Wish there was a way to make little things in life, like your monthly period a little less painful and a lot less dreadful? Turns out you can. Similar to other areas of health, there’s always room to improve and optimize, or as we like to call it, biohack. By making a few minor adjustments, whether it be starting a supplement regime, exercising, or eating more consciously, you can make that time of the month just a little bit better.
In the US alone, almost 40 million women struggle with some form of hormone imbalance. This ranges from PMS, period pain, low energy, to infertility. For years women have been suffering in silence and finally, this medical issue is coming to the forefront of medicine.
What is a normal menstrual cycle?
While this can vary amongst women, it’s important to know in general what a normal menstrual cycle should look like.
- A normal period cycle lasts 26-32 days. The goal is consistency each month.
- While you may feel some heaviness or slight sensation in your lower abdomen, cramping that requires hot water bottles or medications is not normal.
- The color should be bright red to cranberry color with no heavy clotting from beginning to end.
- The menstrual bleeding itself should last anywhere from 4-7 days. As you approach your 20s and 30s the amount of menstrual bleeding you experience should start to decrease.
Top 3 foods to biohack your hormones.
1. Increase fermented foods to support healthy gut bacteria.
There is a set of gut bacteria that is specific to estrogen called the estrobolome, which produces an essential enzyme that helps metabolize estrogen. During the menstrual cycle your ovaries increase their production of estrogen, so it’s important to balance it out with foods that help metabolize estrogen. A healthy gut aids the elimination process of excess estrogen.
2. Eat more fiber.
The goal is 25 grams per day. Fiber is essential to support our liver to detox excess estrogen. Freshly ground flax seeds are an easy addition to the diet. You can sprinkle them over salads, an avocado, or add to smoothies.
3. Include more cruciferous vegetables in your diet.
Vegetables like brussels sprouts, kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage contain a substance called DIM (Di-Indolyl Methane). DIM is particularly effective at helping the liver process and eliminate excess estrogen.
Top 4 supplements to regulate the menstrual cycle.
When it comes to supplements often times less is more, but when it comes to treating painful PMS symptoms, there’s definitely room for a few additions for just that one week in the month.
This relaxing mineral is involved in 300 different enzymatic reactions in the body including making sex hormones. Yet almost 80% of people are deficient. It’s no surprise then that a relationship exists between magnesium and periods. During each cycle, magnesium is physically present on the uterus to relax the muscle lining during a period. One study found that taking magnesium in conjunction with B6 beneficial in reducing PMS symptoms. Some also find that taking 200-400 mg of magnesium glycinate for menstrual cramps helpful in reducing or eliminating their frequency.
2. Chastetree berry
Available as a tincture or capsule, this herb is known to stabilize the luteal phase or second half of the menstrual cycle. It also supports LH (luteinizing hormone) which aids in regular ovulation. It is especially helpful if you decide to stop birth control pills to support a more natural cycle. If you are still on the pill, you will not reap the benefits of this herb.
3. Vitamin B6
An overall deficiency in B vitamins can lead to fatigue. Vitamin B6, in particular, is essential to support healthy progesterone levels. It also works in conjunction with liver enzymes to reduce excess estrogen production which can lead to hormonal imbalance.
If you already suffer from IBS, you might see an increase in symptoms during your menstrual cycle. Symptoms such as bloating, cramping, and gas will typically increase right before your period. To troubleshoot for these symptoms it may be worth considering probiotics. Probiotics have been shown to relieve symptoms of IBS by balancing the gut flora and suppressing harmful gut bacteria.
Other ways to biohack your period
1. Exercise away PMS symptoms
Those with depression or anxiety disorders may see their symptoms worsen before or during their period. This isn’t necessarily a result of the condition itself, but rather the overlap in symptoms between PMS and anxiety disorders. Exercise can help relieve some of these symptoms. Studies specifically point to short-term aerobic exercise for reducing anxiety sensitivity.
2. Be prepared with all your period products
When your period comes, the last thing you want is to be caught without any of your trusty period products. To avoid the stress of having to rush to the store on short notice, prepare in advance. Subscription based services, such as Lola, Cora, and Kali can help ensure you’re stocked up on non-toxic tampons, pads, and whatever else your period needs entail. The last thing you should be doing is trying to extend the use of your last tampon beyond its lifespan. 8 hours is the absolute max and any longer, you run the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
3. Start tracking with a period tracker app
Do you feel like your period comes when you least expect it? It may be time to consider a menstrual cycle tracker. Apps like Eve and Flo will take the guesswork out of your menstrual cycle, providing you with a calendar to track your cycle, period, and PMS. Over time you’ll find your average period cycle, period cycle length, next period date, ovulation date, and more.
4. Consider a hormonal imbalance test
If you frequently deal with PMS, it’s likely the result of a hormonal imbalance and it’s not something you should expect to be part of your menstrual cycle. Everything from lifestyle and diet modifications, to the right supplements, can help you take control of your period naturally and leave you feeling more energized and balanced, but if you’re still feeling the effects of PMS, ask your doctor about a hormonal imbalance test.
If you have a thyroid condition, endometriosis, PCOS, or persistent PMS, it’s best to be fully evaluated by one of our expert physicians. We will take a comprehensive look at your hormone levels including specialty testing to determine the root cause of your hormonal imbalance and create a personalized plan to get you back to feeling your best.