This is a great article that helps navigate the maze that is grocery shopping. It breaks down a lot of terminology you might see on labels (organic, cage free, all natural) and tells you what you can afford to skip out on if you are shopping on a budget. I would check it out, it might spare you a migraine the next time you’re at the grocery store.
Warning: The following post is about the menstrual cycle. If you are uncomfortable with the words menstrual cycle, period, uterus, vagina, blood, ovary, fallopian tube, VAGINA, then I don’t suggest reading on.
I want to share my thoughts about a woman’s monthly cycle. Specifically, I am going to talk about the ways that I handle my period without using pharmaceuticals, synthetic pads and tampons, and birth control.
I was partially inspired to write this post by a booklet that I own titled: “Sacred and Mysterious: Healing Wisdom and Herbal Lore For Those Who Menstruate” by Brittany Wood Nickerson.
I will pull on a few different herbal remedies that I have found to be useful.
To begin I will give a brief run down of the menstrual cycle just so we are all on the same page.
The start of a woman’s cycle is known as her menstrual period and typically lasts 4-7 days. This is when the thickened lining of the uterus (endometrium) begins to shed. After the lovely times of blood and cramps are over the ovary gets ready to release an egg and the uterus builds its lining back up. Around day 14 the matured egg is released from the ovary and travels down the fallopian tube where it awaits its sperm in shining armor. In most cases said sperm is not present so the unfertilized egg hangs out in the uterus for a bit then breaks apart. Hormone levels drop and the uterus prepares to shed its lining once again signaling the start of a new cycle.
That was just a very brief insight into what it means to menstruate. I left out most of the gory details but the reality is that having a period is not always about eggs and fallopian tubes. For me, having a period means cramps (my uterus literally shredding itself apart to get rid of the dead tissue), voracious mood swings, acne, wanting to eat 15 reese’s peanut butter cups in one sitting, countless pairs of favorite panties ruined, tampons that run a risk of toxic shock syndrome, pads that feel like a diaper, and birth control being pushed on me by parents, doctors, and friends.
I don’t want to have to fight my body. Menstruating is something that nature intended so I am learning how to “go with the flow” so to speak. Here’s how I deal:
Raging Hormones: Hormones fluctuate wildly during all times of the month. Before ovulation I might be feeling like a sex goddess tigress on top of the world. Then within a few days the imbalance of estrogen and progesterone post ovulation make me feel anxious, depressed, irritable, and overwhelmed.
I find the two most important things that help curb these extreme fluctuations are food and exercise. It’s hard to sum up exactly how to eat right in just a few sentences, but I feel like it should be a pretty intuitive thing. Your body already knows what it needs, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to listen to it. Exercise should not be brushed off either. Whenever I feel that overwhelming sense of frustration that can come from nowhere else but my hormones I slap on my running shoes and just try to break a sweat. It always makes me feel better. My herbal booklet recommends several tonic herbs (basically another word for tea). These are two of my favorites:
Red Clover Blossom: “Red clover nourishes the hormones and helps restore hormonal balance, providing relief to symptoms of menopause and premenstrual tension.”
Oatstraw/Milky Oats: “When taken over time, oats help to nourish and rebuild the nervous system and improve the body’s ability to cope with the everyday stress of life. Consistent consumption can help to curb anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and exhaustion.”
Acne: Right around ovulation is when a lot of women experience a breakout or a single pimple in the same area of the face. I’m still learning how to deal with this one, but it is all linked back to hormones. The most I can do at this point is to make sure I am washing my face enough. My skincare is pretty basic at this point. I’m done with using harsh facial scrubs and suds. I use Dr. Bronners as shampoo and soap for my whole body including my face. I moisturize with an unscented lotion or some coconut/olive oil. Once a week I’ll do a facial with an egg and whatever else I have in my fridge (yogurt/honey/lemon/oatmeal/ etc.) I notice when I don’t eat sugar my breakouts tend to be very small/non existent, but I work in an ice cream shop, so this might be one thing I just have to cope with.
Sweet Cravings: And speaking of sugar! The week leading up to my period is when I have crazzzyyyy cravings for anything with sugar. I’m not a big candy fiend so chocolate is usually my go to choice. Seriously, I wasn’t kidding about the 15 reese’s in one sitting. The thing about succumbing to these cravings though, is that it is not going to do anything to alleviate the chemical reaction of those pesky hormones (aka make the cravings worse.) But rational explanations will not pacify the pms monster. In these situations this is how my thought process usually goes:
Me sitting on the couch doing something on the computer, reading a book, or maybe even mid conversation when…
Brain: Okay hormones try to eat a piece of fruit before you do anything rash
Hormones: There might be a year old chocolate bar in the back of the cupboard
Brain: You don’t need to go there. Wait, why are you getting up. PUT THE HERSHEY’S DOWN STEPHANIE
Hormones: Numnumnumnumnum sugar chocolate so good
Brain: And you call yourself an evolved human being
Sometimes it’s a losing battle, but having a small stash of high quality dark chocolate (with sea salt… mmmm) on hand never hurts when the craving strikes. The herbal booklet recommends bitter flavor therapy. The idea is that increasing bitter flavors in the diet (such as kale, collards, dandelion greens, lettuce, mustard greens, broccoli, parsley, watercress, and arugula) will enhance liver function which in turn regulates blood sugar levels. This can also be done with herbal bitters (tinctures) taken in water.
Cramps: If I were to start an all-girl combat boot wearing punk band we would be called The Menstrual Cramps. Cramps happen during the first few days of the cycle when the uterus is shedding its lining. The pain ranges from mild to severe. Some women don’t have cramps at all. Some have them so bad it is acute to labor pains. I never had a problem with cramps during the first four years of my period. It was after high school when I stopped playing sports (meaning I was exercising 2-3 hours a day 5-6 days a week) that I began to get pretty severe cramps. My doctor recommended 600 mg of Aleve (Active ingredient: Naproxen) every 12 hours when I needed a pain reliever. Compared to most pharmameuticals, Naproxen, Ibuprofen, and Ketoprofen (the three drugs commonly used to counteract cramps) are pretty safe to use, but my stance on pharmaceuticals is that I don’t want to take them unless I really need to. If there is another way for me to treat the problem using a natural home remedy, then I would rather do it that way. So far I have had a 100% success rate when it comes to treating cramps the natural way. The supplement that I started using recently is Rainbow Light Food Based PMS Relief Dietary Supplement. I found it at a natural food store by my house. Mainly any supplement you use for cramp relieve will contain some antispasmodic herbs such as Rosemary, Catnip, Ginger, St. John’s Wort, Dandelion, the list goes on) as well as vitamins (E and B6 for example) and minerals (magnesium and chromium) which give total body support. I have also taken just a magnesium supplement and some fish oil caplets and that has done the trick. Compared to taking Aleve, which just masked the pain, I feel like taking herbs and vitamins did more to help the actual process of menstruation.
Also a side note* When I stopped consuming animal products I stopped getting cramps completely and my cycle was the most regular it had ever been (28 days on the dot.) I’m not advocating a vegan diet because I’m not even vegan, it is just an interesting side note I thought I would share*
Tampons and Pads: If you’re like me you might think that tampons and pads are a necessity and that there is not a lot that can be done sidestep this fact. But alas! Gone are the days where the only two options are diaper-pad or chemically laden synthetic tampon. Here are my problems with pads and tampons:
-They are expensive. I usually end of dropping $10-20 every month on pads and tampons
-They are not environmentally friendly. Pads and tampons (as well as wrappers and boxes) wind up in landfills and don’t break down.
-They are not safe. Pads and tampons contain harsh chemicals and are usually cheaply made from synthetic material such as bleached rayon, cotton, and plastic. That is going directly into your vagina. A friend told me that something “the kids are doing now days” is soaking tampons in alcohol in order to get drunk (I was pretty horrified by this) but it works because whatever is in the tampon will enter directly into the blood stream. That made me really ponder how safe it is to be putting this chemical concoction in my system.
And even besides that fact menstrual blood is absorbed into the pad/tampon and then sits for hours, creating a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
There are alternatives to this. Before running away in horror at the thought of a menstrual cup watch this video. It changed my perspective.
Another alternative which I was pleasantly surprised to see at the store was sea sponge tampons. They are honestly only a bit more expensive then the nicest box of tampons, but they are reusable for six months and they are about as natural as you can get. I think that’s pretty awesome.
Even though there are other ways to go besides pads and tampons, they are what most of us grew up using, and they are extremely convenient in an emergency when your cup or sponge isn’t on hand. In that case look for 100% cotton pads and tampons.
Birth Control: The final topic I will address is birth control.
I had a pretty bad experience with birth control so my opinion is somewhat one sided. Most of my friends are on birth control, and the main reason isn’t to avoid unwanted pregnancy, it is to help regulate their period. Taking birth control gives one complete control over whether to even have period or not.
I can’t say whether or not birth control is right or wrong, but it is pretty creepy and likened to Brave New World if you really think about it. I went to a gynecologist when I was thinking about going on it. She was extremely pushy bordering forceful and so I took her prescription and tried it out for about two months. It was absolutely awful. I gained weight, I got pretty bad acne, I felt terrible and just something didn’t feel right about taking this tiny white pill every night. I felt like I was trying to control my body, but it just made me confused. It’s true, I was able to control my period and even skip it all together if I wanted to, but it didn’t feel like it was good for me. After I stopped taking it I had my period for 9 days. I realized from then on that my body is not something I need to have reigning control over, it is my link to nature. It’s no coincidence that a woman’s cycle is the same as the moon. I just need to listen to it and appreciate it for what it is.
I am always skeptical about those homemade facials that I read about in magazines and online. Half the time I’m being told to put Mayo on my face and it kind of freaks me out a little bit.
I’ve tried facial packs from the store but they make my face break out like crazy, and it’s no wonder when I take a look at the ingredient list.
So yesterday I decided my face needed a little bit of a pick me up and I took the plunge and made my own homemade concoction. I browsed maybe one article that had a bunch of recipes, but I just decided to wing it with a mixture of ingredients that I had offhand. Here’s what I came up with:
A little plain yogurt
Some olive oil
A spoonful of honey
I beat the egg like a madman with a fork and added the yogurt and olive oil to it. My honey is the real deal so it was pretty solidified. I scraped a spoonful in and popped that sucker in the microwave for about 20 seconds.
It was strangely satisfying to be rubbing this goop all over my face. It dried on and made my face feel tight, which I guess means it was working. After about 30 minutes I washed it off.
Wow. My skin looked awesome. It was so smooth and clear. I was in awe. I highly recommend just setting aside 45 minutes to rub some goopy stuff on your face. Who knows, maybe I’ll even try the Mayo next time.
In case you didn’t already know, the US fluoridates its drinking water. For a more in depth look at this practice you can go to this website, or this one, or read this Harvard University study that concludes that children in communities with fluoridated water have lower IQ scores.
I have two beefs with the government putting a toxic chemical in my water.
1. They’re putting a toxic chemical in my water. This is the water I drink, bath in, wash my face with, cook my pasta, water my herbs, etc. I have absolutely no say in the matter even though it is my body they are poisoning.
2. They are disguising it as a mega health benefit, as if they are doing me the favor even though
a) The “benefits” of fluoride can only come from topical use
b) It is illegal to administer a drug to a patient without their consent. Yes, fluoride is considered a drug by the FDA. Yes, you can buy it in pill form at the pharmacy.
c) The fluoride that has been recognized for it’s health benefits is Calcium Fluoride, a natural occurring element in some spring water. The crap they are putting in my water is Sodium Fluoride, a byproduct of the fertilizer industry (how convenient) also used in rat poisoning and shown to be 85 times more toxic than Calcium Fluoride.
Fluoride also has a nasty little habit of accumulating on the pineal gland. The pineal gland (also known as the “Third Eye,” referred to by Descartes as “The principal seat of the soul”) is critical in producing melatonin (The stuff that regulates sleeping patterns and sexual development) as well as a slew of other super important functions. Even more creepy than this is that fluoride used to be prescribed as a drug to combat patients with an over-active thyroid, and it worked. The best part is that the amount that was prescribed was pretty low- about 2-5 milligrams per day over several months- which is well within the range of the amount ingested by people in fluoridated communities. Wow, and I didn’t even need a prescription! Thanks but no thanks, the last I remember my thyroid does not need to be suppressed. An under-active thyroid can lead to a whole bunch of junk including fatigue, muscle/joint pain, depression, weight gain, menstrual disturbances, impaired fertility, impaired memory, and inability to concentrate. Hmmm… sounds familiar.
And on top of everything else fluoride is found in extremely concentrated amounts in… where else but the stuff I use to brush my teeth. Obviously toothpaste is not meant to be ingested, but let’s be honest it’s nearly impossible to not swallow just a teeny bit. But in that teeny bit is probably more than I would get drinking tap water all day. Here are a few of the things that I do in order to squelch my fluoride intake:
1. I buy non-fluoridated toothpaste. I stopped using any fluoridated toothpaste about a year ago and I will never go back. It was weird at first because it’s not the chemical laden crap I was used to, but recently I used some crest at a friends house and I was so surprised at how awful it tasted. My favorite brand is Jason’s non fluoridated line. There are quite a few other brands that make natural toothpaste (Tom’s does and I’ve seen a few at Trader Joe’s) but Jason’s Sea Fresh is the best toothpaste I have ever tried. It is so fresh and pleasant and it gets all foamy, which aside from it being non toxic is probably my favorite part.
2. I don’t drink tap water because I know that my community fluoridates its water (I found out by going here and selecting my state). The thing about tap water is that fluoride is not the freakiest thing in there by far cough* Chloramine cough*. A friend of mine is currently in the process of building a distiller for me (so pumped!) Other ways of getting access to non toxic water include reverse osmosis (I really have no clue what that is), buying spring water (be weary of plastic though, there are water stores and machines where you can bring your own container), having a well, trading a kidney on the black market, and living on an iceberg.
3. Processed foods and beverages more often than not contain fluoride if water is a main ingredient (grape juice, soda, gusher’s, whatever)
I’ve spoken my piece about fluoride. I would love to hear your opinion on the matter.
I’ve decided to start taking this blog in a new direction. A bit more focused than just the daily ramblings of my life. I want to blog about something that I am passionate about and that other people might be interested in reading. I have been searching for a good blog that can give me reliable information and advice about living naturally. While there are some great blogs out there I face a few encounters in my search to live a natural and healthy life.
1. I am a girl. Most natural living blogs don’t take into account the fact that I like wearing makeup and deodorant, and I’m not gung ho on giving that up completely.
2. I don’t have endless amounts of money in my disposal. While that would be great to be able to throw away hundreds of dollars on the most eco friendly fair trade yerba matte cacao infusion body butter, I simply don’t have those resources. I usually find that 9 times out of 10, the simplest answer is also the cheapest.
3. I want a blog that will incorporate all aspects of natural living, not just food, or makeup, or giving the DL on the nitty gritty stuff that Monsanto doesn’t want you to know. I’m talking product reviews, tips, tricks, recipes, research, and basically anything and everything that will make my quality of life healthier and happier.
So since I cannot find a blog that incorporates everything I need, I am going to attempt to create it myself. A trendy girl’s approach to living naturally. I deem it The Naturalista.