How Menstruation Keeps Girls Out of School

Three young Nepalese girls

For many women and girls in Nepal, menstruation can make education--and personal safety--difficult.
Image: Det-anan / Shutterstock.com

For many of us, getting our periods may be a little annoying, but it’s also considered a normal part of life. For millions around the world, though, getting a period every month can have serious consequences for school, jobs, and even health and personal safety.

In Nepal, for example, about 30% of girls miss school every month due to their periods, according to Her Turn. And UNICEF reports that 95% of girls surveyed in mid- and far western Nepal have to deal with some sort of restriction when they’re menstruating, due in large part to a tradition called chaupadi, which, depending on the culture, can mean women aren’t allowed to touch men, read books, or even sleep or eat in the same place as the rest of the family. In fact, many women are forced to stay in a shed during their periods, which means no heating during the winter, potential animal attacks, and even asphyxiation and burns due to trying to build fires in small spaces. Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled chaupadi illegal in 2005, but it’s still practiced in many places.

Even in places where chaupadi isn’t a tradition, girls still face challenges with menstruation because the facilities in their schools aren’t private or sanitary. Girls use newspaper, leaves, or even sand and ash instead of sanitary pads or tampons, simply because they don’t have access to or education about anything better!

And sure, skipping school might sound great, but it can have negative results in the future. The Girl Effect found that an additional year of primary school education can boost girls’ income from 10-20%. And an additional year of secondary school can raise it another 15-25%!

Taking all of this into account, several organizations got together last November to lead a discussion on menstruation and its effects on menstruation. Using the hashtag #PointPeriod, Her Turn and the Day of the Girl Summit asked and answered questions about the issue, hoping to raise awareness. It’s definitely worth checking out!

PMS Relief: Natural vs. Medication

There are a lot of things we don't know about PMS, such as what exactly causes it, but we do know this: it tends to start during the second half of the menstrual cycle, and three out of four women experience symptoms. Of those experiencing it, 5% are completely incapacitated because of the severity of their symptoms! It's no wonder we reach for PMS relief as soon as we get an inkling of potential symptoms!

Before you dole out the drugs, though, consider: There are a variety of natural ways to deal with PMS symptoms like cramps, bloating, and sore breasts. Some of these treatments are as simple as little lifestyle changes:

  • Reduce irritability and prevent binge eating by snacking or eating small meals every three hours instead of the usual three meals a day.
  • While we're on nutrition, remember to eat a balanced diet of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Try to avoid a lot of extra salt and sugar.
  • Practice relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or meditation to help avoid headaches and anxiety.
  • Be kind to your body and switch up your sleep routine and schedule if needed to make sure you're getting enough sleep!
  • Keep hydrated with plenty of water and avoid sugary or caffeinated beverages like soda, coffee, or alcohol to help with bloating and fluid retention.
  • Exercise! While regular exercise should be a priority all the time, it's especially important in the battle for PMS relief.

If basic lifestyle changes aren't really cutting it, there are still some natural options to try. Many herbs will provide you with the same relief as an over the counter medication without the potential side effects. For example:

  • If you take ibuprofen for headaches, try Magnesium.
  • If you take antidepressants to deal with mood issues, try 5-HTP, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin E, Iron, or Manganese.
  • If you up the caffeine during PMS to deal with fatigue, try Green Tea or Fenugreek.
  • The GirlU natural supplement always has your back!

ALWAYS check with your doctor before experimenting with any medications or herbal remedies! There may be interactions you need to be careful of.

Looking for more info about natural PMS relief? Check out the infographic below!

 

PMS symptoms and natural solutions

This handy infographic gives you all the info you need on PMS symptoms and natural solutions.

Genetics Vs. Lifestyle – What is the Real Cause of PMS?

Genetics-LifeStyle-PMSMore than half of all women who menstruate have some form of cramping, and 15 percent of women have severe cramps. Menstrual cramps usually (but not always) improve, as a woman gets older, especially after giving birth. Of course, this doesn’t mean cramps go away as you age—they just often become a little more manageable.

Like many other things in life, genetics affect everything – even PMS! Unfortunately, if your mom and grandma had bad cramps, chances are you probably will too. Regardless of what runs in your family, don’t let nature rule your life!

Many women overlook the influence that their lifestyle and health has on the symptoms of their period. Being overweight and inactive can actually exacerbate symptoms of PMS. This is because high amounts of body fat indicate higher levels of estrogen, which can worsen your PMS. Being inactive also means that you aren’t letting your body help you out. Working out causes your body to produce nature’s painkillers, endorphins. Even though we don’t usually feel like it, it’s always a good idea to stay active during your period – and all other times of the month.

What you eat also has an effect on how good or bad you feel. Too much sugar, caffeine, or alcohol can worsen PMS. Too much dairy consumption can also worsen symptoms, due to hormonal imbalances. High stress levels can also worsen the symptoms of PMS.

The moral of the story: there’s a lot to thank our moms for – just maybe not the cramps! Luckily for us ladies, we have the personal power to stay healthy and active before, during, and after our periods. Not only will this help with PMS symptoms, but it will also produce a healthier you. What’s not to love?

An UNinterrupted Independence Day

Happy Independence Day Eve, everyone!  While you’re busy with prep work (or simply figuring out what to wear to the barbecue tomorrow), it’ll be useful to keep in mind the sorts of dishes you’ll be eating tomorrow and what sort of effects they might have, especially if you’re going through PMS right now.  Though these tips are aimed at alleviating symptoms, they’re also generally useful health tips as well!

Here is a list of some popular foods you’ll most likely be enjoying this Fourth of July:

barbecue-health

  • Ribs: Studies have shown that a diet rich in iron actually prevents PMS symptoms especially in comparison to those with potassium-rich diets. This isn’t to say load up on iron-rich foods but a call for a more well-rounded diet to alleviate PMS discomfort. Meat is a great source of iron, so work in a couple of ribs into your diet this Independence Day. There’s no better excuse to eat some yummy barbecue! But also keep in mind that too much red meat (and dairy!), chockful of saturated fats, can aggravate mood swings. They tend to cause estrogen levels to rise and an imbalance to hormone levels, so everything in moderation!
  • pieimagecopyrighted4 Pie… sweets… desserts in general: It’s going to be hard, but refrain from eating too much cake or sweets! Refined sugar causes an immediate rise in blood sugar levels since it makes it hard for the body to process estrogen. You’ll also tend to feel bloated from sodium retention, so don’t forget to cut back on using the salt shaker. Highly refined sugars also rid the body of natural vitamins so it’s best to limit sugar intake (and also alcohol) 2 weeks before your period starts to keep PMS in check.
  • spinach-arugula-cranberry-walnut-saladSide dishes of beans, leafy greens and such: To put it simply, these are good. They’re  packed with riboflavin (B2) and thiamine (B1) which lower PMS symptoms. Ironically, vitamin B supplements have been known to make PMS symptoms worse, so get your source of B-vitamins from their natural source: food.

There you have it—if you happen to be lucky enough to not have PMS during Independence Day, more power to you! But for those that do, hope this list of popular foods this holiday will help you make better choices so that you can enjoy your day UNinterrupted.

Wishing you a safe and fun Fourth of July,

Girl U

 

Springtime Tips to Drink More Water

Spring is here!

With the temperatures rising make sure you’re getting your daily doses of water. Here are some tips to help you drink more water!

MORNING CUP: Drink a glass as soon as you wake up.

DRINK BEFORE EACH MEAL: Drink a glass 30 minutes before every meal. Not only will you stay hydrated but you’ll eat less too!

CUT CAFFEINE: Caffeine can affect the body’s water balance. By cutting caffeinated beverages you will help your body stay hydrated.

EAT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: Remember that fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water! Consuming your daily dose will help and improve the body’s water balance.

FLAVOR IT: Add a lemon wedge or a slice of cucumber to enhance the water’s flavor.

BOTTLE IT: Carry around bottled water. By having water near and around you, you’d unconsciously drink more water. You’ll save time, money and the environment in using a re-useable water bottle. Finding a fun bottle can also encourage you to drink more water!

THIS WEEK’S TIP

Keep track of how many glasses of water you have per day. Try to increase your water intake each day!