There’s nothing quite like a heavy, painful period to put a dampener on Hot Girl Summer.
When all you want is to be wearing bikinis, sunbathing by lakes and in parks with tinnies and friends, you’re curled up over a cramping uterus, worrying about leaking and fighting off hormonal tears.
Being hot, bothered and menstruating is a dreaded combination, meglio plavix o cardioaspirina and hot weather can make PMS symptoms worse.
How hot weather makes your period symptoms worse
Firstly, says Dr Hina, a Gynaecologist at London’s Harley St Clinic: ‘Fluctuations in hormones at the start of the cycle can make women more prone to dehydration, which causes the body to hold on to water and cause bloating.
‘Heat makes dehydration worse, which can, in turn, make the bloating worse.’
Usually feel tired and groggy on your period, too? The heat will be making that worse.
The longer days in the summer make our bodies produce less melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep. That, and the fact it is too hot to relax, can explain why we toss and turn on hot summer nights.
This would be bad enough, but the body also uses more energy while menstruating, explains Dr Gareth Nye, a lecturer at Chester Medical School who specialises in maternal and fetal health.
He adds: ‘We tire quicker in hot weather as our body works hard to cool us down.
‘Your body is doing this to a greater extent during your period, which can make you feel even more sluggish and tired.’
Dr Georgina Leslie, Gynaecologist & Medical Advisor for menstrual healthcare brand Yoppie adds that high temperatures will make headaches worse, and worsen hormonal skin problems.
Our blood vessels swell in hot weather, which can trigger migraines that are caused by changes to blood vessels, explains Dr Sam Wild, Women’s Health Clinical Lead for Bupa Health Clinics.
When temperatures are sizzling, you’re more at risk of heat exhaustion. This can make you feel queasy, lose your appetite and make your body cramp.
‘This will not help anyone already experiencing period cramps or digestion problems as a result of being on their period,’ Dr Leslie says.
As if this wasn’t enough, dehydration makes cramps more painful.
‘It is well known that dehydration can worsen muscle cramps and the uterus (womb) is a muscle that contracts during our period,’Dr Leslie says. ‘Hydration can also help reduce bloating associated with PMS.’
It’s easy to deydrate on sweltering days, when you’re suddenly having to drink a lot more water, but this should be yet another reason to reach for the water bottle.
Why hot weather can make your period come early
I hate to break it to you, but hot weather can make a period come early (ugh!) and mean you bleed for longer (double ugh!).
Now, there may not be bucket loads of scientific research to prove that a heatwave can induce a period.
There is, however anecdotal evidence, and some science behind why it could be happening.
It may not have much to do with the heat itself, Dr Leslie argues: ‘It is true that some people report that during hot weather periods can be brought on earlier than usual, although there is little science to suggest that there is a direct connection between hot weather and period induction.’
She adds: ‘What this could be is a combination of stress and fatigue levels being higher in the heat, which can have a direct impact on the timing of a period.’
She argues instead that the fatigue, stress and dehydration we experience during heatwaves can have an impact on periods, as opposed to the heat itself.
Dr Wild agrees that ‘your cycle can also be affected by your health and lifestyle, so it’s thought that the hot weather may be more of an indirect effect.’
Conversely, heat can actually help your period: how many of us reach for a hot water bottle to help ease cramps?
However, heat therapy works by relaxing the muscles in the uterus. Relaxed muscles mean less pain, but more bleeding.
Sunshine and vitamin D’s impact on our periods
Dr Nye and Dr Hina pointed us toward another explanation: Vitamin D. We get Vitamin D from the sun, and it helps keep our muscles, bones and teeth strong and healthy.
One small study found that women had shorter menstrual cycles in the summer, and ‘increased ovarian activity’, concluding that ‘sunshine influences menstrual cycle.’
Another study showed that women who did not get their recommended level of Vitamin D were almost five times as likely to have menstrual cycle disorders.
Dr Nye explains: ‘Low levels of vitamin D are known to cause infertility and period problems, but the converse is also true – increased vitamin D can shorten periods generally leading to early egg development and release.’
So, in the summer when Vitamin D is (usually) free-flowing, our ‘periods can become longer and more frequent,’ Dr Hina says.
She continues: ‘According to research, this is due to too much exposure to sunlight, which gives us more Vitamin D.
‘Vitamin D helps the body with the production of Follicle-Stimulating Hormone which regulates the reproductive function and thus can lead to increased ovarian activity and longer periods.
In conclusion: your period could come a few days early and last for longer thanks to Vitamin D, dehydration, lifestyle changes and general stress on your body.
How to have a stress-free summer period
When that ‘time of the month’ comes to ruin a perfectly nice summer day, there are things you can do to ease your pain.
First and foremost, all experts have the same top tip: hydrate to ease your cramps and bloating.
‘To ease the symptoms, drink plenty of fluids, more than you would normally and try to keep up with regular meals to ensure you have the required nutrients to go through the period cycle,’ Dr Nye says.
He also advises resisting the boozy summer plans, wearing loose-fitting clothing to help accommodate your bloated tummy, and changing sanitary products more frequently to reduce the chances of irritation and rashes.
On this note, summer periods could be the perfect time to try out a menstrual cup or period pants. They are sustainable and will be more comfortable in the sticky heat.
You may not feel like exercising, especially when it is hot, but ‘low-impact exercise like swimming, light stretches, and yoga to relax your abdominal muscles and keep the blood flowing,’ says Dr Leslie.
While we salute eating whatever helps you get through a period, certain food will make symptoms worse.
Dairy can worsen cramps, for example. So, in the summer, Dr Leslie advises resisting the temptation of ice cream and choosing an ice lolly instead.
‘It is best to avoid fatty salty foods, which can be tempting with a summer barbeque. Instead, opt-in for more fresh fruits and hearty salads,’ she adds.
Fruit is also a great way to get more water into your system – especially cucumber and watermelon, says Dr Wild.
She adds: ‘Likewise, try to incorporate more ginger, leafy green vegetables, chicken and fish into your diet to help you feel energised and soothed.’
If all else fails, reach for the painkillers or a natural supplement, and relax in the knowledge that it will be over soon.
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