A Teenage Girls Guide to Happy Hormones
One of the many things I love about my job is connecting with young women about their health. I’m so happy to see many girls taking charge, asking questions and educating themselves about all the changes that come with womanhood. I’m also thankful to see mothers come with their daughters, sometimes their suggestion, in solidarity and support. As the landscape of women’s health is changing, so is the way we educate young women about their menstrual cycles.
There’s so much information out there, and a million different ways to find it out, so how do you weed out the best information? Let me help you with that! Along with Part II of A Teenage Girls Guide to Happy Hormones, I’ll include some resources that have helped me learn more about my own cycles. Things I’d wish I’d known right from the start.
In Part I, I wrote mostly about the importance of proper nutrition. Keep in mind, nutrition is the foundation to good health and happy hormones as you read through Part II. Let’s start right where it all begins, periods! If you’re reading this, and you haven’t started menstruating yet, read on, this still applies to you.
What is considered to be a normal period?
First things first, “normal” is a sliding scale. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to menstrual cycles. When you first get your period, it may not come again for months and it also may be irregular. While most girls get their period by 16 years of age, some take a bit longer and there’s usually a medical reason behind that. If this is the case, then it’s highly advisable to see your doctor to run some hormonal testing. Sometimes childhood trauma can cause a delay menarche (first period). If you think you may have suffered trauma, then please know there are so many beautiful people out there that want to help you overcome whatever you’ve experienced. You are not alone! I’ve included some contacts in the resource section of this post should you are a friend need them.
Approximately the first 12 years of your menstrual cycle is a time when your body is establishing a strong line of communication between your brain and your ovaries, and for this reason the earlier years of your monthly cycle may vary. While this connection strengthens it’s so important to eat well, exercise, sleep soundly, socialize and be supported to set the foundation for healthy hormone function. It’s also imperative that this connection is not severed with hormone disrupting foods and chemicals. As a general rule, beware make-up and body products that contain a laundry-list of chemicals you can’t pronounce the name of. Better yet, aim for products that are true and trusted to be low tox!
Speaking of low-tox products, consider what you’re using during your period. Many brands of tampons and pads are made from synthetic materials made of toxic chemicals. Tampons in particular create a favorable environment for bacteria that could lead to Toxin Shock Sydrome (TSS), a dangerous and life-threatening condition if it’s not caught early. Check the resource section for a list of symptoms! A conventional pad contains the equivalent of 4 plastic bags, which are made of things like BPA, petrochemicals and pesticides– among other nasties. These chemicals easily absorb through our skin and will absolutely disrupt your hormones. Look for organic cotton products, fabric pads, period panties and menstrual cups. Avoid synthetic sanitary products at all costs.
Pain with menstruation
Pain before and/or during a period is common, but in my opinion, not to be accepted as normal. Although it may seem this way as many young women experience menstrual cramps and are often dismissed by their primary healthcare provider. Dr Lara Briden explains in her book, Period Repair Manual, periods may be heavy and painful in young women as their estrogen receptors are still sensitive, but with steady development this will subside. As your body finds its rhythm there may be some growing pains, that’s why it’s so important to honor your natural hormonal cycles and give your body what it needs to thrive during those times. For example, getting more sleep, taking time to slow down, eating nutrient dense foods and participating in activities that you enjoy.
Conventional medicine’s solution to period pain is almost always the birth control pill and sometimes prescription pain meds, if it’s bad enough. These are band aid solutions that don’t get to the root cause of why you’re in pain each month. If your period is causing you to be bed-ridden and you’re unable to function normally, then you need to see a doctor. It’s worth having an integrative GP in your corner (one that is well versed in the female hormone department), who can investigate thoroughly to rule out conditions like endometriosis. The good news is, there are some amazing natural ways to get a handle on painful periods! Options that aren’t just a band aid solution, and that will keep your hormones happy and your periods pain-free for many years to come.
If you experience painful periods, some simple home remedies you can start right now are:
Magnesium 300 mg/day – some ladies start this in the two weeks leading up to their period. For some they need it every day to have an effect.
Castor oil on abdomen – There are a few different ways to go about this, but the easiest way and the one I recommend to my patients, is to rub the castor oil right on your belly and then lay with a hot water bottle or heat pack over it. Castor oil is sticky, so you can lay a thin towel over it to keep it from getting messy. It’s most effective when done up to 4 days/week for about a month. If you have a heavy bleed then don’t use castor oil during your period, as it can be quite moving and may increase the flow.
You’ve probably heard all about PMS. It’s all over popular culture as a women’s time to be easily irritated, sad, maybe even cry a lot. In fact, it’s estimated that 75% of women experience headaches, bloating, difficulty sleeping and mood swings. Although it’s been normalized as something all women are plagued with, it doesn’t have to be this way! It’s normal to have hormonal fluctuations throughout your cycle, but if they stop you from functioning then there’s something bigger going on, and that needs to be addressed.
Inflammation is the key driver of PMS, so it’s important to avoid inflammatory foods, but I won’t harp on about diet in this post (Read Part 1 for a reminder). Well, just one more thing – avoid eating processed sugar, gluten and dairy. Just as important as diet is handling your stress. Make some time to decompress, and when you feel tired, run down or you’ve taken on too much, don’t be afraid to wave your little white flag – Then girl, take a nap!
Some ways I help my patients manage PMS is simply to provide them with the time and a safe space to find rest and restoration during an acupuncture session. Getting out of our busy mindsets just to relax on the table for 15-20 minutes does so much for a frazzled nervous system. This can change the way our hormones ebb and flow in a positive way.
Hormonal birth control
The birth control pill is under a lot of scrutiny at the moment, and for good reason. I agree it’s time for a thorough review of a medication that’s barely been changed since the 1950’s, when it first came into use. Invented by Dr. Margaret Sanger, it was a spark in the sexual revolution, allowing women the freedom to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Feminists rejoiced and couples relished not having to use a condom or insert a diaphragm. Women everywhere could have sex without worrying about getting pregnant, and of their own volition.
Over the past 69-ish years there have been some advents in the hormonal birth control world, including the mirena IUD, nuvo ring, depo provera and implanon. All these birth control options contain synthetic hormones. All of which interrupt your natural hormonal cycle, effectively severing the connection between your brain and your ovaries. This is significant because many young women are prescribed the birth control pill at just 15 years of age, barely enough time to establish a menstrual cycle. I could really dig into the birth control pill here, but someone has already done that for me. Check out Tempe Simmons blog, Why I Won’t be Suggesting the Contraceptive Pill for my Daughter. Also check out Dr. Jolene Brighten’s book, Beyond the Pill. Information about both can be found in the resource section.
Form your support system
I fully support and encourage women of all ages to take control of their own bodies. I encourage all young women reading this to ask your health practitioners questions, be inquisitive and do your own research. I just want to share all the facts, so you can make informed decisions. This is what I want for my patients and for all women, so if this resonates check out the resource section below, or if you need to know more you know where to find me. ?
Period Repair Manual by, Dr. Lara Briden
Beyond the Pill by, Dr. Jolene Brighten
Welcome to your Period, by Yumi Stynes and Dr. Melissa Kang
Dr. Jolene Brighten https://drbrighten.com/
Dr. Carrie Jones http://www.drcarriejones.com/
Dr. Lara Briden https://www.larabriden.com/
Symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)
- Sudden high fever
• Low blood pressure
• Rash on palms or soles of feet
• Muscle aches
• Redness of your eyes, mouth and/or throat
Andrea is available for consultation at Mornington Chinese Medicine on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
To book please call ph: 5973 6886