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Go with the Flow

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An OB/GYN tells us all we need to know about our monthly visit from Aunt Flo.

woman in pain period cramps

Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz: Periods ... most of us have them, but how much do we really know about them? Today, I appear on "The Tyra Banks Show" to discuss this very topic.

Here are some things every woman should know about "that time of the month."

• Almost one third of all women experience "distressing-to-disabling" symptoms prior to the onset of their menses each month.

• PMS and menstruation are NOT diseases! But the extreme symptoms "represent imbalances in a normal and natural hormonal tide, which, when ignored, lead to greater imbalances," according to Dr. David Simon of the Chopra Center.

Here are some tips to make menstruation and PMS more tolerable, and some opportunities to rebalance:

• Stay hydrated: Coconut water is an excellent source of electrolytes (better and lower calorie than sports drinks!). Of course, water will do, too.

• Castor oil hot packs: Soak a cloth you don't care about in three tablespoons of castor oil and put it directly on your belly. Cover that with an old-fashioned hot water bottle or heating pad to reduce cramping. Be sure to sit or recline on an old towel or sheet to eliminate the risk of staining or soaking the bed or couch you lounge on.

• If you know your cycle really well, take a "prophylactic" dose of nsaids (nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs found in ibuprofen, etc.) just prior to onset of menses to reduce cramps and discomfort.

• Make a tea of coriander, fennel, and cumin seeds to help with bloating and swelling. Other natural diuretics include parsley, cilantro, and lemongrass! Yum!

• Take a deep breath of high-quality rose, lavender, or any other flower essential oil you like to cool and calm your irritable brain -- it may diminish the risk of emotional blow-out at the time of PMS and, if you wear it, the bonus is that people who smell (and deal with) you may respond more charitably to your mood swings.

• Flax seeds have an anti-inflammatory effect when used long-term and may diminish cramps if used on a regular basis. They also are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber and promote bowel health.

• Moderate aerobic exercise lifts the mood and gets the blood flowing. This may reduce cramps, bloating, and other unpleasant menstrual symptoms. Try a moderately paced 20- to 30-minute walk, even if you feel like slumming it on your couch with a bag of potato chips!

• Tired? Don't fight it! Get plenty of rest. Pushing yourself during your menses or difficult PMS days really does nothing for you -- that is, after you return from that short walk.

• Extremely heavy bleeding requiring tampon or pad changes (fully drenched) more than two per hour for more than two hours, shortness of breath, dizziness, or other serious symptoms and recurrent PMS symptoms that are unmanageable or disruptive to your ability to perform daily activities on a monthly basis -- causing you to routinely miss work, school, etc. -- require immediate medical attention.

next: My Kids' School Supplies Cost a Fortune!
35 comments so far | Post a comment now
Denise September 9, 2009, 2:10 PM

Thank you sooo much for your information about periods, it was very helpful. I also watched the Tyra Show.

Samantha September 9, 2009, 3:09 PM

Hello, I was watching the Tyra Banks show and saw your website, so I thought I’d send you a message. I’m 17 years old, a very active person (gymnastics 5 days a week for 4 hours), and I haven’t had my period for about two years now. Is there something wrong with me? I read that if this continues I might not be able to have kids in the future. Please tell me what’s going on with my body.

Thank you,

Jane September 10, 2009, 4:01 PM

I was wandering where I could watch the full episode of “Go With The Flow” from the Tyra Show on the internet. Any websites?

Meg September 10, 2009, 4:02 PM

I have had my period for about 5 years and they are usally regular but I haven’t had a period in abut 84 days? Should I schedule an ob/gyn appointment or wait longer. I know that I am not pregnant.

Dr. Gilberg-Lenz September 11, 2009, 7:58 AM

Samantha, Over exercise and low body fat can be associated with hormonal changes such as this. Essentially- if there are not enough fatty precursors to make steroid hormones, a girl may not ovulate and have a normal menstrual cycle. This is more commonly encountered among girls who are athletes, dancers or have trouble keeping weight on whether from disordered eating or not. It is very important to a) see a doctor who may want to do blood work, physical assessment and ultrasound and make sure there is nothing else going on to cause the lack of periods and b) not panic about future fertility, but take it seriously now! Hope that helps.

Dr. Gilberg-Lenz September 11, 2009, 10:41 AM

There are so many reasons a period may stop temporarily — travel, weight loss, stress, increase in exercise, new meds. Many are transient and not serious, but without an evaluation, it’s impossible to know for sure that it is not due to a thyroid or other hormone problem, a cyst, etc.
Schedule an appointment — I bet that causes a period to come!

regina October 31, 2009, 7:32 PM

hi just wanted to ask a question or two. i have had my tubes tied for nine years and my periods are very heavy and some times i miss one. i can not seem to loose the weight i have gained from getting my tubes tied. i have mood swings all the time and no energy. plus i can not sleep. do i need to be on any hormone pills? i am a mother of four and just turned 33. can u help or give me some advice on what to do?

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