There’s an instant tension that fills my entire body the second anyone brings up periods. A negative energy filled with grief, pain, frustration and flat out confusion. This one aspect that affects all of us women on a daily basis is shockingly, not something we are traditionally educated on or talked to about. This has left a lot of us “dealing” with the ebbs and flows it brings, never understanding what is really happening, how to best support our bodies and that there are a variety of natural remedies for menstrual cramps and hormonal support that we can implement today!
You could say that I’m sick of the stigma around periods and that I’m tired of hearing “that’s normal, take some Midol two times a day to relieve the pain.” As our medical and education systems continue to fail us women in this regard, I chose to channel my frustration 6 years ago by getting off the pill and began the journey of learning about my body, hormones and natural ways to support my cycle. So, here’s the bloody truth about my journey and what I learned, discovered and a handful of natural remedies to support your cycle all month long.
(Click the links below to skip to each section)
My period journey
Six years ago in the peak of my young 20’s I found myself in a long term relationship (with my now husband) feeling completely confused with who I was sexually. As society expresses it, I was supposed to be very sexually stimulated and always ready to go, (if you know what I mean) but I wasn’t. I never felt that desire or craving and quite often it was painful. It was like my body didn’t want to have sex but my mind did.
This confused me and also became an issue in my relationship so I was determined to figure out what was going on with my body as I knew this wasn’t normal. A regular doctor suggested lube (perfect another product to mask the underlying issue), leaving even more frustrated, I seeked a Naturopath Doctor who finally shared some insight into what may be going on. Having been on birth control since I was 13 years old my body essentially forgot how to produce hormones and completely disrupted the natural sensations and bodily fluid that were supposed to be occurring during sexual activities.That day I got off the pill and never looked back.
I wish I could say this was a glorious journey back to my body and amazing sex but it was far from it. Due to being on birth control at such a young age and suffering from extreme acne on my face, chest and back at the time all came flooding back, leaving me feeling incredibly down about my appearance and contemplating if this was even worth it. I stuck it out and about a year later and an amazing natural facialist I was on my way back to beautiful skin!
What also occurred during the next few years while my body was recalibrating itself to produce balanced hormones and have a natural cycle was irregular periods (I’m talking 4-month gaps), extreme PMS, 7-day long periods, debilitating cramps to the point of nausea, blacking out, uncontrollable digestion, heavy bleeding, hormonal acne, you know all the things that we dislike about our periods were coming back 10-fold.
This became extremely hard to work during those times, but of course calling in “I have my period” is not widely accepted and often shamed so it was heavy doses of Midol, lots of make-up, a few tears in the bathroom and binge eating all my cravings to get through it. However, during this time something else occurred, I was beginning to feel my body again, and began to appreciate her ability to learn again, come back to its natural state and heal from over a decade of toxins.
The next phase of this journey was riding myself of all over the counter drugs and products filled with toxins since I began to connect the dots from these products to severe lower back pain everytime I took over the counter drugs.
At this point my periods were regular, I could feel sensations where I was meant to and my menstrual cycle was normalizing around 4 days but the cramps were still debilitating, I’m talking 2-days in bed, in tears. This is when I began seeking natural remedies for menstrual cramps and where I discovered the power of raspberry leaf, the holy grail if you will!
Since then I’ve gone down the rabbit hole in how to best support my body during each phase of my cycle (there’s 4 by the way if you didn’t know), what to eat, how to exercise, how best to work and the most important way to balance my hormones. At that time my body was over producing hormones at an extreme - signs of this may be (and were for me) extreme night sweats, nausea, diarrhea and loss of consciousness around my menstrual cycle.
Before we get into my go-to period pain relief tips let's educate ourselves on what is actually going on inside our body.
What causes cramps: basic information of why cramping is part of period
I wanted to talk a little more indepthly about what causes cramps and what is actually going on inside our body because, like me you may be sitting there thinking that severe cramps are normal and simply are a part of your menstruation cycle each month. I’m here to tell you that is completely false.
Here’s what is going on inside your pelvic region when you feel cramps: your uterine muscles begin to contract and release in order to shed the uterine lining before or during your menstrual cycle. These contractions are triggered by a hormone called prostaglandins. If you tend to have severe cramps your body is producing high amounts of prostaglandins.
As you can see this process is necessary for our periods in order to shed the lining of our uterus, however producing normal amounts of hormones will significantly decrease, if not eliminate the pain caused by this process. Once I found this out I was determined to rebalance my hormones in order to have period pain relief.
Here’s my top natural tips on hormone balancing, cycle syncing to best support and nourish your body, PMS and period pain relief and understanding our bodies during each cycle phase.
Natural Remedies with Menstrual Cramps
(click to skip to each specific section)
Now that we have a brief understanding of what our body is doing during our cycles, something I believe should be taught to both male and female students in Gr.10 Biology but who am I to argue with a century old school system (I’ll save that for another time) let's get into my top four natural remedies for menstrual cramps and balancing your hormones.
How to balance your hormones naturally with seed cycling
My very first glimpse into discovering that I had the power to balance my hormones and that I didn’t have to “deal with it” was learning about seed cycling. “Seed cycling is the practice of eating specific seeds that support key hormones during each phase of your menstrual cycle. Seed cycling can help relieve PMS, increase fertility, regulate irregular cycles, and ease pain from reproductive conditions.” - Joah, founder of The Plantry Goods.
My approach to seed cycling is slightly different as I am not one to bake seed bliss balls or regularly add them to my yogurt or salads. I chose to utilize each seed's raw oils and make them into a Bullet Tea every morning. This works great for me as I, of course have a cup of tea every morning and adding a tablespoon of oil, organic grass-fed butter and a splash of nut mylk makes for a delicious creamy tea latte of sorts. If you are interested in learning how to make a Bullet Tea check out our recipe, here.
Intuitive eating to support and nourish your body through each cycle phase
Intuitive eating not only can help nourish your body each day and throughout each season but also help to balance your hormones and replenish your body when depleted. This has become a daily practice of mine where I have grown to trust and lean into more and more. It can be as easy as using your nose to decide what tea, food item or meal you are more drawn to, seeing where you gravitate to in the grocery story or simply trusting those cravings that pop into your head. Don’t get me wrong that due to our corrupted food industry, fast foods and overwhelming aisles of sweets you may be thinking “I’m craving pie or a burger and fries” and although I am so not against either of those in moderation, I’m rather suggesting ingredients; fruits, veggies, herbs, protein etc.
For example I was feeling that my liver was a bit sluggish with a bit of purging coming out through my skin beside my nose and inner cheek (more on this another time). As I was craving a fresh crisp salad full of flavour I gravitated to cilantro (not a usual item for me but I do love it), later researching cilantro is one of the best herbs to cleanse the liver.
As we move through our cycle each month and each season our bodies need specific nutrients to keep it in balance especially our hormones, therefore intuitively eating can help nourish depleted areas and bring the body back into balance, more on this below under ‘Cycle Syncing’.
Lastly, when it comes to intuitive eating, trust your initial instincts, record how you feel after and over time it will grow into your unconscious way of grocery shopping.
Herbs for menstrual cramps
This is a given, of course we have a tea to help relieve menstrual cramps and support depletion, PERIOD. Like I said above, discovering the natural properties of raspberry leaf was life changing to relieve period pain and to support the uterine muscles. Raspberry leaf contains a property called Fragarine which is known to help tone the muscles of the pelvic region, which in turn helps to relieve menstrual cramps caused by the muscle contractions in that area.
It also contains tannins which have been recorded to strengthen the uterus, which can mitigate heavy and irregular bleeding as well as prepare the uterus for birthing. This is a great herb to drink in your third and fourth trimester. (Please consult with your doctor before using).
While the raspberry leaf naturally helps with cramps our PERIOD blend also has Stinging Nettle leaf and Lemon Balm. Nettle is one of my favourite herbs with its nutrient dense properties, high in minerals and vitamins and is known to help iron depletion, which is great around our menstruating phase.
Lastly, lemon balm is great to help relieve stress, calm the mind, promote restful sleeps and soothes upset stomachs. This trio of herbs is the perfect natural remedy for menstrual cramps, PMS and supporting your cycle pre and post menstruation.
How to best sip PERIOD TEA:
Begin sipping one cup of PERIOD tea the moment your PMS symptoms start showing, if you are unsure start a few days prior to your menstrual phase.
During your menstrual phase sip a heavily steeped cup (10+minutes) four times a day - hot, room temp or cold is fine.
After your menstruation return to sipping on a cup a day for a few days to replenish depletion.
Repeat each cycle and sip every time you intuitively feel you need it (this blend is also great for hair, skin and nails).
$8.40 Relieve Menstrual Cramps | Replenative | Improved Uterine Health | Calming A simple blend featuring the number one herb used for centuries to combat menstrual cramps and improve uterine health by strengthening the muscle fibres –paired with mineral rich nettle and calming lemon balm to… read more
Relieve Menstrual Cramps | Replenative | Improved Uterine Health | Calming A simple blend featuring the number one herb used for centuries to combat menstrual cramps and improve uterine health by strengthening the muscle fibres –paired with mineral rich nettle and calming lemon balm to… read more
The last and most crucial piece of the puzzle that I have recently discovered is how to sync your day-to-day life with your cycle. As I mentioned earlier our cycle has 4 phases and described as the following by Alisa Vitti, Founder of Flo Living:
Follicular - All hormones are at low levels and slowly beginning to increase in concentration. FSH increases to help eggs mature in the ovary. The overall hormonal effect on the brain is one of openness to new things, creativity, and beginnings. A great time to ask yourself, “what do you want more of in your life?”
Ovulation - The rise in FSH, followed by the rise in luteinizing hormone stimulates the follicle to release an egg. Estrogen increases further to thicken the uterine lining. Testosterone begins to surge, driving desire, and then drops around ovulation. The verbal and social centers of the brain are stimulated by these hormones this week. This is a good time for important conversations and to connect with your community!
Luteal - Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone reach their peak concentrations, and then begin to fall to their lowest levels right before bleeding begins. Estrogen thickens the uterine lining and progesterone keeps the uterine lining in place in anticipation of a fertilized embryo. Your brain chemistry is optimized this week for task and detail orientation and bringing projects to completion. PMS is a common but not necessary part of this phase.
Menstrual - Hormone levels decline quickly to their lowest concentrations, creating the greatest communication between your two brain hemispheres: the left analytical side and the right feeling side. This means you are best able to synthesize how you feel about situations with the facts and determine the best course of action.
Understanding each of our phases indepthly and how it affects our mental, physical, emotional and hormonal state is crucial to the overall happiness of our daily lives. As I began to cycle sync through tracking each phase on the My Flo app (the app is free and extremely user friendly, definitely worth the switch from your current app tracker, trust me!) I now have the understanding of how to best support my body through each phase from what I eat, how I exercise, sleep, work and be social. This has been a game changer for me to feel connected to my body, listen to its cues and be completely mind blown with the accuracy of the information and how it pertains to my life.
Final thoughts on period
The journey of rediscovering my body’s natural function has been tough at times yet extremely empowering creating a new kind of appreciation and love for my body and who I am as a woman - sexually, physically, mentally, emotionally and hormonally. It has now become a passion of mine to disrupt society’s view on PERIOD’s and to normalize the conversation and education around one of the most significant things in our life!
All beginning with the simple act of naming our tea blend PERIOD, which often makes people think twice and ask me if I’m serious with a slight giggle. I hope these words have allowed you to feel a little less alone, give you hope that there is light at the end of the hormone tunnel and the definite knowing that it isn’t just something we have to “deal with.”