Premenstrual syndrome, migraines, painful, irregular or missing periods cause serious stress and disharmony to our lives and can have detrimental effects on health and wellbeing.
While we are surrounded by a variety of natural period relief supplements available at pretty much any local chemist, health store or supermarket that can be incredibly helpful, there are precautions to take. Here are 6 common mistakes often made when choosing a natural period relief supplement:
Yes, you know your body better than anyone, and Googling your symptoms can be a good way to begin investigating what could be a serious health condition. But self diagnosing without a professional opinion can lead you very astray, be anxiety provoking and often dangerous if you go on to self medicate without proper guidance.
What's missing in the equation of a Google diagnosis is a trained professional who spent a lot of time learning how to address issues to help your body heal. Always discuss with your health provider what you think might be going on so you can either receive the appropriate care or rest assured that your niggly symptom likely doesn’t mean anything serious.
2. Not testing sensitivities or allergies to ingredients
Supplement companies are selling ready-to-use period relief for the general public, but it's important to remember that they don't know your individual health and allergy history. You are unique and if you haven’t been tested, you might not know if you have an allergy or sensitivity to an ingredient until you try it. If you do know what you’re allergic to, make sure you read the labels of any health product you pick up, even if it's marketed as ‘natural’, ‘healthy’ or ‘organic’.
3. Not checking the condition of your liver and digestive health.
4. Not understanding how the ingredients work
Okay, not everyone needs to know the exact pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of their medicine, that's what your health practitioner is for! But knowing what basic ingredients your supplements contain and their main action in the body is crucial. Do you know why you’re taking what you’re taking?
Imagine you’re baking a cake and just before you put it in the oven, you close your eyes and throw in a random amount of salt without checking the recipe, in the hope it turns out okay. You could end up overpowering the taste and spoiling the cake, OR not adding enough for it to rise properly and bring out the flavour. There is no point risking blindly taking a supplement when you don’t know what its action is. We want to make sure you end up being the fluffiest, most delicious, balanced cake there is!
Some supplements interact with foods in our every day diet. For example, if you take an iron supplement at the same time as you drink a cup of coffee or eat a handful of mixed nuts, the phytates in nuts and polyphenols in coffee significantly reduce iron absorption. BUT if you take your iron supplement alongside a citrus fruit like kiwi fruit or orange, the vitamin C will boost its bioavailability so you get the much needed benefits!
5. Herbs aren't always safe.
Herbs and plant medicine has in recent years become widely commercialised in 'Natural Health' products. Medicinal herbs were once reserved for medicine masters and qualified herbalists who intimately know the properties of each plant.
You might be thinking “but it's just a plant that grows in nature. There’s no way it can be harmful!”. Don’t be fooled, herbs are potent medicines that can do more harm than good if taken without proper guidance. Sure, some plant medicine like peppermint tea used to ease mild gastrointestinal discomfort is relatively harmless in recommended doses, but there are other plants that can interact with food, prescribed medication and other herbs which could create adverse effects on your health.
For example, Chaste Tree (Vitex agnes-cactus) is a popular and widely available product used for balancing hormones. Sounds great doesn't it?! It is great - IF you know what hormones you need to balance. It’s been used to treat breast pain, PMS and irregular periods with amazing effect, but can worsen some hormonal conditions like PCOS and shouldn't be taken long term or by young teenagers. These precautions aren’t often seen on labels. It’s important to work with a qualified naturopath or herbalist to know if and how to use herbs correctly.
6. Choosing based only on an influencer endorsement
It goes without saying that the quality of the supplement is more important than the look of the packaging, no matter how freaking cute it is!
With targeted ads and social media algorithms borderline reading our minds, it can be difficult to discern what is quality information and what might just be ads to boost a company's sales. This is your reminder to double check what your favourite influencer is promoting and be cautious of health fads like diets, new supplements and pills claiming quick fixes to hormonal problems.
In reality it takes 3 months to see real results when it comes to naturally treating any hormonal imbalance. This is because it takes 90 days for a single egg in the ovary to mature and ovulate, which determines hormone levels throughout your cycle. Anything that you do within that 90 day period affects the quality of the egg, ovulation and therefore hormonal balance. Be skeptical of any natural supplement claiming to heal hormonal imbalances overnight. Always check with your holistic practitioner if you’re unsure if you should take a dietary or herbal supplement.
If you want to see an evidence-based practitioner, we have an area on our website dedicated to Naturopathic Doctors and holistic nutritionists who can help you understand what is going to help your specific case to heal your period concerns. Or book an appointment with me I am a Naturopath, Nutritionist & Medical Herbalist