Period Talk

5 Foods that Relieve Cramps Naturally

We’re big believers that cramps can be prevented with the right habits and nutrients. But sometimes cramps happen (often, and to most people with periods!), so a relief plan is necessary.

Here are 5 foods and drinks that relieve cramps naturally:

  1. MASALA CHAI
    • If you’re looking for cramp relief and a drink that feels like a big hug, masala chai is for you. It’s essentially black tea with a bunch of good-for-you spices, including ginger, cinnamon, fennel, clove, cardamom and peppercorns. These spices warm up and relax your intestines and reproductive organs, so they’re great to have on hand during your period.
    • If you want to make your own masala chai at home, power to you. But you really don’t need to get fancy – the tea bags they sell in supermarkets will do the trick. Brew it in water and drink it black, or prepare it with a mix of water, your favorite milk (or mylk) and a teaspoon of honey.
  2. GINGER
    • Ginger is a popular natural remedy for dealing with various forms of inflammation, which is one of the culprits behind period problems. It has been used to reduce bloating, cramps, and PMS in Chinese medicine for centuries.
    • To take advantage of its healing benefits, drink some ginger tea or throw a chunk of ginger into a fruit smoothie.
  3. SAMBAR
    • Sambar is a soup that comes from Southern India. It’s basically a lentil soup but the veggies and lentils are ground, so it’s liquidy enough to drink. Sambar is full of wonderful spices that are warming to the reproductive organs as well as drying spices like cardamom and cumin. Sometimes when you’re on your period, you get bloated and/or phlegmy – cardamom and cumin can help to dry that out.
    • You should be able to find Sambar at your local Indian or Southern Indian restaurant. Ask for a big container to go and sip it throughout the first few days of your period.
  4. BANANAS
    • Thanks to their high potassium content, which reduces water retention and helps control muscle contractions, bananas can help your body reduce or prevent both bloating and cramping. The anti-cramping effects of potassium are reinforced by the bananas’ magnesium, calcium and B6, which help to fight cramps and muscle soreness.
    • You already know how to eat bananas – peel, bite, chew – but if you’re looking to use them as a vehicle to satiate cravings, you can freeze a couple and blend them to make nicecream.
  5. CACAO (& DARK CHOCOLATE)
    • Dark chocolate is what we’d call a productive craving – it’s something you crave that will actually help your body with the other symptoms. That’s because one of its main ingredients is cacao, which is rich in magnesium. Magnesium relaxes your muscles, eases aches, and reduces pain. Cacao (and by extension dark chocolate) are also great for the emotional symptoms of PMS because they trigger the release of endorphins, which help you feel happier and more at peace.
    • You can eat a dark chocolate bar or straight up cacao to get the benefits. If you’re avoiding sugar or just want to go straight to the source, cacao is the better option. You can throw it into (or on top of) smoothies, add it to your cereal, snack on it on its own, or blend it in with your frozen bananas to make a super healthy chocolate nicecream.

3 Ways to Improve PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects more than ¼ of people with periods and most people who have it haven’t been diagnosed(!). It’s tied to hormonal imbalances and its symptoms include irregular periods, ovarian cysts, higher levels of androgens (male hormones), baldness, excessive facial hair growth, fertility challenges, and more. Not ideal.

Here at Brazen, we’re all about helping people achieve healthy symptom-free cycles. So, naturally, we wanted to know if PCOS could be stopped, reversed, or at very least improved.

As with most of our HOW-CAN-WE-MAKE-THIS-BETTER questions, we turned to our founder, Kirsten. Here’s her advice:

Kirsten’s Advice for PCOS (in written form):

Can you reverse polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)? I wish I had a great magic answer for this, but the truth is that PCOS is really fucking complicated. We need more than a short video and blog post to cover all the things you need to do to reverse your PCOS, but to start, we’ll share 3 key things you can do to improve it.

3 Ways to Improve PCOS:

  1. Do Moderate Exercise Everyday
    • You need to move your body every single day. Does this mean that you should do something intense like CrossFit or intense training every day? No. Actually, I think that’d be a terrible idea. Typically women with PCOS have inefficient digestion, meaning their bodies have issues with the process of breaking food down and turning it into energy. If you’re training really, really hard but aren’t digesting foods efficiently, your body will end trying to consume more energy than you can keep up with giving it.
    • When that happens, you go into weight-gaining mode because your body is like “Oh shit, we are going to run out of gas pretty soon so we better start conserving.”
    • Clinically, what I’ve seen over the last 20 years, is that women with PCOS do the best with very moderate exercise. We’re talking like 30 or 40 minutes of walking 5-7 days a week and some very moderate yoga.
    • I’m kind of an introvert and don’t like to go to yoga classes. Here’s my hack: I do yoga at home while I watch TV. I put on my junkiest crap TV and do yoga while I watch it. On the one hand, it makes my guilty pleasure shows feel less guilty because I’m doing something good for my body while I watch them, and on the other hand I end up doing longer sessions. I tend to do yoga more slowly if I do it in front of the TV, but if you’re dealing with polycystic ovarian syndrome, slow yoga sessions are ideal.
  2. Manage your carbs.
    • Here’s the big picture: your insulin levels impact how your body manages your hormone levels, which impacts your cycle regularity, liver function. Since PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalances, improving PCOS requires you to effectively manage your blood sugar, and cutting down on carbs is a big piece of that.
    • You do not need to go keto, but you do need to become intimately aware with how many carbs are in pretty much everything that you eat.
    • Typically if you can stay under 50 or 60 grams of carbs each day, that will make an enormous difference in how well you’re able to manage your insulin levels and how you feel.
  3. Get more sleep.
    • I cannot stress how critical sleep is. A lot of people (especially in the entrepreneurial world) say, “I don’t care. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” That’s just not a healthy mindset. The research is so clear that you have to sleep – elite athletes need 10 hours of sleep to perform optimally!
    • If you’re dealing with a chronic condition like PCOS or endometriosis or even just really bad periods or exhaustion, you need to be sleeping as much as humanly possible. Get to bed at the same time each night and make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to sleep at least 8 hours – if you can up that to 10, that’s even better.
    • Throughout the day, if you’re tired, nap. As somebody who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was much younger, I was really tired in my twenties, and so I got really good at hacking napping. I napped on the couches at Nordstrom, in my car, and at parks. Nap anywhere you can comfortably and safely lie down and close your eyes – even if you can only make time for a 15 minute nap after lunch, any extra rest you can get will make a big difference.
    • So, that’s it; moving your body, sleeping more, and reducing carbs. Those 3 things may sound super simple but they’re incredibly effective at improving PCOS. If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS or think you might have it, give it a try, see how you feel after a month, and let us know how it works for you.
    • If you have any questions, if there’s any way that we can possibly help you, please contact us through the chat bot. You will get me or my co-founder, Rob. We’re both here to help.If you have any questions, if there’s any way that we can possibly help you, please contact us through the chat bot. You will get me or my co-founder, Rob. We’re both here to help.

Why does my period stop then start again?

Have you ever started bleeding a day or two after you thought your period had ended? As in you had your period for a few days, you thought it was done because you stopped bleeding, you took out your cup or tampon, stopped using period underwear and pantie liners etc., you rejoiced, switched to normal underwear, and then a day later you found blood in your not-meant-for-periods underwear and screamed WHY so loud the floor shook? We’ve been there before and we know it can be maddening.

So, WHY does it happen? We asked our founder, Kirsten, to weigh in:

Kirsten’s response, written out for your convenience:

Sometimes you have your period and then you're four or five days along, you think you're done, your underwear is clean, and then suddenly on day six or seven you have more bleeding, more spotting, more clotting, goo in your underwear. It can seem disgusting and so disappointing because you've already used all your black underwear and now your clean ones are ruined.

This happens quite often and interestingly, there's no good data on why. But I do have a point of view just from clinical experience – I’ve noticed the correlation that often this will happen a lot with women who are exhausted.

Again, there's no data to support this, but I do have a theory (I almost always do). Here’s my thinking: You have a job when you're releasing your menstrual blood and it takes some energy to do that. While you're losing blood, your body is also working to discharge your uterine lining and it doesn't just happen magically. It doesn't fall out of your uterus – it takes work.

The week before your cycle you get kind of depleted as you’re trying to prepare for menstruation. Then you have your cycle, you bleed a lot, and after that, especially if you’re not getting enough sleep, working too much or working out too hard, your body may literally run out of gas around day four or five.

At that point, your body takes one day to rest. You eat some food, you probably don't feel that great, so you're not likely to exercise, you might sleep a little bit more, and your body sort of gears up to get a little bit more energy to discharge the last of your lining, which you experience as more blood.

That's my hypothesis. I hope you like it. If you find that this happens to you frequently, try to rest more, sleep more, avoid overworking, and cut back on intense workouts during your period. See if you notice a difference, keep tabs to see if the done-jk-it’s-not-over-yet period pattern stops. And let us know how it goes – we’d love to get your feedback on this.

We’d also love to hear your questions. They’re what inspire these blog posts! So, click on the chatbot on the website and ask away. I'll sit here and respond to as many as possible.

Everything You Need to Know About Plan B

Wondering what the difference between the abortion pill and Plan B is? Not sure if it’s too late to take Plan B? Want to know what to expect after taking it? Concerned that taking Plan B will affect your long-term fertility? You’re not alone.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about Plan B lately, so we asked our founder, Kirsten, to weigh in. Watch her four-minute video below to hear it from the horse’s mouth (in this case, the horse is a women’s health expert) or scroll down for the text version based on her responses.

Kirsten’s Plan B insights, typed out for your convenience:

Imagine this: it's a Friday or Saturday night and after a great time out, you're having sex and the condom breaks. Or maybe you just had sex without a condom because you were out of condoms, or just didn’t feel like using one. Or maybe you've been assaulted and you are worried that you might be pregnant from your assailant. None of these are great situations, but there is a solution; emergency contraceptive pills.

Emergency contraceptive pills are hormonal medications that contain Levonorgestrel. The most popularly known brand is Plan B, but there are a whole slew of other brands that contain Levonorgestrel and do the same job (My Way, Next Choice One Dose, Preventeza, and Take Action are a few). Plan B is often used to talk about emergency contraceptive pills in general, similarly to how Kleenex is used when talking about tissues and Chapstick is used when talking about lip balm. To keep this conversation from getting clunky, we’ll use Plan B to refer to emergency contraceptive pills in general.

Key differences between Plan B & abortion pills:

Abortion pills and Plan B (emergency contraceptive pills) are not the same. Plan B basically stops you from getting pregnant, whereas abortion pills terminate pregnancies in people who are already pregant. So, if you’re not pregnant, don’t want to get pregant, and had unprotected sex, Plan B is an option. If you’re already pregnant and don’t want to be, Plan B is not for you.

Another big difference is that Plan B can be purchased in drug stores. In the US, anyone of any age can buy it. Even though the box might even say that you have to be 17 or even 18 years old, that's currently not true. (There are still some old boxes out there.) Some people like to keep Plan B on hand just in case, but if not, you can always run down to the drug store or just order it online.

An abortion pill, on the other hand, requires a doctor's visit and a prescription. That’s because it’s a little bit more involved than Plan B. It’s a kind of pharmaceutical intervention.

Plan B as birth control:

Please note that Plan B is not a good or sustainable birth control option. Consider it your back-up plan, not your main method. You need a Plan A that works proactively, you suits your sex life, and protects you whatever you need protection from. (Also worth noting that Plan B can stop you from getting pregnant but it will not stop you from getting STIs.)

Side effects of taking Plan B:

Despite some of the myths floating around out there, Plan B can be used multiple times without significant negative side effects.

One fleeting side effect that many people report is nausea. While it’s not a pleasant experience, it’s fine that you feel nauseated after you take Plan B, as long as you don't throw up in the first two hours. If you do throw up within two hours, you may not have gotten enough of the medication into your system in order for it to work. If that happens to you, call your doctor or talk to the pharmacist about whether you should take another one immediately or what your options are. (I actually can't advise you on that. That's a medical problem.)

It’s common for your first cycle after Plan B to be different than what you’re used to. It might come sooner than normal, or later than normal. It might be heavier, or it might be lighter. Don’t worry if that happens. Your cycle should regulate again the cycle after.

If you find that your cycle is still out of whack the second time your period comes post- Plan B, you might want to check in with your doctor. (You can also ping us – we’re happy to chime in and see if we can help in any way.)

Does Plan B affect fertility?

A lot of women are concerned that taking Plan B might have a future impact on your fertility. A lot of times people don’t want to improve their fertility until they actually want to have a baby, and then sometimes they end up regretting doing things that could have impacted their fertility when they were younger. Luckily, Plan B is not something that should lead to regret.

There’s no indication that using Plan B a few times over the course of your reproductive has any impact on your overall fertility outcomes. (The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology agrees!)

Other questions?

If you have more questions about Plan B or your reproductive health, just reach out. We’re here to help and we’d love to hear from you.

Want to reduce PMS? Try these 3 recipes.

When you say “PMS” and “food,” people tend to think of chocolate, ice cream, and carbs (lots and lots of carbs). While those might be the foods you crave, they’re probably not going to help reduce your PMS symptoms.

If you want to take the food-is-medicine approach to reducing (or avoiding!) your PMS symptoms, you need to seek out foods that will help balance your hormones and leave you feeling better each cycle.

Chia seeds are one of our favorite foods when it comes to regulating your hormones, and we’ve got three delicious Brazen-tested recipes to help you incorporate it into your day-to-day diet.

Before we get to the recipes, here’s what makes chia seeds so special:

Chia seeds are rich in plant-based Omega 3s (ALA).

Known for their anti-inflammatory properties, studies have found that Omega-3s can help to soothe menstrual pain.

They’re also essential for you cell membranes, which control the traffic of hormones and nutrients that enter and leave your body.

(Note: Flax seeds are also rich in Omega 3s but, unlike chia seeds, they have a tendency to go rancid when exposed to light or heat.)

Chia seeds are rich in key minerals.

What do calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and iron have in common? They all help to keep hormones balanced and chia seeds are rich in all of them.

Chia seeds are a great source of complete protein.

Chia seeds contain all of the nine essential amino acids that our bodies need, making them a great plant-based source of complete protein. Not only is their protein complete, it’s abundant; with four grams of complete protein for every two tablespoons of seeds, chia contains more protein than eggs.

When it comes to your menstrual health, consuming protein is key because your body needs it to produce quality blood.

Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber.

Have you noticed how chia seeds form a gel around them when they’re left in water (or any other liquid)? That’s because they have a high content of soluble fiber.

That funny looking gel bead that surrounds the chia slows down the release of sugar, helps you feel full, controls your cravings, and keeps your blood sugar stable.

Chia’s soluble fiber also feeds the good bacteria in your gut, which both helps boost your immune system and promotes weight loss.

As for your hormones and your menstrual health, chia’s fiber helps your body eliminate excess hormones (including estrogen), which will help you feel more balanced pre-period.

Chia seeds can help regulate your blood sugar.

A 2007 study revealed people with periods have decreased insulin sensitivity during menstruation. That means when we’re on our periods we use blood glucose less efficiently and as a result, have higher blood sugar.

Research also suggests that this reduction in insulin sensitivity is related to our PMS symptoms (like bloating, cramps and mood swings). So, stabilizing our insulin sensitivity could mitigate PMS.

That’s where chia seeds come in; because of their high protein and fiber content, chia seeds help improve your blood sugar metabolism and reduce the changes in your insulin sensitivity. (Thanks, chia!)

3 of our favorite chia recipes:

  1. Quick & Easy 2-Ingredient Chia Pudding
    • One of our teammates swears by this recipe and has been making it for years. Like yogurt, it’s best enjoyed with toppings like fresh fruits, nuts, etc.
    • All you need is ¼ cup chia seeds and 1 ¼ cups coconut milk. A dash of vanilla extract makes for a great, but optional, addition.
    • The easiest way to do it is to use a mason jar (or any other leak-proof container). First pour the coconut milk in, then add the chia seeds, close the jar as quickly as possible, and begin to shake it. Keep shaking it for 40 seconds or so, until the seeds stay suspended in the liquid, instead of all sinking to the bottom.
    • Notes: if you’re slow to start shaking, the chia seeds will end up clumping together. If you’re making this in a bowl or something you can’t close and shake, you can whisk the seeds into the coconut milk using a fork. If you’re adding vanilla extract or a sweetener, add it to the coconut milk before adding the seeds. The chia pudding will keep in the fridge for about a week.
  2. Super Smooth & Creamy Chia Pudding
    • Our founder, Kirsten, is obsessed with this recipe from COOKIE+kate. It takes more work than the 2-ingredient version above, but it is really quite decadent and its smooth consistency is perfect for anyone weirded out by the gelly texture of soaked chia seeds.
  3. Agua Fresca with Chia
    • One of our teammates is based in Mexico City, where you’ll find “fresh water” or “water of the day” in most restaurants. More often than not, it’s water mixed with some fresh juice or an infusion of hibiscus or lemongrass. Sometimes (and here’s where this becomes relevant to this article) there will be chia seeds mixed in with the water.
    • If you don’t mind the gel, this is an incredibly simple consume-more-chia hack. You can essentially throw chia seeds in any chilled herbal tea or juice (or juice mixed with water).
    • One easy and kind of famous option is chia limeade (“agua de limon con chia”). According to the book ‘Born to Run,’ Mexican Tarahumara natives, “the world’s greatest distance runners” drank this for energy (their name for it was Iskiate).
    • To make it, just squeeze the juice of one lime into a large glass of water (~16 oz.), add a tablespoon or two of chia seeds, stir the seeds for 20 seconds or so, and then wait 2-3 hours before drinking it. If tart drinks are not your thing, you can sweeten this to taste with the sweetener of your choice.
    • Note: Make sure to wait before drinking this – the chia needs time to congeal.

Is Your Period Out Of Whack? Check These 6 Aspects Of Your Life

Is it okay to fangirl the founder of the company you work for? Not asking for a friend. Kirsten (our founder!) wrote an excellent “aha” eliciting article about out-of-whack periods for Mind Body Green, and it’s too good not to share. The excerpt below clears up why the differentiation between common and normal is SO important. As for the actionable part, you’ll have to head over to MBG and read the full article for guidance on the six aspects of your life you need to get in check for healthy (painless, symptom-free) cycles.

“A recent study showed that more than 82% of people with periods reported significant and life-interrupting PMS and cramping to their OB/GYNs. Every month, people tell us they are missing work, passing out, and throwing up from their cramps. Some with PMDD even tell us they feel suicidal or cut themselves with their cycles. While we would like to count these as outliers, studies show that this is more common than we think. It is so common that the large majority of people with periods that we talk to tell us this kind of monthly menstrual suffering is normal.

This is not true.

PMS and cramping are incredibly common. Just because something is common, that does not make something normal. After all, 420 million people have diabetes, but we don't say that is normal. We treat it.

As long as we continue to tell people with periods that the emotional and physical pain they are experiencing every month is normal, the 80 million women will continue to suffer and believe that this is just what it means to have a period, and the conversations about how we can fix them will continue to be silenced. When we are silent about our suffering, we are less likely to advocate for better research and solutions to have healthier cycles and overall health.

PMS and cramping are incredibly common, but they're not actually normal.

You might be thinking, "OK, common vs. normal—what's the big deal?"

When we say something is normal, we are saying it is without pathology. Let me give you an example. I go for a walk every morning. That's totally normal and without pathology. In fact, it is incredibly good for me. On the other hand, on many days, my legs are arms are weak from my neurological condition. I would never say that was normal. Rather, the weakness is a symptom signaling that my body still needs more attention than I am giving it. For me, that typically means more rest, better food, and upping my stress management strategies.

Your cycle is the same. Think of your menstrual cycle as your monthly report card that gives you feedback on how your body is responding to how you are caring for it. Whether you have PMS, cramping, irregular cycles, endometriosis, or PCOS, the symptoms you are experiencing are all signals that your body is asking for you to pay attention and take additional action in the ways you care for yourself.

So, what should you do?”