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What gut health says about your periods?

What does your gut have to do with period cramps and menstrual cycles? Apparently, a lot.

For many menstruators, controlling PMS means going incognito and enduring the overall pain that heralds the start of their period. But, before you reach for a bar of chocolate and call it a day, keep in mind that gut health has a significant impact on menstrual cycles and sex hormones. Our gut health has an effect on our hormones, menstrual cycle, and any PMS symptoms we might have. ‘Microbiomes’ may sound like something you would hardly want to Google, but it's actually one of your body's most vital systems.

The human body is always teeming with bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic organisms that are invisible to the naked eye. These microbiomes in the intestine are what we commonly refer to as ‘gut health’. In fact, these are a must for your body to operate, and a diversified microbiome is beneficial to keep our health at the top of its game. The diversity of this is influenced by the food we eat, but it can also depend on a variety of other variables.

On the most basic level, an unbalanced microbiota has been linked to hormone imbalances, and having too much estrogen in your body can lead to gut-related problems like bloating and fluid retention. If the basics refuse to function well, it directly has an impact on estrogen, which recirculates back to where it came from.

Here are some reasons why your microbiomes could be acting up:

· Stress

· High-sugar diet

· Auto-immune conditions

· Caffeine

· Obesity

· Excess dairy

In case you have trouble analyzing your gut, the symptoms of an unhealthy gut are:

· Frequent bloating and gas

· Heartburn

· Acne

· Diarrhea or constipation

· Headaches

· Depression and anxiety

· Difficulty losing weight

· Chronic fatigue

Estrogen influences our metabolism, skin, weight, and fat deposition patterns in addition to making us reproductive. It also protects our bone and cardiovascular health. Obesity, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis are all linked to estrogen deficiency after menopause.

In case of excess estrogen, symptoms that follow are heavy bleeding, bloating, mood swings, and more- sounds a lot like PMS?

Estrogen levels fluctuate, which can induce intestinal spasms and diarrhea. Alternatively, you could suffer from constipation as a result of a drop in estrogen, which delays digestion.

How can you take care of your gut health?

· First and foremost, up your water intake

· Eat a high fiber diet to ensure healthy digestion: Say goodbye to a majority of white foods like sugar, gluten, and dairy

· Pay attention to your stress levels: Address your stress and take steps to reduce it from time to time

· Exercise regularly, meditate, and practice sufficient self-care

· Introduce a probiotic supplement to your daily routine: Look for trusted brands that make it past the powerful acid in your stomach

· Increase intake of fermented foods: A few servings of food like kimchi can positively enhance gut health

· Follow a regular eating pattern: opt for low-glycemic food, avoid toxins, and keep the inflammation low

· Increase intake of omega-3 rich foods (salmon)

· Limit intake of antibiotics and birth control pills

· Balance blood sugar levels with enough protein

Every menstruator has different experiences and there are no boundaries to define what’s ‘normal’. Some feel a lower abdomen heaviness, while some bear with a few trips of diarrhea.

In case of cramping and clotting, know where to sense red flags (literally) and seek medical advice from your trusted healthcare professional.

Written by Nibha Patil

Artwork by Khyati Patkar

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