We all know that periods are a lot more painful than tampon commercials depict. Instead of flowing white gowns, beaches and blue liquid, there is only suffering. With that said, there are ways to make your periods a lot less miserable — which is especially important for your freshman year, when you'll be away from the comforts of home and overhauling your daily schedule. So let's talk about periods. No fear, no shame. Here are a few new ideas that could forever change how you experience that "magical" time of month.
1. Skip the chips, fries and pizza.
During the time you usually experience PMS, make sure to limit your salt intake in the dining hall—your body will thank you for it. Cutting salt will reduce the uncomfortable bloating that often accompanies PMS, according to Mayo Clinic. Carbonated drinks should be avoided for the same reason.
2. Track your period.
This is the closest you’ll ever get to actually “hacking” your period. Like, with data. Period trackers ensure that your period never surprises you again — well, almost never, because our bodies are vessels of caprice. Calendars are OK for basic tracking, but apps can store a greater amount of useful information that will help you crack the mysteries of your cycle. Clue is a free period tracker app that also helps you keep up with (and figure out) your PMS symptoms. Its tag line: “Confident. Scientific. Not pink.” Of course, if you do like pink, there are plenty of other options!
3. Pack a jacket or flannel.
It’s the scenario no one wants to imagine: staining your pants. Tying a light jacket or flannel shirt around your waist is the only way to survive this situation. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it, but carrying one in your bag can allow some peace of mind if you’re worried about leaks (and you’ll look fashionable, too).
4. Try a menstrual cup.
It may seem weird, but the menstrual cup, a reusable alternative to tampons, is a badass invention. It not only reduces the massive amount of pad/tampon waste sent to landfills every year, but it's beneficial in other ways too. Forged from medical-grade silicone, the cup can be used for up to twelve freakin’ hours before changing, allowing you a worry-free day of period-ing. Though the initial cost is usually $30 or above, the cup is an investment that lasts for years, slashing the amount you spend on menstrual products overall.
There are a few drawbacks, of course, most of which can be attributed to the learning curve. Insertion and removal can be messy for first-timers. You’ll need access to soap and water for cleaning. It’s also possible that the cup could be too long or short for your body, meaning you may need to shop around for the right brand. If it works, though, it’s amazing — and certainly worth the risk. Popular brands include the Diva Cup, Lunette and the Anigan EvaCup.
5. Cut the Starbucks (maybe).
Unless it’s decaf, that is. You’re expelling your uterine lining and you deserve to treat yourself, but according to sources like this article from One Medical, coffee constricts blood vessels and may cause period cramps to worsen. The evidence is somewhat murky, but just be aware that coffee may aggravate period symptoms and anxiety, especially if you’ve experienced discomfort after drinking it in the past.
6. Two words: period panties.
The words are kind of uncomfortable together, but don't be too quick to judge: period panties are amazing, sort of like enchanted period armor. And no, they're not like diapers. This special, absorbent underwear is a surprisingly thin and comfortable option for leak management; you can replace pads on light days and supplement them on heavy days — and they really do look just like regular undies. They're especially nice as nighttime backup; it's a relief to not worry about spotting on sheets. Cleaning is easy, too, as you usually just rinse them in cold water and then launder as normal. THINX is a pretty cool company that sells stylish period panties, and other generic brands can be easily found on Amazon. As with anything, read the reviews.
7. Consider cloth pads.
Once again, sounds pretty out there. But if you want to go green or save money, cloth pads are a good option. They can also reduce symptoms of skin irritation, chafing and dryness associated with disposable pads. Online sellers include GladRags and Luna Pads. If you're especially handy, you can even make your own pads, Pinterest-style.
8. Eat your greens.
Good health is essential for making it through shark week (it's a lot like fighting actual sharks). Fiber will help with digestive issues, and dark leafy greens like chard, spinach and kale will help replenish lost iron and prevent anemia, according to the New York Times. And if you're looking for more food tips, bananas are said to help with cramps. They also provide a quick breakfast alternative to, say, sugary donuts or sodium-loaded tater tots.
Truly mastering your period means a wholesale reduction of anxiety, stained panties and tears of anguish. Experiment to find products that are right for you. Period fiascoes are the last thing you want to experience during your first year at college, though they may be inevitable. Just never be embarrassed by your body — half of the world's population is going through the same bloody woes. Start figuring yourself out now, and with bit of effort (and luck), you can have your best possible period.
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