Natural Remedies to Relieve Period Cramps

For some women, period cramps can be completely debilitating. They can cause nausea, migraines, diarrhea, and interfere with everyday life activities such as work or relationships. According to Alisa Vitti, the author of WomanCode and creator of FloLiving, period cramps cause the US Workplace to lose $2 billion annually; they are nothin' to play around with.

Prior to September of last year, I had been on birth control for almost ten years. I got on birth control in hopes of controlling my cramps because they were so terrible when I was first experiencing my period in middle school. I remember having sharp, shooting pains in my abdomen that felt like someone was stabbing me - no thanks. This, coupled with other symptoms such as nausea, hormonal acne, and overall fatigue, made getting on the pill an easy decision for me. That little pill had been chemically controlling my hormones for me and I never once experienced a period cramp while on it. I even chose to skip my period for a whole year while I was traveling abroad; crazy, I know. Not having to deal with a period interfering with my life seemed awesome at the time until I started getting more into holistic living last year. I quickly realized that I had been using birth control as a bandaid for almost ten years to cover up these symptoms and fears. Fast forward to September of last year when I made the conscious decision to get off of birth control and the cramps flooded in with full force. 

After I stopped taking birth control, I lost my period for almost five months. I had spotting here and there, but my full, regularly scheduled periods were long gone. However, I was still getting cramps. My body wanted to bleed, but my hormones were so confused it didn't know how. This was so incredibly frustrating for me and I had many moments where the thought of getting back on birth control seemed like the best idea. Why am I doing this to myself? I'd think. But I wouldn't allow myself to go back down that path. I had already read the book WomanCode (two times), which was my reason for getting off of birth control in the first place, and had been cycle syncing for a month. I was dedicated to healing my body the natural way. 

My periods these days are still a bit late, but are pretty normal otherwise. I do still get cramps for about the first 24-36 hours of my period, but they are nowhere near as painful or excruciating as before. Since I'm all about those natural remedies these days, I have an arsenal of tips and tricks I use when Aunt Flo is visiting for the week that make my period less painful and more enjoyable. 

WHAT ARE CRAMPS?

An elevated level of Prostaglandin E2 trigger menstrual cramps while the uterus is contracting and expelling during the menstrual cycle. Prostaglandins are a group of fatty acid compounds with different hormone-varying effects, the most notable being period cramps. 

I find that my cramps vary depending on my levels of self care and overall lifestyle balance. When I am on top of my diet (eliminating sugars/gluten/soy/dairy/eggs/meat), managing my stress and anxiety consciously, exercising regularly and according to my cycle, and regularly practicing self-care routines, my cramps are significantly less than if I were to throw that all out the window. Basically, the strength of my cramps depends on how I treated myself that month. I've observed that if I steer from those lifestyle choices, my period cramps are significantly worse, I get more hormonal acne, and I experience traditional PMS symptoms such as mood swings, night sweats, breast tenderness, etc... To keep myself in check, I track my symptoms and cycles on the MyFLO app to get in better touch with what I need and how I feel. It's the coolest thing to experience your body healing first-hand.

NATURAL CRAMP REMEDIES

ESSENTIAL OILS

I use essential oils for different aspects of my lifestyle (anxiety, abhyanga, etc...), but giving myself a belly massage while having period cramps may be the greatest use I've found thus far. Clary Sage is antispasmodic, meaning is naturally treats spasms and muscle related issues, such as period cramps, by relaxing the nerve impulses that we can't control. Rub a few drops of clary sage with a carrier oil (coconut, jojoba, almond, etc...) between your palms and then gently massage your lower abdomen/upper pelvic region in a counter clockwise motion with light to medium pressure. It works wonders! I've also applied this on my inner thighs, hips, and lower back when cramps are really intense.

DIET

By now, you probably know that I'm a huge proponent of having a healthy, well-balanced diet full of whole foods. This has made a huge difference in my overall lifestyle and allowed me to get my period back after it was lost. Western medicine can be quick to cover up symptoms with a pill or a shot, but that's simply a bandaid and doesn't address the true, underlying hormonal imbalance. After reading the book WomanCode cover to cover many, many times, I learned that there are certain foods that you should enjoy during the different cycles your body goes through. During menstruation, Alisa Vitti recommends foods higher in fatty acids to get more PGE 1 and PGE 3 into your diet since our levels of PGE 2 (as mentioned above), are already elevated. I also find that eating warmer meals such as roasted veggies, soups, overnight bircha, or kitchari during my period makes me feel my best.

FOODS HIGH IN ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS

  • olive oil
  • flax seeds
  • chia seeds
  • nuts (walnuts, almonds)
  • pumpkin seeds
  • hemp seeds

FOODS TO ADD INTO YOUR DIET

  • seaweed (dulse, wakame)
  • mushrooms (all kinds)
  • kelp
  • reishi mushrooms (I like Sun Potion)
  • miso

FOODS TO AVOID

These foods can cause excess inflammation and I've found that avoiding them causes less painful cramps. For many of us, we immediately reach for sweets or junk foods while on our period. But, I've actually noticed that the deeper I get into cycle syncing, the less I crave these foods.

  • dairy
  • soy
  • gluten
  • alcohol
  • processed sugars
  • caffeine
  • raw vegetables in excess
Food chart from  WomanCode  - what to eat and when to eat it. I keep one of these on my fridge and reference it daily.

Food chart from WomanCode - what to eat and when to eat it. I keep one of these on my fridge and reference it daily.

HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE!

H2O is the healer of all healers. During menstruation, us ladies lose a lot of liquids from our uterine lining and it's crucial to constantly be replenishing them. Dehydration during your period can actually worsen symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and brain fog. Avoid drinking sugary beverages and opt for big glasses of water, it's a quick fix.

GENTLE YOGA

During menstruation, your body is working overtime and your energy levels are low. Forcing yourself to do high intense cardio or cycling is not what your body needs during this time. Incorporating gentle yoga poses into your daily routine is beneficial, especially when you're on your period. I would not recommend doing any inversions while you're bleeding, as your uterine lining will travel back into your body. But some gentle yoga poses such as child's pose, supine twists, happy baby, supine butterfly, and camel pose can all help with pelvic discomfort. If you want more gentle yoga sequences, YouTube is full of free tutorials.

CHILL OUT

Know when you need to rest. Honor this time during your menstrual cycle and allow your body to release. It can be hard to relax and unwind in a fast-paced world. We tend to feel like we need to always be doing something or always stay busy but we rarely give ourselves time to just chill out. By tracking your cycles on the MyFLO App, you can plan ahead in preparation for your menstrual cycle. Get the hard, time consuming tasks out of the way, avoid planning a lot of social events around this time, buy yourself a bath bomb, and get the Netflix ready. Instead of scheduling gym time, schedule journaling time, meditation time, bath time, and nap time. Giving your body a chance to rest actually relieves a lot of the inflammation we can experience during menstruation. Low stress = low inflammation = less cramps. Science.

I'm a huge proponent of self-care every single day, but take a little extra time for yourself during your period. Simply recognizing and honoring the process of menstruation is a beautiful act of self-care.

How do you treat your period symptoms?

With love and light xx

Tips and Tricks to Beat Bloat + IBS-C

We all know the feeling of being so bloated that you can hardly button your pants. As the day goes on, the gas gets worse and your stomach turns into rock hard bloat instead of rock hard abs - the worst. This takes a toll on the body’s digestion and your mental health - feeling good on the inside = feeling good on the outside. 

There’s a difference between feeling full and feeling bloated. Sometimes we can eat a little too much at mealtime and feel like our stomach is at full capacity, but that’s not the same as when your body is having a hard time digesting and you feel like you’re about to burst even when you haven’t had anything to eat. Ever wake up feeling like you have a concrete block of gas in your stomach? That’s full on bloating. This happens when you’re eating the wrong foods at the wrong time and your body can’t digest the nutrients fast enough. 

This can also lead to some pesky IBS-C symptoms, aka constipation. This can be incredibly uncomfortable and is quite unhealthy. Constipation is when the bowels sit in your digestive tract for too long and the body begins to reabsorb the toxic elements back into the bloodstream - yikes. Eliminating within 30 minutes of waking up is said to be a surefire way to know you've beat the IBS-C symptoms.

Lemon H2O all day erryday 

Lemon H2O all day erryday 

MY HISTORY WITH BLOAT AND IBS-C

I used to experience some degree of gas and bloating every single day. I never tried to do anything about it because I just thought that's how my body was supposed to feel after eating three meals a day. My bloating would be so intense throughout the day that I would have to unbutton my pants when I got behind the wheel and would have sharp shooting pains in my abdomen. 

I also experienced some pretty gnarly constipation and would go days and days without eliminating (sometimes as long as a week). This, of course, added to overall discomfort and really took a toll on my overall health. Back then, my diet was not great. I had been a vegetarian for 10+ years and switched over to veganism about 1.5 years ago, but I was eating a ton of gluten, soy, processed sugars, processed foods, raw salads, onions, garlic, and drinking wayyyyy too much alcohol almost every weekend and hardly any water. I've since found in the last 6 months or so that these things all contribute to my bloat and IBS-C issues. I've eliminated these foods from my diet and can almost instantly feel the effects when I consume them. I talk about this more below, but taking the time to find out what foods your unique body is sensitive to is so, so important if you want to banish the bloat. 

Since I've changed my diet and my meal routines, I hardly experience any bloat and I eliminate every morning within 20 minutes of waking which was completely unheard of for my body before. Food is truly medicine for the body, peeps! Now, there are times where I might overindulge or eat some of the foods that I eliminate on a daily basis. I am, after all, only human and sometimes a girl just needs a Justin's Peanut Butter Cup to brighten her day. But, by using these tips and tricks that I've listed below, I can banish the bloat and constipation more quickly and with more success than I did before. 

TIPS FOR BETTER DIGESTION + BEATING BLOAT

  • Drink lots of water. Every morning I drink 30oz of room temperature water with lemon before I do anything. On mornings where I’m feeling a bit more bloated I drink hot water with lemon. This helps detoxify the body and gets things movin’. Get yourself a large reusable water bottle (I use a 40oz HydroFlask) and make it a goal to drink at least 2-3 of those a day. Even if you're not feeling thirsty, drink that H2O.
  • Read into your hunger cues. This has helped me a ton. Before, I would wake up and immediately eat my breakfast within 20 minutes. I felt like I had to because breakfast is “the most important meal of the day.” Right after I would finish an average sized breakfast of either oats or a smoothie bowl, I would feel so uncomfortably full and the bloat stuck around all day. These days, I don’t eat breakfast until I actually feel real hunger cues, which is usually up to 4-5 hours after I wake up. I'll have my matcha after I finish drinking some water - usually around 7:00-8:00am - and the coconut butter holds me over for awhile. It has helped my digestion a ton and helped relieve most of those pesky constipation symptoms I was experiencing before. By doing this, I'm giving my body the time it needs to digest and process before giving it more work to do.
  • Look at your diet. This is most likely the number one cause of bloat and indigestion. A lot of us get stuck in certain food patterns and aren’t truly aware of the foods that our body is sensitive to. It takes a lot of trial and error, patience, and dedication, but it’s so worth it. I’ve found that onions, garlic, dairy, gluten, soy, processed sugars, and some nightshade vegetables do not agree with my system. I’ve eliminated animal products and gluten completely but occasionally have the other ingredients and can immediately feel the effects on my body. If you're interested in finding out more about food sensitivities, try an elimination diet or look into the Clean Program 21-Day Cleanse to reset your body. Experiment with eliminating one food (i.e. gluten) for a few days, add it back in, and then notice the effects. Maybe there aren't any, and that's okay, too.
  • Take your time eating your meals. This is something I’m still struggling with. I grew up around family members who eat incredibly quickly, so it’s kind of engrained in my mind so scarf down my meals in no time. It takes a lot of mindfulness to slow down, be present, and really taste the foods you’re eating. Breaking down the food more before swallowing speeds up the digestion process. When I eat a meal a little too quickly, I immediately experience gas (burping) and I can feel my body working a little bit harder to digest the meal.
  • Make herbal teas your friend. Drinking warm or hot liquids throughout the day, especially after meals, helps the body break down what you’re putting inside of it. It takes a lot more energy for your body to digest cold water than it does room temperature/hot water. I like to sip on licorice tea, peppermint tea, ginger/turmeric tea, or hot water with lemon.
  • Lean more towards smoothies and warm, cooked meals. Whenever I’m trying to reset my digestive system after a weekend of overindulging, I avoid cold, raw meals like the plague. It’s takes your body a heck of a lot longer to break down a big salad than it does to break down a warm meal. I’ll still eat cold condiments such as kraut or kimchi, but I like the base of most of my meals to be warm. Smoothies are an exception here, though. I find that since the ingredients are already broken down, my body doesn’t have as hard of a time digesting them. If I'm going to eat a salad (because they are delicious), I try to have it for my lunch so my body has more time to break it down. I almost never have cold or raw dinners, as I find it takes a toll on my body and I will, most likely, wake up feeling bloated as heck.
  • Move your body. Stagnant body = stagnant digestive system. It’s no secret that exercising makes you feel better all around. Even if you feel like the bloat is weighing you down, take a gentle walk and allow for the crud to move through you.
  • Get some beauty sleep. Getting enough sleep is crucial for proper digestion. While we sleep, the liver is breaking down the nutrients from that day and preparing the body to function properly the next day. If your sleep patterns are all off or you’re only sleeping from 2am-5am, you’re not giving your body enough time to break down the food you ate the day before. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule makes a world of difference.
  • Cut back on the sugar and alcohol. The hardest task of them all and one I’m still struggling with all the time. Sugar is more addicting than any narcotic on the market and is in virtually everything, making it so, so hard to avoid. Alcohol is a super social thing in our society and it can feel really isolating when you’re the only one not drinking in a group. But, these are moments where you can really tap into what you want to do, not what’s seen as socially acceptable. Not to mention, hangovers are brutal and it feels pretty dang nice to wake up and be able to function without a pounding headache and nausea. I get sugar hangovers, too. 
  • Give yourself a belly massage. This works wonders when I feel bloated or have cramps during my period. I use some clary sage essential oil and apply moderate pressure in a circle motion to my low abdomen (or wherever you're feeling the bloat the most).

TIPS FOR BEATING IBS-C SYMPTOMS (CONSTIPATION)

  • Take a daily probiotic. This goes along with getting your gut bacteria in a healthy place. Include more fermented foods in your diet, as well, and you’ll find you’ll have a much more regular poo schedule. 
  • Drink lots of water. Noticing a pattern here? Water is nature’s best healer. Flush that poo out one sip at a time.
  • Develop a routine eating and sleeping schedule. Schedules can get hectic and I know how stressful it can be when you’re running around and still have to get a meal in. But, if you’re eating dinner at 10pm one night and 5pm the next, it’s going to throw your body out of wack and it’s going to take longer to adjust. Try to meal prep as much as you can so you have stuff on hand for quick and easy meals. Same goes for sleep, try to get to bed by 10pm every night and avoid sleeping in too long.
  • Ashwagandha. I put this healing plant in my matcha latte every morning and find that it speeds up the elimination process if I haven't already gone. You can also add a teaspoon to a smoothie, oatmeal, or bulletproof coffee.
  • Eat more fiber. One of the easiest tricks in the book. Eat a tablespoon of flax meal at every meal, add more legumes into your diet, and get those veggies in!

Beating those pesky bloating and IBS-C symptoms really is about how much you're willing to change in your diet and eating patterns. Maybe it starts with simply drinking more water and incorporating a probiotic pill into your daily routine - you certainly don't need to do a 180 overnight. But, if you are experiencing some of the symptoms I talked about, my hope is you can take a few tips from this post and start feeling like the best version of yourself.

With love and light xx

Simple Self-Care Ideas to Boost Your Mood

Anyone else feel like winter dragged on for a bit too long this year? The dark, dreary days seemed to never end and I found myself majorly feeling the effects of that - the winter blues are no joke. I let a lot of my daily self-care routines fall to the wayside too often and put others before myself a lot. 

No matter the time of year, it’s important to incorporate self-care routines into your daily life. I find that when I’m down-in-the-dumps or in a funk is when I need these acts of self-care the most. There’s a reason you feel more refreshed and revitalized after a yoga class or after eating a meal full of whole, nutritious foods. These things matter and make such a difference. 

These are also little snippets or time where you can recenter, relax, and rejuvenate - either alone or with others. We have a tendency to always being doing things for others or going places with others, but we sometimes forget to pay attention to our own needs. It's important to spend some time alone and be okay with it.

CARVE SOME TIME OUT OF YOUR DAY TO JUST BE WITH YOURSELF AND ENJOY YOUR OWN COMPANY.

Self-care has gotten a bad rap recently. With people saying “I cant believe you spend that amount of money on a manicure” or “You should act your age and spend your Saturday nights hitting up the town,” it can be really easy to second-guess yourself and start to believe you’re not worthy of doing these things. That you should be putting others ahead of yourself. Well, let me tell you something:

YOU ARE WORTHY OF HAVING OR DOING ANYTHING THAT BRINGS YOU JOY AND PEACE.

With that being said, it’s important to note that not all acts of self-care have a price point attached to them. You don’t always need to buy things to feel joy - this is something I’m constantly trying to work on. Something as simple as eating your breakfast in silence without your phone can be a great act of self-care. But let’s not get it twisted, a good manicure can make your whole week.

I’ve put together a short list of simple things you can incorporate into your days to add a little sweetness into your life. 


Jungle baths are where it's at

Jungle baths are where it's at

Create a peaceful shower or bath routine.

This is a great time to become in tune with our body's needs. Whether you choose to bathe at the beginning, middle, or end of the day, it's an opportunity to unwind, release, and, quite literally, cleanse. For me, bathing has shifted from something I feel like I need to do to something that I want and get to do, just for me. Bathing can be one of those mindless times throughout the day where you turn on autopilot mode and go about cleansing your body in the usual sequential order while thinking about all the stressors of the day. But what if you really tapped into your body's needs every day? Chances are they're not the same from one day to the next. Fill your space with candles, essential oils. and music. Start cleansing your body outside of the shower, as well. I've been dry brushing for some time now and have noticed a great difference in my skin's texture and appearance - it's brighter, smoother, and my cellulite has decreased. I tend to dry brush before my shower, but it can be done post-shower, as well. After you bathe, it's crucial that you do some sort of abhyanga, or self oil massage, to moisturize your skin. This can be such a soothing and somewhat meditative practice that allows you to become intimate with your body - your home. 

Stretch. Move. Meditate.

This is so freaking important. When we become stagnant, we tend to feel more irritable, achy, and lethargic. There is a direct correlation between your mood and moving your body. This can be as simple as incorporating a few yoga poses into your morning routine before you get out of bed, or trying out a new workout class once a week. Meditation doesn't mean you need to sit on a pillow and stare at a wall for an hour. I find that cooking and reading are both very meditative for me. But, there is something to be said for taking just 10 minutes out of your day to sit, breathe, and focus inward. Often times we get so caught up in our fast-paced lifestyles that we let our thoughts fall by the wayside. Sitting with those thoughts and exploring them is transformational. I leave a yoga mat out in my apartment at all times so I'm always reminded to stop and recenter myself. There are so many wonderful meditation apps if you prefer guided meditation. Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer are some of my favorites. Often times, fitness studios have great deals, sometimes including a free first class! Do some research, put your confidence pants on, and get movin'.

Opt outside.

Sunshine cures all blues am I right?! Once the weather started turning the corner for spring and the sunshine showed its face a little bit more each day, my mood instantly boosted. Whether it’s a ten minute walk after dinner or an afternoon hike on the weekends, I cannot stress enough the importance of exploring the outdoors. Taking some time to experience nature has been proven to reduce stress, fear, anger, and depression and increase feelings of positivity, joy, and pleasure. Search for a new park in your area, find an interesting podcast to listen to while you stroll around your neighborhood, or take your lunch break outside if you're stuck indoors all day. Notice the smells, colors, and feelings that come up while you're outside and tap into that. With warmer weather approaching, one of my favorite things is to take a book to a local park, set a blanket down, and bask in the sunny rays (with sunscreen on, of course). Such a peaceful way to spend an afternoon. Getting outside and unplugging from the chaos of everyday life is crucial for our mental health.

Plants. Plants. Plants.

Anyone else talk to their plants like they're your children? Just me? Plants in the home or at your office desk are an instant mood booster. They're beautiful, vibrant, and give you something to take care of and watch thrive. If you're new to the plant life, I would recommend purchasing more resilient plants, such as snake plants or succulents, that can thrive with little attention. Another great tip is to wrap a bundle of fresh eucalyptus around your shower head - your shower will instantly turn into a spa! Plants are also great for improving the air quality in your home and can reduce stress levels. Plus, they're so aesthetically pleasing! My apartment is starting to look like a jungle and I'm 100% okay with that.

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    Tidy up your home.

    When things are out of wack in my apartment, it almost instantly carries over into my life. I feel disheveled and unorganized and it sends my anxiety spiraling down a 60-foot cliff. Now, to the untrained eye, I keep my apartment and things very clean and organized. But I know my space like the back of my hand and if just one thing is off, I can sense an energetic shift throughout my whole home. Creating and maintaining a clean, clutter-free (start the spring purge, folks!), and organized environment is very satisfying and, chances are, will spill over into other parts of your life. Spend a Sunday afternoon going through your closets and cabinets and choose to donate things that no longer serve you. If you haven't worn a shirt in 5 years, chances are someone else could benefit from wearing it more than you. It feels really freaking good to let go. 

    Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

    There's a reason you feel sluggish and crappy the next day when you've only gotten four hours of sleep and you're thriving off of energy drinks. Getting enough quality sleep plays a huge factor in our immunity, hormones, and overall health. In Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, the hours between 10pm and 2am are dedicated to the Pitta dosha. During these hours, the liver begins detoxing the body and preparing it for the next day. The body also takes this time to make sense of the emotions and mental experiences you had throughout the day. Trying to get to bed either before or right around 10pm is a great way to set your body and mind up for success the next day. Some other tips for a good night's sleep include: setting your phone aside an hour or two before bedtime, reading before bed, having hot tea or an adaptogenic tonic, or practicing some sort of meditation. This can include seated meditation, abhyanga (self oil massage), or simply practicing a few restorative yoga poses to prepare the body for rest. This is a rejuvenating act of self-care that we can practice every single day. You'll wake up feeling refreshed, well-rested, and you might not even need a drop of caffeine! 

    Make yourself some tea or an adaptogenic latte.

    There's something so peaceful about making yourself a warm beverage and taking a few moments to relax and settle. I've incorporated this into my night time routine a couple of nights a week when I have more time. Adaptogens are great for adjusting the body to natural everyday stressors and I incorporate them into my diet every single day. I love to sip on turmeric-ginger tea, chamomile tea, peppermint tea, or this nighttime triphala latte to aid with digestion. 

    Nighttime Triphala Latte

    • 12oz non-dairy milk
    • 1 teaspoon triphala
    • 1/2 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon 
    • A dash of cardamom
    • 1 medjool date
    1. Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender like a Vitamix and blend for 2 minutes.
    2. Transfer liquid to a saucepan and heat on medium heat until warm.
    3. Pour into a mug and enjoy!

    Delete all social media apps from your phone for a day.

    This is crucial for mental health. Social media has the biggest effect on our mood and self-confidence. One moment you're innocently scrolling through Instagram and the next you're comparing yourself to fitness models and self-depricating. It's a vicious cycle. Practice becoming more mindful about the accounts you're following and how they make you feel about yourself. Experiment with choosing one day out of the week and deleting all social media apps from your phone. Notice how it feels to have an entire day to yourself without the hustle and bustle of notifications, emails, or the stress of how many likes you get on a picture. It will clear your mind and set you up to have a calm and peaceful day.

    Cook yourself a healthy, nutritious meal.

    I’m not going to lie, I haven’t been meal prepping and eating kimchi for my whole life. It took me awhile to truly adapt a healthy, nutritious diet. Ever heard of a junk food vegan? That was certainly me before I started seeing a nutritionist last August. She opened my eyes to so many new foods and, more importantly, the effects those foods have on your body and mind. When I find that I’m getting particularly overwhelmed or stressed, I turn to sugar. With sugar being more addictive than virtually any narcotic on the market, you can see how one medjool date turns into two and so on and so on… This often times leaves me feeling sluggish and bloated. Support your healthy gut bacteria by eating fiber rich foods (flax seeds, legumes, or almonds) and fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, or kombucha). You'll quickly notice that you feel more rejuvenated and energized when you choose greens and healthy fats over a drive-thru meal. 

    Sautéed kale and broccoli with Banza chickpea pasta,  cashew cream, and nutritional yeast.

    Sautéed kale and broccoli with Banza chickpea pasta,  cashew cream, and nutritional yeast.

    Find your creative outlet and flourish.

    Finding something you can put your time and energy into and actually enjoy in the process is extremely fulfilling and joyous. Start a journal, find a new hobby, do that thing you've always wanted but never had the courage to. Maybe you dedicate the first 10 minutes after waking up in the morning to journaling, or you spend some time before bed working on your website. Whatever it may be, incorporate it into your daily routine and let it stick. Set reminders if you have to. Notice the feelings that come up when you create space for these things.

    Laugh.

    Surround yourself with people who make your ribs ache from laughing or watch a funny tv show or movie. I find that laughing instantly lightens my mood if I'm feeling especially rigid and tense and it actually alters the cortisol levels in our body which can decrease stress and fight off harmful free radicals. Sounds like a good trade-off, huh? 

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    Whether it's a face mask, a phone call with your mama, or getting a massage, I encourage you to do something that brings you joy every single day - your body and mind will thank you.

    How do you practice self-care everyday?

    With love and light xx 

    The 411 on Menstrual Cups

    If you’re still using tampons and pads, toss those puppies aside (or donate them to a woman in need - please do that instead) and get yourself a menstrual cup. I’m not exaggerating when I say that using a menstrual cup has completely changed my period game for the better.

    Menstrual cups have been around for 80 years but I just started using one in June of 2017, partly because I was stuck in my ways of buying tampons and pads, and partly because I didn’t see a lot (or any) information on menstrual cups in the mainstream media. I didn’t even really know they existed. 

    Power to the ladies

    Power to the ladies

    PERIOD STIGMA

    First and foremost, using a menstrual cup has completely transformed the way I view my period. There are a lot of stigmas attached to periods that are engrained in our minds from the time we experience our first flow. 

    They’re gross.

    They’re dirty.

    We shouldn’t talk about them.

    Now, of course you need to take proper hygiene into consideration when using a menstrual cup, but let’s get one thing straight: periods are awesome.

    The female body is a powerhouse and it is something to be so proud of. 

    Over 50% of the world’s population menstruates, yet these conversations about periods are frowned upon and not typically welcomed. 

    Despite the power to the period mindset I have now, I didn’t have this same belief before getting off of birth control in September of 2017. After I decided to leave the pill behind and control my hormones naturally, I lost my period completely for about four months. I felt really discouraged and started to think I made the wrong decision. Even though I inherently knew I would have a lot of work to do since I had been on birth control for over nine years (!), it really rattled me once I was experiencing the symptoms first-hand.

    But, slowly overtime, my period started to come back. I was healing my body with foods, exercise, and self-care. I’m still working towards getting a regularly scheduled period to this day, but this journey has completely amazed me. I'm truly experiencing the natural rhythms and cycles of my body for the first time without chemicals controlling my hormones for me. It's pretty cool.

    WHY MAKE THE SWITCH?

    Nearly 20 billion sanitary napkins, tampons, and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year.

    On average, a woman experiences her period from 3 to 7 days and menstruates from age 13 to 51. That means the average woman endures some 456 total periods over 38 years, or roughly 2,280 days with her period - 6.25 years of her life

    With 70% of women using tampons that we're instructed to change every 4-8 hours (using 6 hours as an average), the cost adds up quickly. A box of 36 tampons costs $7 at CVS.  

    1 tampon every 6 hours = 4 tampons per day x 5 days of having your period = 20 tampons per cycle  x 456 periods = 9,120 tampons. At 36 tampons per box, that's 253.3 boxes x $7 = $1,773.33.

    And that price point doesn't even include the cost of pads, panty liners, birth control, heating pads, or any other necessity that's a part of your monthly period routine. Read more about that here.

    Chances are, most girls are not starting out with a menstrual cup when they experience their first period. From that time on, we get so used to buying tampons and pads because it seems more convenient to stop at a local pharmacy whenever you need.

    I haven’t purchased pads or tampons in a year. 

    My period vessel is always patiently waiting in my bathroom cabinet and the convenience is undeniable. It comes with a little bag for clean storage so I sometimes throw it in my purse if I think Aunt Flo will be stopping by that day.

    Furthermore, tampons are made of toxic-laden cotton that can easily be transferred into your bloodstream via your vaginal walls. Over 85% of the tampons that are produced today contain glyphosate - a cancer-causing agent and one of the primary ingredients in the weed-killing chemical Roundup. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't want anything close to Roundup coming near my yoni.

    According to Dr. Maggie New, the co-director at the Women's Clinic at the Akasha Center in Santa Monica, California:

    Chronic exposure to these toxic ingredients increases our risk of cancer, causes oxidative stress and metabolic changes, and disrupts the endocrine system. This can contribute to adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immunological effects. Conditions such as infertility, endometriosis, and thyroid disorders are all on the rise, for example, and are affected by exposures to chemicals and toxins in our environment.

    Menstrual cups are made out of medical grade silicone and are BPA free, making this method non-toxic, eco-friendly, affordable (it’s a $40 investment for 3+ years of use), sustainable, and hassle-free. 

    It's worth noting that I've only used the Lunette Menstrual Cup in my experience, so I'll be referring to that particular cup here.

    WHAT IS THE THING?

    Menstrual cups are easily inserted into the vagina to collect the uterine lining during menstruation. Rather than absorbing the blood as a tampon would, a menstrual cup collects the blood over the course of your period and is periodically cleaned to prevent leakage or a risk of infection. Tampons hold 6-18g of blood whereas menstrual cups can hold up to 30ml in the largest size.

    HOW TO USE YOUR CUP

    I’m not going to lie, the first time I went to insert my menstrual cup (or even thought about it), I got really nervous. Even though I had been using tampons for years which is essentially the same type of insertion method, this was so new to me and I started to get all these wacky thoughts about it.

    What if I can’t get it out?

    What if my blood leaks all over my underwear and misses the cup?

    What if I damage the inside of my vagina?

    Will I be uncomfortable for the next 5+ days?

    The 'c' fold

    The 'c' fold

    I can confidently say none of those situations have ever happened.

    I definitely experienced some discomfort the first couple of times because I was so tense and had a hard time relaxing. But with practice and patience, that quickly disappeared and it's been super easy ever since. Introducing a menstrual cup into my period regime has been amazing. When inserted properly, they're more comfortable than tampons and 99.99% of the time I can't even feel it. 

    Start by folding the menstrual cup in half so it makes a ‘c’ shape and then simply insert the cup as you would a tampon. If the 'c' shape doesn't work for your body, you can watch this video and learn about nine more fold variations that may work better for you. Some things to keep in mind while inserting:

    • Relax your muscles. This is the most important thing to keep in mind while inserting your cup. The first couple of times I tried, I was very tense and had to continually remind myself to relax. Relaxing will help position the cup right under the cervix and behind the pubic bone. 
    • Insert your cup while you’re in a squatting position, this helps with opening the vaginal walls.
    • Once the cup is inserted, you need to make sure it fully opens and does not stay folded inside of you. To do this, keep relaxing your muscles and pull on the tab gently as to not pull the cup out. This allows for the cup to open and creates a seal formed by the walls of your vagina and vaginal muscles. You can also slide a clean finger around the bottom of the cup to see if it has opened, but the tab method works better for me.
    • Since vaginas are tilted backwards, guide the cup towards the small of your back to ensure proper insertion.
    • Use water or a non-toxic lubricant if you find the area is especially dry and not allowing for the cup to be inserted comfortably, although blood typically acts as a natural lubricant during menstruation.
    • Notice if the stem on the end of the cup is too long once inserted which can cause discomfort while wearing the menstrual cup. You can simply snip it down a bit so there's enough left to help with removal.
    • Insert your cup the day before your period is due to prevent any leakage.

    A menstrual cup can be worn for up to 12 hours depending on your individual flow, and it's recommended that you change your cup 2-4 times a day. It can also be used with different contraceptives (such as an IUD), while swimming, during yoga (although it is not recommended to do inversions while on your period as this would cause the contents of the cup to spill back into your uterus), and while you're sleeping. 

    Easy breezy.

    To take the cup out, a lot of the same guidelines apply that you would use for insertion. First and foremost, relax those muscles. This is pretty crucial. If you’re tensing up, your vaginal walls will hug the cup and not allow for it to be removed - they're just doing their job.

    Pinch the bottom of the cup and avoid tugging on the stem, this allows for the seal to break for a smooth removal. However, if the cup has traveled a little too far up there, you can use the stem to help release it a bit, just make sure you pull gently. There shouldn't be any pain or discomfort during removal. 

    HOW TO CLEAN YOUR CUP

    First, wash your hands with a fragrance-free, mild soap. Then, simply remove the cup, dispose of the blood in your toilet, rinse with cold water first to prevent staining, and then wash with warm water and a bit of the Lunette Menstrual Cup Cleanser. Lunette also makes cleansing wipes for gals on the go. Look closely and check that the air holes around the top of the cup are clear and fully open, as these can sometimes get clogged.

    After your period is finished for the month, wash the cup as normal and then put it in a pot of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Your cup should always be disinfected before and after your cycle to ensure proper cleanliness. 

    As for cleaning your cup in public, I never find that this is an issue because of the lengthy wear time. If I know I'll be out and about for awhile, I make sure to clean my cup beforehand and have never had to change it in public. If you find that you do need to make a quick change in a public restroom, own it. If you know that you have an especially heavy flow, I would recommend purchasing the Lunette cleaning wipes just for peace of mind.

    SIZE GUIDE

    That’s right, there are two different sizes of menstrual cups because no two vaginas or periods are the same. 

    Here's a chart to help you determine which size fits your unique shape the best:

     

    Lunette's  guide to finding your right size

    Lunette's guide to finding your right size

    Throughout my time using a menstrual cup, the biggest takeaway I've had is learning to truly appreciate and honor my body. I've become so in tune with the cyclic nature of my body and it's the coolest thing to experience first-hand. I felt my body ovulate for the first time this year and I was in complete awe.

    We need to make an effort as a culture to destigmatize periods and stop period-shaming women for something that is natural and vital. 

    After all, women are the life-force of the world.

    Have you switched over to the menstrual cup way of life? If you have any questions or want to share your experience with a menstrual cup, leave me a comment! 

    With love and light xx