All About Period Flu
Dr. Renuka Dangare

Dr. Renuka Dangare

Mar 11Menstrual health

All About Period Flu

This article is compiled by Sanjana Varma, a freelance writer of Proactive For Her.

What is period flu?

Almost 9 out of 10 menstruators experience PMS and the nausea and bloating that comes with it. Besides these, a few folks report feeling fatigued, exhausted and weak, a condition colloquially termed as "the period flu". Some experience period flu symptoms in the days just before their period (premenstrual syndrome), while others feel lousy throughout their period.

It's common for women to experience flu-like symptoms and even a fever between ovulation and the start of their period. Almost 75% of people with uteruses experience a combination of physical and emotional symptoms a week or two before their period. It can take the form of fatigue, muscle soreness, exhaustion and cramping. All these sensations together are termed period flu.

What causes period flu?

The shifts in your hormone levels dictate how you'll feel both mentally and physically during your ovulation phase. This is why everyone experiences PMS a little differently, while some people never exhibit any symptoms. Genetics may also play an important role here according to research. Period flu lasts till the beginning of your periods. It can be considered as the indication of your period.

Before your period, prostaglandins, which are hormone-like fatty acids, are produced to help your uterus shed its lining. Prostaglandins also cause uterine contractions that feel like cramps in your lower belly. They also cause your gut muscles to contract and can give you gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhoea. Prostaglandins can also make raise your body temperature and cause fever.

period flu

What are the symptoms of this flu?

Menstruators experience symptoms differently. Symptoms will usually occur during the time between ovulation and when your period begins. You won’t experience all these symptoms every month. It varies among people, usually, you experience one or two of these symptoms.

A few may also experience an extreme case of PMS known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) that can manifest as irritability, depression, mood swings, or anxiety.

Symptoms may include:

  • fatigue
  • feeling hot
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • cramping
  • headaches
  • appetite changes
  • food cravings
  • tender breasts
  • sleep disturbances
  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • increase in depression symptoms or anxiety
  • joint pain
  • temperature

Ways to tame the period flu

Period flu is a monthly occurrence. Although this cannot be prevented, its effects can be controlled. Here are some tips you can try when period flu hits you like a tornado:

1. Use hot and cold therapy : Hot water baths with scented oils (or without) to relax aching muscles and body. A steamy bath will give your body just what it requires to relax. If you experience breast tenderness, ice packs covered in towels may help relieve you of pain. Leave the pack on the breast only for 30 mins. Heat pads can be used for relief from abdominal cramps.

2. Sleep away your pains : A good night’s sleep can give miraculous results. Some people may experience sleep problems during this time. Clear your schedule and avoid distractions. Go to bed early, make sure your bedroom is dark and unwind.

3. Eat foods that are high in magnesium and fibre : Magnesium is naturally found in foods like spinach, pumpkin seeds, and even dark chocolate. Including them in your diet may help squash pain and fatigue. Fibre is another dietary element that needs to be included. Fibre (25 g per day) can help stop bloating and constipation.

4. Drink water : Drink enough water to aid digestion and prevent bloating and cramps. You can add lemon slices, mint or berries to your water for flavour. Juices or smoothies are good options as well.

5. Stay miles away from stress : Stress is a constant threat to all of us. You must keep stress at bay especially during PMS. Anxiety can build up easily during this time and hence should be avoided. You may opt for activities like meditation, yoga, mindfulness or any activity that calms you.

6. Move around : Before the onset of period flu, make sure you clock in enough hours of exercise. Exercise has been shown over and over again to help with menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms overall. Aerobic exercise is found to energize you and reduce water retention and excess fluid in your joints.

7. Monitor your diet : Most of us use this period of flu time to indulge in fast food or chocolate. It goes without telling how harmful it is. That extra cup of coffee can cause joint pain, swap it with tea for its natural anti-inflammatory properties. A good diet should be followed during this time.

8. Over the counter painkillers : You may use over the counter painkillers to get ease from cramps, breast tenderness or joint pain. You may use pills to lower your temperature.

9. Quit smoking : Research has shown that smoking worsens PMS symptoms. A 2018 study also linked smoking to irregular periods and early menopause. If you currently smoke, talk to a healthcare provider about a smoking cessation program to help you quit.

10. Take Vitamin B6 supplements and calcium : Vitamin B-6 can help ease some period-related symptoms, including moodiness, bloating, and irritability. You can take a B-6 supplement or get B-6 through foods such as poultry, fish, fruit, and potatoes. Calcium supplements can help you lessen the severity of your symptoms.

If no intervention is working for you and you keep feeling horrible when your period starts, speak with your gynaecologist. A proper diagnosis can be made with their help to keep you up and about during this time.

Warning Signs :

Your period is a good indicator of your hormonal and reproductive health. Keep a close eye on it and address any early changes with a healthcare provider immediately.

  • Severe belly pain : Severe cramping before, during and after your period can be a sign of endometriosis. Be sure to have it checked.
  • High Fever : Although prostaglandins make you feel warm, a temperature of 100.4 and above may also be a cause of an infection. Visit a provider and get tested.
  • Prolonged nausea and watery diarrhoea are not healthy : Keep hydrated and visit a doctor to make sure it's not a stomach bug.
  • If your period flu symptoms persist for longer than 3 weeks with no sign of a period, get tested for a pregnancy. Some symptoms of early pregnancy can overlap with these.

The Bottom Line

People with pre-existing conditions, like autoimmune issues or rheumatoid arthritis, will even experience a flare-up of their symptoms just before their period—and then things get better after they menstruate. This is due to hormonal fluctuations.

If your symptoms are so bad, physical or emotional, that they’re interrupting your daily routine, then you need to get checked out. There might be some other causes at play and timing with your period and mere coincidence. For example, maybe you have a thyroid disorder, which exhibits similar symptoms (excessive fatigue, weakness, muscle and body aches). Although prostaglandin can cause fever, if your temperature is 101 or 102 and is persistent, then you need to have it evaluated to rule out an infection.

Period flu symptoms can make it hard to function, but there are several things you can do for relief. Certain lifestyle changes and therapies can also help you prevent or at least minimize future symptoms.

Disclaimer - This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

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