During my monthly cycle last week (I know, this is objectively the best start to any sentence, right?), I found myself eating a banana with the belief that it’d quell some minor cramps. The potassium remedy for period cramps is one I’m sure we’ve all heard at some point in our post-pubescent lives, but why? Is there even any science behind the banana, or is it mere placebo folklore? These questions prompted me to do a little research of my own and, subsequently, to share that research with you, dear readers and friends.
So, borne out of an isolated banana-related incident, I bring to you, “Lady Life Hacks,” a three-part #realtalk series on the science and mythology of your period, your orgasm, and your masturbation. There’s far too much mystery surrounding the vagina, so I hope to mitigate some of that over the next few weeks by exploring how some lady life hacks work, myth-busting some commonly heard untruths, and answering the all-important question: How can I treat my vagina, kindly and safely? If you have specific “hacks” (i.e., tips, tricks, or advice) you’d like me to cover, please send them my way via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymity guaranteed, of course. Don’t be shy (I won’t), and I look forward to hearing from y’all.
On that note, let’s talk about your period.
Legit Hacks*, verified and explained:
*Tragically, no hack can alleviate all period-related pain, but at least totally may prevent or reduce it.
- The banana. It only seemed logical to address this one first. Simply put, bananas do help alleviate pain from muscle cramps, including the cramps from a contracting uterus (which, you guessed it, is a muscle!). For adult women, nutritionists recommend 4,700 mg of potassium daily, and since just one banana contains around 420 mg of potassium, bananas pack a quick electrolytic punch. The science of your bod’s need for potassium works like so: The plasma membrane (essentially, the barrier between a cell and its external environment) of all animal cells contains sodium-potassium pumps, which use ATP-derived energy to pump sodium ions out and potassium ions in, so as to maintain a crucial and delicate electrochemical gradient. Arguably, potassium’s biggest job in your body is to maintain electrical activity. So, muscle cells, which tend to have high electrical activity demand, are particularly susceptible to malfunction when supply of potassium is low. Throwback to high school biology! The point is, if you’re not getting your recommended daily potassium intake—and many of us aren’t—eating a banana may strengthen your uterus in the fight against period cramps.
- Cut out the coffee. And the Diet Coke, and the chocolate, and whatever else you’re jonesing for, if you can. Or at least consume in moderation. Your body will thank you for it, because caffeine is, in fact, bad news for your menstruating uterus. Caffeine causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of your blood vessels) and raises tension levels, aggravating cramps even more so. Caffeine may cause the vessels that nourish the uterus to tighten up more than usual. Plus, it has dehydrating effects and can worsen headaches and fluid retention (a.k.a. god-awful bloating) during your period, so try treating yourself to a little H20 therapy next month instead.
- Yoga. It seems counterintuitive because, like, I don’t know about you guys but my instincts tell me to fetal position the shit out my period, but apparently the yoga hack is legit. Here’s why: When you get your body up and moving, it increases blood flow to muscles via vasodilation (expansion of blood vessels). More oxygenated blood supply to muscle tissue = less pain. In other words, yoga is going to have the opposite physiological effect on your menstruating body that coffee will have. Also, if you can bring your heart rate up a little by means of exercise, your body will release endorphins, which counteract the pain caused by prostaglandins (hormone-like lipid compounds) that give your uterus the signal to contract. Cardio exercise will work in just the same way if you prefer it, but something about downward-facing dog seems a little less intimidating than the elliptical when you’re tryna shed and push out your thick uterine lining, you know? This sweet article offers some suggestions for period-friendly yoga poses. Friends of mine have reported that yoga is particularly good for lower back pain during menstruation.
- No sex on your period! Not really sure where this one comes from, actually, but it’s totally, 100% untrue. You can have sex during your period and live to tell the tale. Also, if you’re cool/comfortable with period sex, it can alleviate pain in the same way any other type of exercise might. Cheers to aerobics, ladies!
Anything else you’d like to talk about? Hit me up via email, or on Twitter, @emilyrlitvack.
Until Next Time,