle is a blessing in disguise. It can offer up clues as to what’s going on with your hormonal and metabolic health.
Undeniably, this becomes even more important with age. Optimal hormonal and metabolic health supports fertility, as well as the inevitable transition through menopause. So, what should you know when it comes to your period and your health? What do your period symptoms mean?
What is Your Period Telling You?
When it comes down to it, there is no such thing as a “normal” period. The length of a woman’s cycle and other factors vary from woman to woman. However, using phone apps, such as Flo or Clue, can help you determine what’s “normal” for you and your body. These apps further offer a way to track ovulation and symptoms associated with specific times of your cycle.
At the same time, certain period symptoms are associated with specific hormonal imbalances. So, let’s examine these common symptoms in more detail. Is your body trying to tell you something?
Symptom #1: Acne/Breakouts
Do you tend to experience a breakout in the week leading up to your period? Excess production of progesterone can cause your body to produce excess sebum, leading to oily skin and clogged pores.
This could suggest a few different things. Some evidence suggests acne and skin issues could be diet-related. Meanwhile, other experts claim this could happen due to an estrogen deficiency. Estrogen usually balances out progesterone. Yet, excessive exercise, extreme dieting, pituitary gland dysfunction, ovarian cysts, and autoimmune conditions can cause imbalances between these two hormones.
Symptom #2: Fatigue
Research shows that some women burn up to 10 percent more calories during menstruation. Thus, eating a bit more or doing a bit less during this time might be the answer to your fatigue. However, if you’re experiencing extreme exhaustion during this time, this could mean something more is at play, such as endometriosis, thyroid dysfunction, anemia, diabetes, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Symptom #3: Cramps
Most experts tend to agree that cramps happen due to an increase in prostaglandins, compounds that help your uterus contract. In fact, an increase in prostaglandins can happen due to increased inflammation in the body.
Studies even show women who experience menstrual pain tend to have higher markers of inflammation. Inflammation happens because of various factors, such as chronic stress or trauma, overexercising, extreme dieting, excessive alcohol intake, autoimmune disorders, toxic exposure, obesity, and smoking.
Where Should You Go From Here?
While there are other symptoms that can happen around that time of the month, the three period symptoms above are some of the most common. If your symptoms are getting in the way of your daily activities, it’s important to discuss your options with your doctor — and potentially, seek out testing for specific health issues or disorders. You may also want to consider making certain lifestyle changes to improve these symptoms and your health.
It’s also essential to track your cycle so that you know what’s normal or not for you. That way, when things change, you can better pinpoint the cause and make adjustments in your life accordingly.
Overall, you don’t need to consider your period a hassle. It can offer wonderful insights into your overall health and wellness, helping you start the family you’ve always wanted or simply live your best life.
Kristen Scott Ndiaye is a social entrepreneur and co-creator of Noémie, a brand that helps women take control of their sexual and reproductive health, in a beautiful and sustainable way. She is also a mother of two and is obsessed with three things: (1) her family; (2) the power of education; and (3) working towards a zero-waste life.
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