Feed the V: Tips and Tricks for Menstrual Self-Care

By Natalie Cruz

Every month we encounter the same symptoms: backaches, bloating, tender breasts and dreaded cramps. For most women, having their periods is the worst time of the month. A period can feel like a painful inconvenience no one wants to deal with. We try to relieve the pain with medication sometimes to no avail. What would happen if we could take charge of our periods? If we could experience the best period, period? It's something that's completely possible and doable. It just takes practice and know how.

Menstrual self-care is vital to having a smoother and less painful period. Eating the right foods and tending to the needs of our bodies is something that most women either don’t know much about or forget about all together. Healing foods are all around you. Your kitchen is your natural medicine cabinet. There are foods with a wide range of healing properties: from alleviating pain to salving wounds and soothing unsettled tummies.

Here are five tips and tricks that I recommend to help kick cramps and aches to the curb:

Those delicious acaí smoothie bowls popping up on menus and your Instagram feed are no coincidence. Acaí is rich in B vitamins and minerals which your body especially needs during that time of the month. Carrots are known for relieving PMS irritability and asparagus relieves menstrual pains. Roast both of those together in the oven as a side dish and you’re set. A great concoction for treating menstrual symptoms is aloe vera juice, mint leaves and raspberries. This mojito-like drink (recipe at the end of my article!) calms you and helps numb pain.

Embrace your cravings for chocolate and ditch the caffeinated drinks. Eating dark chocolate as opposed to other kinds of chocolate is a healthy option that is also chock full of magnesium and endorphins which ease cramps and improve your mood. Caffeine should be avoided since it can create more tension within your body and trigger cramps. The same goes for dairy products like milk and cheese. These foods can antagonize the body and make you feel bloated and crampy.

In addition to kitchen remedies for menstrual symptoms you can take it one step further and make homemade heating pads. They are super easy to make and are environmentally friendly. Take an old 100% cotton sock and fill 3/4 full with either dried beans or dried rice. Proceed to either sew the sock closed or tie a tight knot to close. Heat in the microwave for 45 seconds to a minute for body ache relief. Adding a couple of lavender oil drops after heated is another great solution for extra soothing relief.

Serve your body well by seeing what feminine hygiene products work for you. There are so many choices on the market today that are earth friendly and organic! Perhaps it’s time to change it up if that is something that you’ve been meaning to do. There are 100% organic cotton tampons and pads available which reduce the possibility of toxic shock syndrome. There are now companies that sell amazing panties that offer leak protection and a personal favorite of mine is the flexible silicone cup that provides over twelve hours of coverage without the worry of leaks. Sometimes just changing the method in which you handle your period could truly make all the difference.

Finally, listen to your body. Do not overwork yourself. The key to a less stressful period is taking care of yourself well and avoiding things that can amplify tension and anxiety in your body. Move and stretch your body gently. Light floor stretches can help rigid muscles and tight backs. The period is not taboo so don’t treat it like it is. Women have dealt with their periods since the beginning of time so don’t be ashamed of your flow, your method of feminine hygiene, or how your body looks or feels during this time. The menstrual cycle may seem mystical and confusing at times. Embrace it fully and give your body the support it needs. Now: here's that recipe I told you about. Enjoy!

Raspberry Aloe Vera “Mojito”

6 ounces of aloe vera juice
10 raspberries
4 mint leaves
Crushed ice (optional)

Muddle the raspberries and mint leaves together in the bottom of a cup with a spoon. Once thoroughly mashed together, pour cold aloe vera juice on top and add crushed ice. Enjoy and relax!

PHOTO: JACQUELINE CUETO

PHOTO: JACQUELINE CUETO

Natalie Cruz is fueled by helping others feel included in spaces that celebrate the body, mind and soul of women of color. Her go to self love practice is eating fresh fruits from the farmer’s market. She calls New York City her home. Visit her website (CoolinaryKitchen.com) and follow her on Instagram (CoolinaryKitchen) or on Facebook (Coolinarykitchen).