Noticing that your period pain is worse now that we’re entering into the holiday season? It’s not an anomaly—factors like changes in your diet and an increase in stress can seriously impact your cycle. Let’s take a look at how it actually plays out (including what symptoms to look for).
Why Your Period is More Painful Around the Holidays
1. High Sugar in a Short Amount of Time
Between Halloween candy, Thanksgiving desserts, Friendsgiving bevs, and holiday party treats, you’re probably consuming more sugar and low-fiber carbohydrate sources than normal.
With this unusual-for-you rise in blood sugar, it can throw off your insulin, causing a disruption in your mid-cycle luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. LH is responsible for causing ovulation. At the right time of the month, your LH will spike and your ovary will release an egg.
But, if the hormone is disrupted (say, delayed by a few days or the amount of hormone released spikes), this will change the way your period will present that month. Whether that be heavier bleeding, more cramping, more bowel movement changes, or increased acne—it’s sure to look different in some way.
It’s a waterfall effect: Higher levels of low-fiber carbs can impact your insulin, which can surge your LH, and possibly disrupt your body’s normal release of an egg…all of which can make your period more painful. More on how sugar can impact your hormones here.
2. High Stress Can Cause Elevations in Cortisol and Adrenaline
What’s a holiday season without a bit of stress mixed in? While we’ll all be working on our boundary-setting, the inevitable stress is still likely to creep in (especially in a year where we’re seeing people in person again).
This stress and adrenaline will cause your blood sugar to rise and can change your LH—it’s basically the same mechanism as consuming extra sugar. This can cause a dysregulated release of estrogen and progesterone, which will cause the period wackiness!
Even more interesting? How the psychological impact of stress can mess with your cycle. While you’re experiencing an uptick in parties, gatherings, gifting, traveling, and (sometimes overwhelming) run-ins with family or friends, your body is absorbing all these new stressors. And your brain is starting to get the memo that it’s a very rocky road out there.
When your body/brain perceives high amounts of stress, it instinctively manipulates its ovulation and progesterone release to make it more difficult to bring a child into this stressful world. In the absence of trying to conceive, this change in progesterone will throw off your body’s estrogen balance, leading to cycle changes. How smart is your body (more on that here)?!
Other Period Symptoms to Look Out for During the Holidays
Any of the following can be dietary or stress-related when it comes to cycle changes:
- Increased clots in menstrual blood
- Increased cramping of uterus
- Increased flow rate
- Increased days of bleeding
- Irritability and mood swings
- Increased breast tenderness
What You Can Do About Period Pain
We’ve talked before about natural remedies for menstrual cramps, but figuring out how to counteract the extra stress in the season / changes to your regular meal plan can be a game-changer when it comes to your cycle. Try these tips:
- Cycle sync for self-care: Don’t ignore your self-care habits during the holidays. Yeah, time might feel tighter, but you’ll never regret taking a few minutes for yourself.
- Cycle sync your food + exercise: Outside of party days and abnormal eating schedules, consider optimizing your meal planning and exercise for each week of your cycle.
- Manage your stress: I know, I know—I hate when doctors tell me this too! But these are EASY tips for maintaining lower levels of stress. We’re not asking you to stop working and abandon your responsibilities in order to decrease stress. You can do it a little at a time.
- Meditate: Speaking of decreasing stress, doctors are prescribing meditation more and more often. Even just taking five deep breaths during a pause in your day can help!
- Meal plan: When you’re not eating whatever is available at a holiday gathering, strive to add anti-inflammatory and hormone-balancing foods into your daily meals.
And if these are JUST.NOT.WORKING. for you, connect with us. We’re here to help you manage your health so you can thrive.
Dr. Cassie Wilder is a registered Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) and founder of MIMC. Her passion is empowering her patients through education, understanding, and support through their healing journey. After graduating from Iowa State University with a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology and Health, Dr. Wilder earned her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences, a fully accredited and nationally recognized institution in Phoenix, AZ. During her clinical training, she received extensive hands-on training with many leading experts in the field of functional medicine and developed a passion for treating hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular concerns, and adrenal fatigue.