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Periods are a Measurement of Your Health

For so long many people have viewed menstrual periods as messy, uncomfortable and something to avoid because it is inconvenient. What if instead it was viewed as a part of being healthy? What if the first time someone has a menstrual period it was celebrated as a right of passage rather than a taboo topic or something to be feared?

Many cultures have celebrations to honor this sacred time as a passage into adulthood with ceremonies or special gifts. According to people in rural India, Bali an Ghana celebrate menarche with ritual baths or have celebrations with nourishing food, special clothing and jewelry. In South Africa people are given gifts after the onset of menarche, but are required to stay at home for the duration of the period-away from men and children, where as in Brazil the news of menarche is a joyous occasion celebrated by telling all family and friends.

Many young people fear their period due to embarrassment of accidents, fear of premenstrual symptoms, or simply not understanding its importance as an assessment of general health. This can lead to going on birth control pills early on which lead to significant side effects like weight gain and even pulmonary embolism. Many people are surprised learn that people don't have a true period on birth control, they have withdrawal bleeding due to the stopping of hormones causing the uterine lining to shed, but it isn't the same as a natural period.

Being in control of tracking your menstrual or moon cycle can give you confidence in knowing when its coming. It can also give you information about your health status. If your period stops, it could be due to excessive exercise and its a sign you need to rest. It can also indicate possible pregnancy. If you have severe PMS symptoms, you may potentially have low magnesium causing the symptoms or heavy bleeding causing potential iron deficiency. Severe symptoms may be a sign of potential endometriosis. Irregular cycles could indicate potential thyroid concerns. One of the best ways to track your cycles is with Fertility Awareness Method. This uses basal body temperature along with cervical mucus in a graph format, which can give you information about when your period is likely to occur and whether hormones like estrogen and progesterone are rising or falling and even whether or not you are pregnant. I recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler for information on tracking your cycles using this method.

Along with being in control of when it is occurring, doing things to help support this time are important. Taking a magnesium supplement, soaking in Epsom salts and/or eating foods high in magnesium like leafy greens or drinking nettle tea, can help support the body and decrease PMS symptoms. Newer evidence is showing that changing your

exercise routine to support your cycle can also help your long-term athletic performance. BIRTHFIT suggests using the lunar cycle as a guide and using gentle movement with nourishing foods to help support you throughout your cycle.

Menstruation is the shedding of the uterine lining and letting go of what is no longer needed. Tampons do not allow for flow and instead absorb menstrual blood within the body. This can make periods more painful, lead to infection and expose the body to unnecessary toxic chemicals and fragrances. Instead using a menstrual cup allows the menstrual blood to flow from the body, doesn't contain perfumes and toxins and can make periods much less painful. Many pads can also contain chemicals and dyes that can irritate tissue and lead to irritation and infection. Using pads made from organic cotton free from perfumes and dyes or using period panties or reusable washable pads that can absorb menstrual flow, but wick it away from the body without chemicals can help reduce irritation while still promoting flow.

Viewing the menstrual cycle as something to celebrate and support is important in creating better self awareness and better overall health. Being able to track your cycle empowers you to understand your body and recognize when there is a change in your health status. For more on using your menstrual cycle as a tool for health, I recommend the book The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson Jack .

Amy Gamerdinger Jeffers, DC, CACCP

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