While surfing the crimson wave may make you (addressing women only) feel connected with womanhood and fertility and all that jazz, it is a curse we just can’t get rid of. And as much as we resent it, there are times (very anxious times) that we are tempted to make it come earlier than usual.
Before diving into the nitty gritty…
What do you need to know about the menstrual cycle?
A crash course…
So, you need estrogen and progesterone levels to plummet for your uterine lining to start shedding. Remember that.
A term you need to know to read on is ’emmenagogues.’ They are substances that have the ability to initiate menstruation.
Why would you want the misery brought forward?
As much as this may seem to be the most untrue, fabricated question ever asked (Women, we feel your pain), you cannot deny you have thought of it more often than just once. Why?
- To prove to yourself you’re not pregnant. This statement holds more weight (and anxiety) than comes across. The cost of a little (unprotected) frolic can wear out your stress hormones—especially when you’re not ready to be called mommy.
- To get the PMSing over and done with. Fickle moods and zit outbursts are uninvited guests we can’t wait to get rid off. It’s but natural for you to think of elimination methods.
- To be able to let your hair down stress free. A romantic night with your better half, a swim with your kids, or a vacation to the Sahara (desert=less or no water) is best enjoyed without having the painters in.
- The menstrual cycle is a natural process. You cannot take charge of its reins. You can however, through certain lifestyle choices, try and ensure regularity. So, while you may not be able to bring your period forward, you may be able to ensure a late period is pushed back into its normal schedule.
- If there is even the slightest possibility that you had unprotected sex (even on a blurry drunken night) and may be pregnant, DO NOT attempt inducing an abortion without professional medical advice. (No matter how terribly anxious you may be.)
- Do not assume herbs are 100% safe. Everything natural is not your friend. There may be side effects or individual-specific allergic reactions that you must not shun aside when considering herbal remedies. Also, ensure you express these concerns to your doctor and ask about dosage. Some herbs are toxic only at elevated levels.
Urging Aunt Flo to visit on time can be done naturally. There isn’t scientific evidence to support most of these claims, however, folklore and grandmama testimonies provide quite the argument to convince you to try them (don’t forget the conditions apply bit). Remember to give them some leeway ‘cause they probably won’t work every time and not for everyone, but let’s just look at the glass as half full.
1. Foods rich in vitamin C:
There are many seemingly credible sources of information linking ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to increased estrogen levels and miscarriages and abortion.1 Because of this unjustified claim, naive people like us blindly believe that it will help induce periods. However, the use of the word naive is relevant. As already indicated, estrogen levels need to fall for periods to take place. (Remember?) So, let’s not try eating vitamin C-rich foods to get our periods early, not yet.
2. Foods rich in beta-carotene:
Leafy fruits and veggies like carrots, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, and winter squash are so colored (yellow, orange, and green) because of their beta-carotene content. While beta-carotene does help in reducing heavy menstrual bleeding, how effective it is as an emmenagogue is unproved.
3. Heat-inducing foods:
Foods like red meat, jaggery, pomegranate, and pineapple are traditionally believed to be capable of raising the body temperature and, hence, inducing periods. While there is no scientific evidence to support this claim, more importantly, there is not evidence to support how and why some foods may be ‘heating’ and others ‘cooling.’ Having said that, many women eating such foods as an emmenagogue do advocate its authenticity and safety.
It’s your call whether you trust them with your uterus.
Ginger: While some evidence supports the use of ginger tea for morning sickness, motion sickness and the nausea caused by chemotherapy, there’s no evidence that it can initiate menstruation.
Parsley: There is insufficient scientific evident to support the use of parsley (as parsley tea) as a periods inducer. However, herbalists often recommend this herb an an emmenagogue. Also, there is a labor-inducing Russian drug that contains 85% parsley juice.2 Information regarding the effectiveness and safety of the drug is unavailable. Apiol and myristicin, the active ingredients in parsley, may play a role in its traditionally touted emmenagogic effects.3
Black cohosh: Historically, black cohosh has been prescribed by alternative therapists for menstrual problems, including delayed periods. It can be had as a herbal root infusion or in the form of a tablet.
Pennyroyal: Although pennyroyal leaf tea seems to be able to start menstruation, it has serious side effects like liver damage that make it highly unsuitable for human consumption.4
Insufficient scientific backing does not support its use as an emmenagogue.
1. Maintain a healthy body weight:
Being 10% lower than your normal body weight (depending on your sex, age, and height) is bound to wreak havoc in your sensitive endocrine system.5 Lower body weight halts ovulation and, hence, your periods. This is why conditions like anorexia walk hand in hand with irregular periods. If you can relate to this, eat well and exercise less to gain some weight.6 7
2. Don’t stress:
Intricate interplay of hormones that define the menstrual cycle is controlled by the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal trio (it’s just a hormone pathway).
In the absence of stress, cortisol converts pregnenolone to more cortisol to meet the body’s cortisol demands.8 9 Since pregnenolone is a precursor of progesterone, this results in less progesterone. However, under stress, there are already sufficiently high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and no need of pregnenolone.
Simply put, stress results in high levels of progesterone and delayed periods.
Stress does not only have to be work- or relationship-related, it could also arise from physically pushing yourself beyond reasonable limits.10 Whether it be extra laps on the treadmill, drilling practices for a soccer final, or intense dance rehearsals for a show—just don’t overdo it. Stress could also result from strict dieting and one too many cups of coffee or pegs of alcohol.
Strive for a mental calm.
- Exercise (or indulge in some form of physical activity) to the point of releasing your happy hormones (read: endorphins) and not to the point of caving in. Happy hormones means less stress and prompt periods.
- A relaxing hot bath and yoga (no, you don’t need to go to the Himalayas for it) can also help you forget your (exaggerated) worldly troubles. Leak week will soon befriend punctuality.
3. Cling to someone who gets her periods earlier:
Quite an unconventional approach, however, it is worth a try. The McClintock effect is a real thing. It suggests that women living closely together synchronise their cycles.11 The more dominant woman’s pheromones influence other recipient women. Yes, that explains how you and your three other roomies were so in sync during leak week. Go on, hug the alpha.
Consider pregnancy, medication, and medical conditions (like PCOS) to be underlying causes for a delayed period. Visit your doctor to eliminate these causes before you try taking things into your own hands.
|↑1||Drey Pavlov, Igor Irvin Bussel. Can Vitamin C Induce Abortion? Science-Based Medicine. 2011.|
|↑2||Chemical Abstracts. 90:115465, 1979.|
|↑3||Farzaei MH, Abbasabadi Z, Ardekani MR, Rahimi R, Farzaei F. Parsley: a review of ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and biological activities. J Tradit Chin Med. 2013.|
|↑4||Pennyroyal. U.S. National Library of Medicine. NIH.|
|↑5||Amenorrhea. Mayo Clinic.|
|↑6||Gordon CM. Clinical practice. Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea. N Engl J Med. 2010.|
|↑7||Taraneh Gharib Nazem, Kathryn E. Ackerman. The Female Athlete Triad. Sports Health. 2012.|
|↑8||The adrenal gland. Endocrinology. NCBI Bookshelf.|
|↑9||Gottfried, S. The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, 2013.|
|↑10||Abraham SF, Beumont PJ, Fraser IS, Llewellyn-Jones D. Body weight, exercise and menstrual status among ballet dancers in training. Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1982.|
|↑11||Stern K, McClintock MK. Regulation of ovulation by human pheromones. Nature. 1998.|