We buy organic, we don’t forget our reusable bags, and we switched laundry detergents to avoid harsh chemicals. In the past ten years we’ve changed our lives in so many ways to be greener, healthier, and more sustainable.
We watch what we put in and on our bodies from kale to face masks while making a conscious efforts to protect our planet. But our periods and menstrual health are often forgotten when going green.
an eco-friendly period
Perhaps unsurprisingly, our vaginal health has been ignored, but being late to the party is better than never showing up.
Nowadays there are new methods of managing period hygiene, caring for symptoms, and tracking cycles that are better for your health and the planet. We’ve got all the info you need to turn your period green! (Not literally, if your period turns green go see a doctor.)
Managing your period hygiene
Up until recently, you pretty much had a choice of tampons or pads. These products contain chemicals you wouldn’t even wear in your shirt, let alone put inside your body or on such a delicate and sensitive area as the vagina.
They also are a massive source of waste. The average woman uses about 9,120 tampons and 2,280 pads in her life. That’s an insane amount of plastic and waste going straight into a landfill. Not to mention a pretty penny when you add it all up.
Now there are a few options when it comes to period hygiene that make less of an impact on the environment, your wallet, and your health.
Reusable pads or panty liners are made from natural fibers so you get to skip the synthetic materials of disposable pads. They work pretty much the same as a the pads you grew up with–change it out as often or a little as you would the disposable pad.
They come in all sizes from panty liners for a light day to night pads for the gnarlier cycles and studies have found they are just as absorbent as the old throw-away pads.
how do they work?
Most companies that sell reusable pads include a go-bag for you to store a used pad when you’re out and about. They’re discreet and the pads generally fold in on themselves regardless of being saturated. Once you get home, you just throw your pad into the wash with your laundry, dry, and you’re good to go.
If the thought of carrying around a used pad makes you cringe, you don’t have to make the full switch to reusable pads. Maybe start by wearing one to bed or around the house for the day and once you are comfortable with them you can begin to integrate them into your daily life.
Let’s talk tampons
There is such a thing as a reusable tampon, but it seems the jury is still out on whether or no they are putting you at a higher risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome. I talked with Nurse Practitioner Karen Cascio who explained that the multifilament fibers in tampon strings create an environment where bacteria can reproduce rapidly and was being carried up the string and into the vagina.
On top of that the pH level of your vagina is affected by a tampon making us even more susceptible to bacterial overgrowth.
Instead of a reusable tampon, I recommend looking for an eco-friendly tampon that’s good for your body as well. Steer clear of bleached tampons to avoid an unnecessary practice that is harsh on the environment.
There are now fully organic tampons you can search out, as well as fragrance and dye-free options to keep your pH levels as stable as possible.
The new “green” craze is the Diva Cup. It is a silicon cup you insert into your vagina and it suctions to the walls to prevent leaking. The cup hold your menses and you empty it at the same intervals you would change a tampon.
After experimenting with all these options, the Diva Cup is my favorite. Since the cleaning and reuse of the Diva Cup is just a quick wash in the sink, you only need one and it’s so easy to use.
This not only save you money, but also helps the environment by minimizing laundry. There are different sizes so every woman can find one that works for her.
Many women believe douching during their periods helps with the flow and makes them feel clean, but Nurse Practitioner Karen Cascio says the worst thing you can do for your vagina is douche, especially with a fragranted douche.
protecting your pH
Douching alters the pH balance in your vagina making you very prone to bacterial and yeast infections. The washes used can even dry out your sensitive skin down there and cause irritation.
She recommends for women who insist on douching that they use white vinegar as a natural supplement to other washes on the market.
Caring for your period symptoms
There are a few natural remedies for easing the symptoms of periods. From cramps to PMS there are ways to soothe your body naturally.
Try drinking herbal teas to calm cramps
Chamomile and cramp bark tea have both been used for centuries as a natural assuagement. Exercise is also a life-saver when it comes to cramps. Daily activity and exercise can help your body adjust to period symptoms.
To balance out PMS and mood swings up your vitamin B6 intake and/or try incorporating CBD into your diet.
My favorite remedy for a bad period that’s got me cuffed to the couch is a heating pad infused with essential oils. You can create a makeshift heating pad by warming bottles of water and adding calming essential oils like lavender, clary sage and marjoram.
Tracking your cycle and hormone balance
Technology is catching up to us ladies and finally we have some great apps that can make our menstrual lives a little easier. There are tons of apps to choose from, some free, some for a small fee.
Why track your cycle?
You can find apps that offer you everything from tracking your intimacy, ovulation, mood swings and more. And they come with fun graphs and charts you can customize.
There are even apps to help women with irregular periods learn more about their cycle and find any patterns hidden in the chaos.
listening to your body
Cascio says once you’ve determined your cycle there are a few easy lifestyle changes you can make to help with certain symptoms. Amping up the exercise before a period will help lessen cramps.
Decreasing caffeine and chocolate intake will help with breast tenderness… although that means giving up your comfort foods in a time of great need. But if you’re someone who really struggles with severe breast tenderness it’s something to consider.
As always, every woman is different and it’s up to you to take these tips and find what works best for your body, while also protecting our environment.