Health magazine expert Dr. Roshini Raj answers all of your embarrassing questions about that time of the month.
January 25, 2013
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My flow is so heavy that even super-absorbent tampons aren't enough. What can I do?
If you need to change your tampon or pad more than every one to two hours, or if your period lasts longer than seven days, talk to your gyno about being tested for a bleeding disorder. Research shows that 25% of women who have a super-heavy flow may have one and not know it. Birth control pills can help regulate the bleeding by thinning out the uterine lining, and they can also help if a hormonal imbalance is the cause of the bleeding.
There is also a possibility that fibroids or polyps are causing your heavy periods. If that’s the case, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove them.
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Should I avoid yoga during my period?
For years, some yogis have said that inverted poses like shoulder stands create an obstruction to the natural energetic menstrual flow, which is, of course, downward. But there is no medical research that supports the advice to avoid inversions (or any other yoga pose) while you have your period.
The best rule of thumb: Practice in a way that feels most comfortable to you at that time of the month. You may find that some common poses like cat and cobra actually alleviate PMS-induced cramps and moodiness. Ask your yoga teacher if you’re unfamiliar with these moves.
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Help! I always get diarrhea during my period.
Changes in your bowel habits at this time are common, albeit irritating. Here's why it happens: During your menstrual cycle, prostaglandins, hormone-like substances, cause your uterine muscles to contract, creating those cramps so often associated with "that time of the month." Sometimes these prostaglandins also escape into your bloodstream and affect other smooth muscles, including those in your colon, causing diarrhea.
To help bulk up your stool, try eating more fiber-rich foodslike broccoli, cauliflower, and applesas your period rolls closer. Taking ibuprofen is also a good idea. Besides relieving other menstrual symptoms, it’s an effective prostaglandin inhibitor. If the diarrhea is very severe, talk to your doctor about trying an antidiarrhea medication like Imodium to calm your bowels.
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My period cramps are severe all of a sudden. What's going on?
It's normal to have severe cramping once in a while, even if you're one of those lucky women who doesn't normally suffer from period pain. Some months your body might just respond differently to the hormonal and chemical changes of your period. And stress, as well as weight gain or loss, can also affect your periods. To help ward off cramps, try taking an over-the-counter NSAID pain reliever, like naproxen, 24 to 48 hours before your period is due.
If you've truly never experienced cramping this bad before, or if you notice other changes in your period's timing, flow, or length, talk to your gynecologist. It could be a sign of endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease (a potential consequence of STDs), so your doc may want to run tests to make sure that you're OK.
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Why do I crave chocolate right before my period?
Honestly? We have no clue. (We don't know why many PMS symptoms happen!) Lots of theories exist, and the best ones point to hormones. The good news is we do know how to keep these cravings from ruling your life. Though your body may be crying out for a bite (or three!) from a chocolate bar, you're better off resisting the sweet stuff.
Too many sugary treats cause your blood sugar to spike, then plummet. As soon as it crashes, you'll be reaching for another sweet. This cycle can lead to both low energy and weight gain. Instead, choose complex carbs like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains to keep your blood sugar at a somewhat-even level all day long. That will prevent you from feeling cranky, and craving more candy.
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Is it bad to take three Advil for severe period cramps?
If you don't have a previous history of stomach ulcers, it's okay to take three ibuprofen, such as Advil, once in a while. Three Advil (600 milligrams of ibuprofen) is actually a prescription strength dosage, so it won't hurt you in the short term. But if you're taking Advil or one of its sister meds like Motrin daily for more than three or four days, even two at a time, can cause stomach inflammation or ulcers.
To help prevent stomach damage, always take these pills with food. And if you find yourself regularly reaching for three ibuprofen pills to ease your cramps, talk to your gynecologist about whether you should be on a prescription strength medication.
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