Premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, associated with our monthly hormonal fluctuations, vary widely from person to person, both in form and level of discomfort. Nausea is a surprisingly common symptom experienced by many women leading up to and during menstruation, ranging from slight discomfort to cyclical vomiting.
Nausea can be an especially concerning symptom for any sexually active woman because of its association with pregnancy. However, unlike morning sickness, nausea associated with menstruation will usually occur cyclically just after ovulation (mid way through your cycle) or at the onset of menstruation.
- In preparation for menstruation, hormones that control and maintain the uterine lining fluctuate (chiefly progesterone, oestrogen and luteinizing hormone). This allows the lining to break down, signaling menstruation. However, this hormonal fluctuation can directly affect the digestive tract, leading to feelings of nausea and vomiting.
- These same hormonal fluctuations can also lead to a temporary dysfunction of the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling nausea and vomiting - a phenomenon that is similar to the concept of morning sickness in pregnancy.
- Finally, nausea can be the side effect of the extreme pain that some women experience during PMS and in the early stages of menstruation - from headaches, breast pain or uterine cramps. During PMS and the earlier stages on menstruation, chemical messengers called prostaglandins, are released from the uterus that cause uterine cramping. Unfortunately these chemicals may also affect surrounding organs, like the intestines, which may give rise to feelings of bloating and nausea.
Do you simply have to ride it out? Thankfully, no, there is something you can do. If the symptoms are debilitating, you should seek out your health care professional to understand the underlying issue, for medication to help with the nausea and to rule out secondary dysmenorrhea such as endometriosis or some form of infection.
If you’re looking for a natural approach, peppermint, ginger and chamomile have been shown to reduce nausea, bloating and vomiting, while chaste tree berry may support the underlying cause of the issue, by helping to balance levels of progesterone and estrogen*.
Ensure you eat easily-digestible foods during this time such as soups or smoothies that soothe the digestive tract, and be sure you’re regularly exercising, avoiding spicy, sugary and fatty foods, alcohol and excess caffeine. As always, do your best to get plenty of rest.
Extreme menstrual or premenstrual symptoms of any kind, including extreme nausea, should not be something any woman has to endure long term.