Do you tend to want curl up on the couch with Netflix during that time of the month? If so, you're certainly not alone. Unfortunately, while you might feel extra tired and a bit crampy, you know that life still goes on when you're on your period and you've got to make the best of it. While you might not be able to completely avoid all the less-than-pleasant symptoms that come with having your period, there are certain things you can avoid to possibly feel a bit better. Here are five things that can sometimes cause menstrual pain and some potential solutions.
According to Rachel High, D.O., an OB-GYN and fellow at Baylor Scott & White Health in Central Texas, current research indicates that light exercise such as easy-paced running on a treadmill or low-impact exercises like yoga and Pilates can improve unpleasant menstrual symptoms such as pain and emotional changes. "Even if you might not feel up to doing your usual hour-long run or high-intensity Spin class, doing a different activity and taking it easy are still more likely to help than to hurt," she said.
Alcohol and sweets
It can be tempting to reach for chocolate during that time of the month, but it turns out it can sometimes worsen your symptoms. "It is recommended to limit alcohol and sweets or desserts because they can cause blood sugar spikes, bloating, and more fatigue," said Starla Garcia, M.Ed, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian in Houston.
"Caffeine has been shown to have some diuretic activity, which could predispose women to dehydration," High said. "While it is also a stimulant, which can potentially irritate the uterus and increase cramping, avoiding caffeine hasn't been proven to improve to decrease menstrual pain." So if your morning cup of coffee is a typical part of your routine and keeps you sane more than it bothers you, you may find that you're better off sticking with it, she said. However, if you have an iffy relationship with caffeine as it is, avoiding it while on your period may be a good idea.
While stress doesn't necessarily worsen menstrual pain, it can worsen mood changes. Most people can't completely avoid stress, but they can add something that calms them to their day, such as going on a walk with good conversation, doing yoga, taking a warm bath, or playing with their pets, High said.
Not eating at least three meals a day
While the standard recommendation is to eat three meals a day, if you feel nauseated, you should try to have several smaller, more frequent meals, Garcia said. "You just don't want to end up going very long periods of time without anything in your stomach, because it can lead to stomach acidity and nausea," she said. "Eating frequent meals can also help you keep consistent energy levels up and from blood sugars dropping that leave you feel weak, tired, moody, and irritable."