Why Womens Athletic Research Is Catching Up The Role Of Hormones
Lets address the big question in the room. Why havent we discovered this sooner? It all comes down to the primary focus of early sports medicine science: male athletes. As a result, many of the results from past nutrition and training research apply perfectly to men, but not so much for women.
Fortunately, as the field has become more diverse, more recent womens sports medicine research has produced a wealth of information on how the female bodies interact with activity and nutrition. And it shouldnt come as much of a surprise that the more we study, the more we discover just how distinct and different a womans needs really are.
Even more importantly, were finding that those needs arent particularly constant from week to week. A womans hormones affected by age, maturity and pregnancy history set the pace for her reproductive system and physical performance.
Were finding that hormone levels can influence a womans susceptibility to certain injuries, how your body processes food and even how flexible your joints are. Of course, as physicians and dietitians, were just starting to scratch the surface plenty more research needs to be done in a lot of areas. However, theres a lot you can do with what we know now to hack your menstrual cycle and make it work for you.
Enjoy A Cup Of Ginger Or Cinnamon Tea
Going natural to get rid of that pain is very awesome. Drinking a cup of cinnamon or ginger tea or both can help you to fight against really bad cramps during period. The ginger tea has been found to serve as an anti-inflammatory substance which reduces pain.
The cinnamon tea also has anti-spasmodic properties which can help to reduce the risk of pain during menstruation. Enjoying a cup of these tea is of great benefit working tremendously in different ways.
Contraceptives That Can Help Period Pain
Your GP may give you the contraceptive pill. This can ease period pain because it thins the womb lining.
A thinner womb lining means the muscles of the womb do not have to contract as much when it sheds. Your period will also be lighter.
If the contraceptive pill is not suitable for you, the contraceptive implant or the contraceptive injection are good alternatives.
The Mirena intrauterine system can also sometimes help with painful periods.
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Reach For Decaf Coffee
Caffeine causes your blood vessels to narrow. This can constrict your uterus, making cramps more painful. If you need your coffee fix, switch to decaf during your period. If you rely on caffeine to beat the afternoon slump, eat a snack high in protein or take a quick 10-minute walk to boost your energy.
How To Deal With Period Pain
A painful menstrual cycle is common. Around a fifth of women experience mild menstrual pain, while slightly less than half get moderately painful periods and nearly another fifth report severe pain. Painful periods can affect women of all ages, though the younger you are, the more likely you are to get them. Three-quarters of women under the age of 25 report menstrual pain.
Period pain can include cramping, back pain, and an irritable mood. But what is a period exactly? What kind of period pain medication is the most effective? And is Panadol good for period pain? Its important to know that, although its an annoyance, period pain is a natural occurrence in many women. Even so, period pain can disrupt your day-to-day life, so its good to understand how to manage this pain.
Below you can read about what causes the condition, and how to relieve period pain.
What are the top three symptoms of period pain?
Painful periods can be an unpleasant fact of life for those of child-bearing age, though some women say they disappear after having children, while others don’t get them at all. Everyone is different.
These are top 3 symptoms of period pain:
1. Period cramps 2. Lower back pain and/or headaches 3. Nausea and general feeling of being unwell
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Switch Up Your Sleeping Position
Anecdotal reports say that the fetal position is the best sleeping position for menstrual cramps. This could be because the position doesnt place weight on your abdomen or lower back which is where period pain is typically felt.
There isnt any research into how your sleeping position can affect period pain, but that doesnt mean it isnt worth giving a try.
Although period cramps are very common, severe pain isnt normal. Youll want to make an appointment to see a doctor if you:
- have period cramps so painful that you cant go about your daily activities
- started having severe menstrual cramps at or after age 25
Extreme pain before or during your period can be a sign of a more serious health condition that needs treatment, such as:
The Luteal Phase And Athletic Performance
During the back half of your menstrual cycle, your body is preparing for your next period or pregnancy, if you happened to conceive during this cycle. This means your hormones are running at a higher level, due to an increase in estrogen and progesterone. More hormones means a decrease in anabolic, or muscle-building, capacity. This means that its time to take it easier, focusing on lower-intensity workouts with more recovery time.
Also, rather than being able to easily access stored carbohydrates, your increase in hormones has that energy locked up tight. Now, your body needs fuel from extra carbs and calories from the outside . Plus, your body also needs more water during the luteal phase more hormones means a greater risk of dehydration.
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When To Contact A Doctor
A person may wish to speak with a doctor if home remedies do not help reduce cramps or if they are experiencing very severe cramping.
A doctor can suggest other home remedies to try or prescribe medications, such as birth control pills or some types of pain reliever, to manage the symptoms.
Other symptoms that may warrant contacting a doctor include:
- cramps that get worse over time or with age
- severe pain or discomfort
- cramps that interfere with daily life
These symptoms may indicate an underlying condition, for which a doctor will be able to suggest an effective treatment.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about home remedies for menstrual cramps.
You Have High Insulin Levels
Insulin increases arachidonic acid, the precursor to the inflammatory prostaglandins that cause menstrual pain. Insulin also promotes clotting and can interfere with ovulation.
How do you know if your insulin levels are too high? Ask your doctor to order a fasting insulin test for you. Your fasting insulin level should be no higher than 8, but I really like to see it 6 or less.
If your insulin is too high, you need to start making changes like cutting sugar out of your diet and emphasizing vegetables, protein and healthy fats. Exercise, especially resistance exercise like weightlifting, is crucial for lowering your insulin levels. Also be sure to get 8 hours of sleep each night: Just one night of sleep deprivation can promote insulin resistance!
Signs and symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar and insulin resistance include:
- Sleep trouble
- Energy crashes or sleepiness after meals
- Sugar cravings
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Important Questions To Ask Yourself
To find out if you need extra help, Dr Manwaring recommends you ask yourself these five questions:
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, talk to a trusted doctor about your painful periods.
Pain, heavy bleeding or other factors regarding your period that get in the way of you going about your life shouldnt be suffered in silence.
If youre finding your period hard to manage, you dont need to go it alone. Help and effective treatments are available.
How Are Severe Menstrual Cramps Treated
When the usual home remedies to relieve period cramps are no match for your cramps, an OB-GYN can help you find relief from the pain. The most common treatments for severe menstrual cramps are:
- Hormonal birth control methods If your menstrual cramps are caused by a hormone imbalance, your doctor might recommend using a hormonal birth control. In addition to preventing pregnancy, taking hormonal birth control can help correct the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body, which effects the thickness of the uterine lining. Thinning the uterine lining can reduce prostaglandin and bring pain relief. Some birth control methods can cause women to skip their periods, eliminating cramps altogether.
- Prescription medication When over-the-counter medicines dont work, your doctor might prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . These medicines are much stronger than similar ones youll find over-the-counter. They can significantly reduce prostaglandins in your uterus, which might thin the uterine lining and alleviate cramps. Prescription medication is used when a woman experiences severe, chronic cramps.
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What Can Make Period Pain Worse
Maintaining a healthy weight may be important for managing period pain. Research from the University of Queensland found that both underweight and overweight people who menstruate were more likely to experience painful period cramps.
Diet can affect periods, and in some cases those who are significantly underweight can see their periods stop altogether, says Overton. Stress can also impact the length of a womans cycle, and sometimes stop periods altogether.
The good news is there are a number of things you can do to help support your monthly cycle. Eating a balanced healthy diet rich in healthy fats like oily fish, nuts, and seeds, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables may ease the pain you have around your period. However, a study published by the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology has highlighted that your diet doesnt necessarily make period cramps any worse.
Drink plenty of water and, as ever, consume alcohol and caffeine in moderation. If your periods are very heavy, it might be worth taking an iron supplement during your period to replace the iron being lost with the period blood, Overton says. Consult a medical professional to find out if thats the right course of action for you. Theyll be able to advise you on the right dose and whether you need blood tests.
What Not To Eat During Your Period
Eating during your period can cause many problems. This is because your blood is flowing and the lining of your stomach is most likely swollen. You might have pain during this time. Many women complain of period cramps or a heavy feeling. Some women even experience bleeding between periods. Pregnant women can often experience much heavier periods, where they can experience bleeding for over 2 weeks at a time. This can be a lot more painful. During the second trimester, bleeding is likely to be bright red. During the third trimester, bleeding is likely to be dark purple. You might also experience stomach bloating, vomiting, pain, diarrhea, or nausea. Its best to eat a light diet during your period. This can help your stomach feel better. However, you should make sure that you stay hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat foods that are high in fiber. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar, and limit your consumption of acidic drinks. You also want to limit your consumption of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and sodas. These can also cause stomach problems.
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The Sunshine Of Vitamin D
Cramps associated with dysmenorrhea can be disabling. Painful cramps associated with dysmenorrhea occur due to increasing levels of prostaglandins, which cause the uterus to contract. These contractions cause the shedding of the uterine lining. Vitamin D reduces the production of prostaglandins. In one study of young women who had primary dysmenorrhea and low vitamin D levels, high weekly doses of supplemental vitamin D decreased pain intensity significantly both 8 weeks into treatment and 1 month after the end of treatment. The women taking vitamin D also took less pain medication to treat period pain. You can ask your doctor to measure your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test.
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What Is Are Menstrual Cramps
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for pain with your period or menstrual cramps. There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the name for common menstrual cramps that come back over and over again and arent due to other diseases. Pain usually begins one or two days before you get your period or when bleeding actual starts. You may feel pain ranging from mild to severe in the lower abdomen, back or thighs.
Pain can typically last 12 to 72 hours, and you might have other symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and even diarrhea. Common menstrual cramps may become less painful as you get older and may stop entirely if you have a baby.
If you have painful periods because of a disorder or an infection in your female reproductive organs, it is called secondary dysmenorrhea. Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea usually begins earlier in the menstrual cycle and lasts longer than common menstrual cramps. You usually dont have nausea, vomiting, fatigue or diarrhea.
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If Youre Using Sex Toys
Toys made out of nonporous materials like silicone, ABS hard plastic, metal, and glass are the safest option in general, Luna says. Especially during your period, because they can be cleaned completely.
When used without a condom, toys made out of porous materials like TPR, TPE, jelly, rubber, and PVC can harbor bacteria, which increases the risk of infection.
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What To Do When Menstrual Cramps Are Severe
The period cramp relief tips above are a good place to start, but they may not work for every woman especially for those who have very painful cramps.
If you’re experiencing serious pain during your period, it’s important to talk to your OB-GYN. She or he will ask you about your symptoms and cycle and can recommend lifestyle changes that may help ease your pain, as well as perform a pelvic exam and prescribe medications, if needed.
“For instance, hormonal birth control medications are sometimes used to treat menstrual cramps and the pain that accompanies a period,” adds Dr. Borchardt.
Plus, in some cases, severe pain may be a sign of something more serious.
“Beyond the significant impact that period pain can have on your everyday life, the cramps themselves aren’t typically a medical concern,” says Dr. Borchardt. “However, severe menstrual cramps can sometimes be caused by a more serious gynecologic condition.”
In certain cases, severe period cramps can be a sign of:
- Endometriosis uterine tissue gets implanted in your fallopian tubes, ovaries or pelvic lining
- Uterine fibroids noncancerous uterine growths that can cause pain
- Adenomyosis uterine tissue grows into the muscular wall of the uterus
- Pelvic inflammatory disease infection of your uterus, fallopian tube and/or ovaries
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Home Remedies To Reduce Period Pain
If the period pain is unbearable, there are certain home remedies that can provide some relief.
Over the counter medication: Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol or prescription painkillers such as ibuprofen and codeine are suitable for short-term use and are highly effective in reducing headaches, stomach cramps, and back painduring menstruation.
Heat: Applying heat to the abdomen during your period can help the muscles to relax and relieve painful cramps. This can be done by either having a hot bath or using a hot water bottle.
Massage and oils: Applying lavender oil around your stomach is known to help relieve period cramps. Like, using sesame oil for a massage can also help as it is rich in linoleic acid and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Exercise: You may think this is impossible considering that you are in pain and barely able to move, however, exercising increases circulation to the pelvic region and releases endorphins to counteract the prostaglandins which are the hormone-like substances that cause the uterine muscles to contract during menstruation.
Orgasms: Studies suggest that orgasms have a direct effect on menstrual cramps. Vaginal orgasms involve your whole body, including your spinal cord, which signals the release of neurotransmitters like endorphins and oxytocin. These endorphins can decrease pain perception.
When Should I Get Medical Help For My Period Pain
For many women, some pain during your period is normal. However, you should contact your health care provider if:
- NSAIDs and self-care measures don’t help, and the pain interferes with your life
- Your cramps suddenly get worse
- You are over 25 and you get severe cramps for the first time
- You have a fever with your period pain
- You have the pain even when you are not getting your period
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Womb Or Uterine Cramps
These are exactly what they sound like muscle cramps. Only in this case, they are happening for a specific purpose, and not just as a result of older age, over-exercising, or a drop in the bodys salt levels .
The womb is largely made up of a thick wall of smooth muscle . This muscle is extremely powerful, and is composed of three layers . Muscle spasms enable important functions of human reproduction: Regularly shaking off old endometrial cells as quickly as possible during menstruation, and very occasionally pushing out baby humans during childbirth .
Cramping is typically described as suddenly intense or sharp pain, lasting from a few seconds up to several minutes , and tends to come and go in waves. Cramp pain can begin before the period starts, but it is usually most severe on days 1 and 2 . Technically, period cramps are caused by the destruction of the endometrial cells, and the resulting release of prostaglandins . These inflammation response-related chemicals cause the muscle in the womb to contract and spasm .
Note The copper coil, or non-hormonal IUD , is known to increase the severity of period cramps in some people . The cause is not fully understood, but a good quality clinical study found that for most people, this problem resolved between 3 and 6 months of usage .