Biohacking is big news, whether it’s Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey talking about intermittent fasting, or Gwyneth Paltrow advocating for juice cleanses.
There are more intense ways of biohacking – some of which include chip implants – but for most people, it essentially means optimising your lifestyle to improve how your body feels. Dorsey and Paltrow’s lifestyle changes might sound extreme, but biohacking isn’t just for celebrities.
What if you could hack something that affects a lot of people, something that’s often quite painful and annoying? Like periods. Yep, people have been questioning whether there’s a way to manipulate menstruation via biohacking – or, at the very least, make it a bit more manageable.
"Biohacking your period means being able to influence when periods occur and how easy they are to cope with, through adjustments to your diet, exercise, and general lifestyle," explains Dr. Diana Gall of Doctor4U.
Unfortunately, there’s no real natural, reliable way of changing when your period occurs. If you do have an important event coming up that you don’t want to be on your period for, Gall suggests talking to your doctor about medication that could delay menstruation.
"While there’s little evidence ‘biohacking’ can significantly change the timing of periods, it can positively affect how you feel during periods," Gall explains.
Regularly exercising throughout your cycle is a relatively easy thing you can do. "Past studies have found that women who regularly exercise are less likely to experience menstrual pain, cramps and mood disturbance," says Gall. "It’s not clear how exercise benefits the menstrual cycle, but it’s been suggested the release of hormones such as serotonin, and endorphins during exercise, could provide benefits."
Another thing you can do – which is common in the biohacking community – is to think about your diet. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to drink coffee full of butter (known as bulletproof coffee; a beloved breakfast substitute of many biohackers).
Gall says this doesn’t "mean a major overhaul of your diet is necessary, but eating foods rich in omega-3 and vitamin D, and minimising your intake of animal fats, salt and caffeine are believed to impact your periods. Vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds – all commonly associated with a healthy diet – have also been linked with better periods.
period pain is not a joke— erinæ (@errinmalik) January 28, 2020
"Women who suffer from heavy periods could also benefit from eating lean meat (red meat or chicken) which are a good source of iron and protein."
Gall also recommends women "consider adding nutritional supplements to their diet in order to improve the experience of periods further". Ones to think about include vitamins B6 and B1, vitamin E, vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, zinc and fish oils, although Gall does warn that some supplements "can interact with medication".
These are long-term lifestyle changes that could help with periods – popping a vitamin pill right now is unlikely to help if you’re in the throes of period pains though. "If you are currently suffering from heavy/painful periods, then there are a wide-range of treatments which the NHS recommends, but you’re best discussing the options with a doctor to identify the right one for you," says Gall.