You could doing a few things to make your period worse than it needs to be, but most of them are surprisingly easy to fix. If you're doing any of the following, try changing things up a bit to see if it makes your period easier to deal with.
1. Ignoring your general health
There are all sorts of treatable medical conditions that can make your period worse. From endometriosis to pelvic inflammatory disease, it's not uncommon for menstrual symptoms to lessen after another condition has been treated, so see your OBGYN regularly, have all your health checks and tell your doctor if your periods seem to change or worsen.
We often crave junk food when we're feeling tired, cranky and crampy, but we don't do ourselves any favors when we give in. Sugar is highly inflammatory and can make cramps worse. Too much salt contributes to water retention and bloating. And even dairy products can disrupt hormones, contribute to bloating and cramps and generally worsen symptoms.
3. Skipping the protein
If sugar, salt and dairy contribute to bloating, what should we be eating? Healthy proteins like chicken, fish, nuts and seeds, and tofu work well for most people. They also help to up your healthy fat intake. It's natural to turn to carb-filled comfort food when feeling crampy, but upping the protein is what our body would prefer.
4. Being too sedentary
It's easy to convince yourself that your period is an excuse to skip your workout and veg out on the couch, but gentle exercise can help you feel better. Dr Sherry Ross says that exercising during your period, "helps gets rid of extra water weight gain, relieves cramps, and releases endorphins, which helps improve your mood and gives you more energy."
Just don't overdo it. Most people have less energy during their period, and overly rigorous exercise will disrupt hormones and drain you even more. Stay active with plenty of light to moderate exercise.
Stress is harder to deal with when you're weakened by blood loss and experiencing physical pain or discomfort. Everyone needs to learn to manage stress in a healthy way, but it's particularly important during your period.
6. Leaving mental health issues untreated
Research suggests that past or current mood or anxiety disorders (including a history of depression or an incidence of post-partum depression) can all increase the risk of Pre Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a more severe type of depression experienced or worsening just before your period).
7. Drinking alcohol
Alcohol affects everyone differently, but many women find that their experience more PMS symptoms, worse cramps and even heavier bleeding if they drink during their period. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, even mild or moderate alcohol use can impact hormones, disrupt normal menstrual cycling and affect reproductive health.
If you drink regularly or heavily, one alcohol-free week a month may well have a positive impact on your health in other ways too.
8. Ignoring your iron levels
Anemia is not unusual in menstruating women, and you're especially at risk if you have very heavy periods or your periods have become heavier over time. Anemia's main symptom is tiredness, and that's a very easy one to ignore.
Get your iron levels checked if you feel constantly tired, especially if your periods are heavy. Don't take iron tablets 'just in case' you have low iron levels - Too much iron can be harmful. Get a blood test and only take iron supplements at the level your doctor suggests.
You should change tampons every four hours (and never leave them more than eight hours) in order to avoid toxic shock syndrome. You also want to change pads regularly to avoid bacterial or yeast infections.
11. Not going with the flow
Excuse the pun, but adapting your activities to how you feel can have a positive impact on your wellbeing, all month long. Listen to your body, and don't push yourself too hard physically (or emotionally) when you don't feel up to it.
12. Avoiding pain killers
Many of us feel we should just tough it out when we have our period. It's just a normal part of life after all, but painkillers can help relieve the worst of our cramps and make a real difference on a day where we can't stay in bed all morning.
It's important not to overuse painkillers so alternatives like heat pads are great if you're chilling at home on your sofa but I'd opt for taking some pain relief if you have an important work presentation.
13. Not tracking when your period is due
We all lead crazy busy lives, and our menstrual cycle is the last thing on our minds. But knowing the details of your cycle can help you deal with the hormonal shifts that happen all month long. If you suffer from PMS, sometimes the first step is simply knowing when you're going to be most vulnerable to it and avoiding extra stress at these times whenever possible.