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Ways to Improve Your Period Before It Begins

Difficult periods are exhausting, and when you find yourself curled up in a ball for the hundredth month in a row, you may wonder – what can I do ahead of my period to stop this vicious cycle? Some factors, such as fibroids, endometriosis, and ovarian cysts, may need assistance from a doctor or practitioner (i.e., an acupuncturist) to find relief. However, many of us suffer through difficult periods because we never learned how to support our body through our menstrual cycle. Fortunately, there are many strategies we can use to help our bodies feel better.

I begin practicing the habits I describe below during my luteal phase, which begins after ovulation (when my egg is released). Hormonally, the luteal phase is accompanied by a drop in estrogen and a rise in progesterone hormones. These hormone shifts explain why we may feel less energized during our luteal phase, as estrogen is an energizing hormone, while progesterone is calming. The luteal phase begins 10-16 days before bleeding begins, depending on the length of your cycle. Below, I share my favorite ways to prepare for my period before it arrives.

Track Your Period

All the tips below involve understanding when your period is estimated to begin, hence they are more helpful when you understand the phases of your menstrual cycle and when your bleeding is predicted to begin each month. 

Fortunately, there are period tracking apps that can do the work for you, all you have to do is tell the app when you have your period each month. My favorite app is Clue, which has great graphic design, is easy to use, and is free. 

Eat Chica 

With the rise of progesterone in the luteal phase, we begin to experience the stereotypical period cravings. Our craving for dark chocolate is deserved, as it offers us magnesium, which is a mood stabilizer. While most dark chocolate only offers us a serving of magnesium, Chica Chocolate also includes a Chinese herbal formula that balances hormones and eases your period. 

Does Chica sound like a wellness gimmick? It isn’t. Chica’s positive effects come from the real herbs we blend into each truffle. Licorice, white peony root, and mint balance hormones by nourishing the liver, the organ responsible for disposing of excess hormones in our system. Ginger, bupleurum root, and angelica root increase circulation, helping the uterine lining shed easily. When this bleeding is smooth, your abdominal muscles don’t have to kick in to help, and you don’t have to experience painful contractions (i.e., cramps). 

Support Your Gut (Poop!)

Hormones are real physical chemicals, which means they need to catch a ride in our poop in order to be dispelled from our body. Periods can become difficult when we begin bleeding with excess estrogen caught in our bodies. The best way to prevent excess estrogen is to make sure you are pooping regularly (ideally every day) leading up to your period. 

Pay attention to your body to see what habits support regular pooping, as everybody is different. Foods that help me poop are warm, softer foods, such as stews and curries; Chica Chocolate, celery juice, yogurt, lentils, oatmeal, and beans. I also take probiotics as regularly as I can.   

Prepare Your Supplies

Placing my menstrual cup and period underwear in my bag a few days before my bleeding is estimated to begin helps my period feel less daunting. If I’m working a shift on the day I think my period will begin, I even wear my period underwear so I don’t have to feel paranoid of bleeding down my legs. 

Collecting your supplies for bleeding, whether it be tampons, pads, menstrual cups, or period underwear, can help you feel less nervous for your period to arrive. 

Bonus – If you are curious about using a menstrual cup, Christy Dawn is giving away cups for free

Respect Your Body’s Signal to Rest 

Most days, I choose to enjoy more caffeine in the afternoon, rather than lie down for a nap. However, before my period, I recognize that my body needs true rest in order to prepare for my period to begin. When you feel tired during your luteal phase, taking a nap or going to bed early will help your body feel prepared for the extra work bleeding requires. 

This week, I sold a concert ticket when I realized that attending the show would force me to only enjoy 4-5 hours of sleep the night before my period was forecast to begin. My period did begin in my sleep that night, and my decision to prioritize my body, allowed my 8-hour cafe shift the next morning to feel significantly better with my period along for the ride.

Poria

Fungus & Root

Scierotium Poriae Cocos / Fu Ling / 茯苓 Scierotium Pararadicis Poriae Cocos / Fu Shen / 茯神

Poria calms the heart and soothes nerves, helping with anxiety and insomnia. Additionally, Poria drains dampness, an excess of moisture that the body collects in the wrong places and makes us feel heavy and fatigued (hello moodiness).

Chinese Salvia

Root

Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae / Dan Shen / 丹參

Salvia root nourishes the blood and heart, and calms the spirit. Salvia works with Schisandra and Zizyphus in Chica Chill to help relieve insomnia.

Rehmannia

Root

Radix Rehmanniae Preparata / Sheng Di Huang / 熟地黄

Rehmannia root is your Yin nourisher, supporting calm and cold in your system. With its additional ability to help cool blood, increase fluids, and clear heart fire; Rehmannia is a star herb for soothing and preventing heat flashes.

Polygala / Thin-Leaf Milkwort

Root

Radix Polygalae Tenuifoliae / Yuan Zhi / 元志

Polygala root nourishes the Heart, and helps soothe nerves and restlessness.

Schisandra / Chinese Magnolia

Berry

Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis / Wu Wei Zi / 五味子

Schisandra berry is famous for featuring all five flavors of Traditional Chinese Medicine: bitter, sweet, salty, sour, hot. This means that Schisandra is completely energetically balanced, promoting overall health and vitality. Schisandra helps relieve night sweats, insomnia, and hormonal imbalances. Schisandra is also rich in antioxidants that are thought to protect from free radicals and other toxins in the environment that may cause cellular damage. 

Platycodon / Balloon Flower

Root

Radix Platycodi / Jie Geng / 桔梗

Platycodon root is a neutral balancing herb, meaning it is not especially Yin or Yang. Platycodon is nourishing for the lungs, which in TCM, is the organ that supports Qi and fluid flow throughout the body.

Scrophularia / Figwort

Root

Radix Scrophulariae / Xuan Shen / 玄參

Scrophularia root nourishes Yin, drains fire, and cools the blood. Scrophularia is particularly soothing for irritability.

Ophiopogon / Dwarf Lilyturf

Tuber

Tuber Ophiopogonis Japonici / Mai Men Dong / 麦门冬

Ophiopogon tuber works with Asparagus to nourish Yin and clear heat throughout the system. These plants also provide moisture and relieve restlessness.

Stemona

Root

Radix Stemonae / Bai Bu / 百部

Stemona root is a balancing herb in the Chica Chill formula. Stemona is nourishing for the lungs, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the organ that supports Qi and fluid flow throughout the body.

Licorice

Root

Radix Glycyrrhizae / Gan Cao / 甘草

Licorice acts as a unifier, balancing the formula and amplifying the properties of the other herbs.

Zizyphus / Sour Jujube

Seed

Semen Zizyphi Spinosae / Suan Zao Ren / 酸枣仁

Zizyphus seed nourishes the heart and calms the spirit. Zizyphus helps relieve insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.

Ginseng

Root

Radix Ginseng / Ren Shen / 人参

Ginseng root, one of the most famous herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is known for its ability to strengthen Qi and support life vitality. Ginseng nourishes the Heart and calms the spirit, helping reduce anxiety and insomnia.

Acorus / Grassleaf Sweetflag

Rhizome

Rhizoma Acori Tatarinowii / Shi Chang Pu / 石菖蒲

Acorus helps relieve internal heat and is a favorite herb for reducing frequent insomnia.

Eucommia / Chinese Rubber Tree

Bark

Cortex Eucommiae Ulmoidis / Du Zhong / 杜仲

Eucommia bark balances the Chica Chill formula by offering Yang properties. Eucommia is also nourishing for the heart, and has been featured in research in Western medicine for its ability to help lower blood pressure.

Angelica / Dong Quai

Root

Radix Angelicae Sinensis / Dong Quai / 当归

Angelica root is sometimes described as the “female ginseng,” due to its fame for supporting a healthy and regular menstrual cycle. Angelica root strengthens blood and energizes circulation. In Chica Chill, Angelica root balances the herbal formula with its Yang properties.

Biota / Arborvitae

Seed

Semen Platycladi / Bai Zi Ren / 柏子仁

Biota seed benefits memory and promotes restful sleep by nourishing the heart and calming the spirit.

Chinese Asparagus

Tuber

Tuber Asparagi Cochinensis / Tian Men Dong / 天门冬

Asparagus root works with Ophiopogon to nourish Yin and clear heat throughout the system. These plants also provide moisture and relieve restlessness.