Feminine Care 101: Toss The Toxins For A Happier, Healthier Period
By Marilee Nelson |
Sometimes, unexpected bonuses occur when you toss the toxins from your life! Too often, women accept many symptoms of endocrine disruption as expected and not to be questioned, as illustrated by this article from John Hopkins that states, "No woman looks forward to ‘that time of the month.’ Most of us deal with mood swings, bloating and cramps, which are never fun." Is this an accurate statement? Possibly yes, most women in the United States have symptoms associated with their menstrual period. But the question, "Is that normal, and if not, how is it supposed to be?" should be asked.
My personal experience working with clients over the past thirty years indicates that there is no need to suffer from any adverse symptoms due to your period. Years ago, this statement would have been dismissed as anecdotal and would hold no interest to medical professionals. Yet, the good news for those who want scientific backup is that current research corroborates what I have seen consistently over the last forty years. Tossing the toxins can resolve hormonal issues!
My surprise came when I was focused on trying to avoid dialysis and a future kidney transplant. I had grown up with cramps so painful that every period my mother gave me her narcotic pain killer, Percodan, because nothing else touched my debilitating cramps. Even with this narcotic, I was rendered useless for several days every month. At age 23, I had exploratory surgery that revealed a need for dialysis and an eventual kidney transplant and severe endometriosis. The surgeon said I would never have children. Yet... I had a child! My change to a nutrient-rich, plant-based, organic diet free of harmful chemicals utterly eliminated all symptoms and cramps associated with menstruation to the point that my periods came with no announcement. It was a glorious release into freedom!
Later in my consulting practice, client after client with PMS, painful cramps, irregular periods, PCOS, fertility issues, mood swings, cravings and other signs of hormone disruption reported resolution of symptoms after tossing endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Their stories illustrate serious issues like my recovery from endometriosis, Allison's documented recovery from PCOS and Kelly's unanticipated disappearance of menstrual issues are reasons to seriously consider tossing the toxins for a healthier, happier period… and life!
#1: Toss Toxic Toilet Paper
Our most sensitive skin comes into contact with chemicals in our toilet paper numerous times daily. Conventional toilet paper
When shopping for toilet paper, make sure to look for paper that is free of chlorine, dyes, fragrance, formaldehyde, and BPA. Some of our favorite brands are below:
#2: Toss Toxic Feminine Care Products
There is a multi-billion dollar industry of feminine care products that make our lives a lot easier! The key is to identify hidden toxins in feminine care products and replace them with healthier human and eco-friendly options. This is essential as these chemicals come into direct contact with some of the most sensitive and absorbent skin on a woman's body and can accumulate in our vaginas, livers, reproductive organs, etc., over our child-bearing years.
Conventional maxi pads are typically made up of cotton, rayon and a lot of endocrine-disrupting plastic, which can leach chemicals like BPA, BPS, BPB
Tampons are worse since they go directly into the vaginal canal. Studies have shown that xeno-estrogens that mimic hormones are absorbed vaginally at 10–80 times the rate that the same dose would be absorbed orally.
Also, steer clear of fragranced “scented tampons” as anything scented typically is toxic - see more about fragrance in our articles Fragrance Is The New Secondhand Smoke | Eliminate Synthetic Fragrance To Improve Your Health and Stop Using The F Word. Instead, 100%, unscented cotton tampons are a better choice. We have some helpful alternatives coming right up!
The Best Choice: Reusable Feminine Care Products:
Consider giving reusable feminine care products a try! You will save an average of 250-300 pads or tampons from being thrown in the landfill annually. That's roughly 400 pounds of packaging throughout a lifetime of menstruation.
Menstrual Cups: We like menstrual cups because they’re made of either 100% medical-grade silicone (Diva Cup, Lola, and Organicup are great brands) or 100% rubber from natural latex (The Keeper Cup - available for periods and after birth). Plus, cups are incredibly convenient! Most can be worn without any fear of leakage for 12 hours, absorb 6-8 times more than a single tampon and you can re-use them for years. They take a little practice to get used to inserting (see this how-to video) and removing, but it’s not difficult to master and they’re super comfortable. Plus, you can clean them with Branch Basics All-Purpose when they're dirty!
Linen pads: We love the pads from Life Giving Linen! They’re available in all different sizes, snap right into your underwear, and wash like a dream. You can even get organic fabric. These are durable, comfortable, eco-friendly fabric, and super absorbent! They also have postpartum pads which are a great option for healing moms.
Period Panties: At this time, we don’t recommend a brand of period panties. The problem with these is the moisture-wicking chemicals used to treat the fabric typically contain perfluorinated substances or PFAS (aka: forever chemicals) which have been linked to a variety of endocrine diseases and cancers. Mamavation has a great article about how the PFAS period panty discovery came to be. Until companies are completely transparent about how they’re treating their fabrics to repel moisture, we’re not ready to recommend any brand!
A Better Choice: Non-toxic Disposable Pads And Tampons
Although we’re big advocates of reusable products, we wanted to give you disposable options too! These are also great if you’re traveling and may need products on-the-go.
Tampons: The best tampons are organic 100% cotton. These can be found almost anywhere - your local department store, drugstore and online. Just make sure they’re made from 100% organic, unbleached cotton, fragrance-free and include either no applicator or a cardboard applicator versus plastic. Some of our favorite brands are Lola, TOM Organic and NatraCare.
#3: Toss Toxic Synthetic Fragrance
Cleaning, body care products, and materials with synthetic fragrance are endocrine disruptors. Our advice: take some time to get a box, clean out your pantry, cupboards - everything, and toss these toxins! We won’t go into extreme detail here, but you can learn about fragrance in our articles Fragrance Is The New Secondhand Smoke | Eliminate Synthetic Fragrance To Improve Your Health and Stop Using The F Word.
#4: Toss Plastics In The Kitchen
Quickly reduce your exposure to endocrine disrupting BPA and phthalates/plasticizers by storing food and water in glass instead of plastic. You don't have to buy new glass containers. Repurpose used glass bottles and jars - there are lots of inexpensive options. In a study of 77 Harvard College students, it was found that one week of drinking water only from polycarbonate bottles increased the levels of BPA in their urine by two-thirds. This is a huge increase. Think of how we are all trying to keep hydrated; think of nursing mothers. BPA is found in breastmilk
Another way to reduce your exposure to BPA is by eating more fresh food and eliminating canned foods. The good news is that BPA is quickly processed and eliminated by the body. One NIH study showed that after just three days of eating a fresh food diet with no products taken from a can, the levels of BPA in participants' urine fell a minimum of 65%. In another study, people ate one serving of freshly made soup from produce or canned soup daily for 5 days. Urine levels of BPA were 1,221% higher in those who consumed the canned soup.
#5: Toss Toxins in Your Diet
Pesticides are endocrine disruptors, so eat organic as much as often as you can.
#6: Control Cravings With Food As Medicine
PMS cravings can be crazy! But they can also offer clues into nutrients that your body may be lacking. For example, if you crave chocolate try increasing your magnesium by eating more leafy greens, legumes, and other magnesium-rich foods. As for salt cravings, it could be a lack of trace minerals. Good quality salt, celery juice, seaweed dishes, and trace minerals are helpful. For sweet cravings, eat more vegetables
#7: Try Natural Painkillers For Cramps
NSAIDs may be effective against menstrual cramps but they can come with a cost. For example, side effects may include liver damage, heart attack and stroke, headache, constipation, diarrhea, leaky gut
Some of our favorites include:
Boswellia: Also known as “Indian Frankincense”, this precious gummy bark resin has been shown to inhibit the same pain-causing prostaglandins as NSAIDs.
Dill: Research has confirmed that taking 1000mg of dill every day for about 5 days before your period can reduce pain as well as an OTC drug!
Crampbark Tea: This earthy-sweet tasting herb has been traditionally used to help ease menstrual cramping for centuries, and modern research has shown it works by blocking smooth muscle contractions. Enjoy several cups a few days before your period starts, then as-needed during menstruation.
Chamomile: Research has shown that drinking chamomile tea every day for a month can reduce menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms, such as anxiety. We like to enjoy a cup before bed or any time we need a calmer.
Hot/Cold Therapy: It’s amazing how well this can work! Simply apply hot compresses, followed by cool compresses to your uterus. Repeat several times to relieve cramping.
Hot Baths: A hot epsom salt bath is soothing, increases magnesium levels and can help relieve menstrual cramps.
#8: Manage Period Stains Without Bleach Or Chemicals
Blood stains can be a real pain to remove, especially if you’re already tired and crampy. Fortunately, good quality products like menstrual cups can reduce overflow stains, but stains are bound to happen! Here’s how to use Branch Basics to get blood out of your underwear, sheets, pants and more:
Option #1: Immediate removal with All-Purpose
- Spray with All Purpose. Scrub gently. Rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary.
- Soak underwear in water (about 3 cups) with half a scoop of Oxygen Boost. Wash within 24 hours.
#9: Still Having Chronic PMS Or Menstrual Trouble After Tossing The Toxins? Get To The Root Cause
Tossing the toxins in your food and home provides such an incredible opportunity and for many is all that is needed to resolve hormonal issues. Take advantage of this no-cost foundational tool for powerful preventative healthcare.
If you still have symptoms after tossing the toxins, it means you have more to discover. Keep going until you fully resolve symptoms of endocrine disruption. Thyroid trouble, scar tissue, structural misalignments, fibroids, PCOS, endometriosis, liver stagnation, emotional trauma and excess body burden are just a few of the causal factors that may be behind unhappy periods. Seek the counsel of an integrative health practitioner to get help in finding other possible root causes.
To learn more about how common toxins in household products, food, and more can impact your hormones, check out: How To Avoid Endocrine Disruptors In Your Daily Life, 3 Ways To Naturally Balance Hormones, and Allison's Journey To Fertility.
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.