Tuesday, September 4, 2012

C'mon, let's talk about our Aunt Flo

C'mon ladies, there's no denying it.  We all have our premenstrual and ovulation symptoms- whether it's un-thwart-able craving attacks, alien-like bloating, Cruella moods, or migrainy headaches.  I admit to all of the above.  Any men (or women) reading this blog, don't be scared & run away; get educated and respect the female system.  All of us women, who are still ovulating, have healthy fluctuations in hormones.  The effects of said fluctuations, are no easier for those around us than they are for us.  Many of us figure out ways to diminish the side effects, sometimes via prescription drugs or change in diet; however, even those of us who do our best to handle our symptoms, have off-days or cycles.

Now, for the ladies: people, even our closest girlfriends, often vent just about our periods and premenstrual symptoms; rarely do we discuss ovulation symptoms.  If you are easily grossed out, don't continue reading; otherwise, keep going:

When we ovulate, we experience change in cervical fluid, increase in basal body temperature,  and changes in the cervical position or firmness.  Hormonally:  Our Luteal hormone, estradiol, progesterone, and follicular stimulating hormones all spike up during our ovulation, which is typically around day 14 of our cycle.  These are major changes to endure each month but extremely important if we are trying to get pregnant.  Nonetheless, some unpleasant side effects of all these changes include light spotting, cramping, breast tenderness, abdominal bloating, increased sex drive and heightened sense of smell, taste or vision.

When we have our periods, our pituitary gland (in our brains) sends chemical signals to our ovaries, which then produce their hormones.  In order for all this to happen, they must have sufficient cholesterol and body fat.  Periods not only signify reproductive health, but they also prove we are producing sufficient levels of estrogen (which is important in bone-building in young women), and androgens (including testosterone- which women need as well as men).   Knowing all this should help you respect your body more; however, it's important to learn how to handle our periods.  When you first start menstruating, it may be irregular (meaning it doesn't arrive every n number of days); it may take up to 2 years for it to become regular.  For a woman who is already menstruating, irregularity in cycle arises for a variety of reasons: most commonly, it is pregnancy; otherwise, it is anorexia, intense dieting and/or intense exercising, or pituitary or thyroid irregularities.  For that reason, it's important to follow your period, for regularity and consult your doctor when you skip a period or it becomes irregular.  I personally use the iPhone app, Period Tracker Lite, which is free!  Don't be scarred to consult your doctor or nurse practitioner; I've skipped and had irregular periods from time to time, and they've turned out to be nothing (but it's better to be safe than sorry!)

Diet-wise, it is important point to note that when we have our periods, we lose quite a bit of iron.  It's good to take an iron supplement or a multivitamin that will supplement your diet with sufficient iron.  My multivitamin actually covers me on that front.  Food-based forms of iron include beef and chicken.

Now, I know having your period is not the most pleasant experience, but it is a small miracle of biology which signifies health and fertility.  Try to appreciate it!  Power to us women!

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