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What Causes Period Flu? Symptoms & Treatments

By now, we all know that having our periods is a good thing. It tells us our bodies are functioning properly and keeps us healthy. We’re way past whining about them because we appreciate the power our bodies have to keep this sacred monthly cycle. 

However (and that’s a big however), zero people enjoy being sick, and some of us get flu-like symptoms every. single. month. If you feel like you’re coming down with something every time your Aunt Flo comes to visit, you could be suffering from period flu. 

Period flu is a real thing, and we’ve got everything you need to know about what it is, what causes it, and what you can do to get relief. 

What Is Period Flu?

Period flu is a condition that makes some women experience flu-like symptoms during their periods. Normally, these symptoms last between two to three days before their periods start until the day their periods end. 

Most people who have period flu experience the worst symptoms during the first few days of their period. Symptoms can be mild, but they can also be so bad that you may miss school or work. Once their period is over, most women feel instantly better until they have their next period. When they get to their next period, they begin to feel sick once more. 

Isn’t It the Same As PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and period flu are two different phenomena. PMS describes symptoms that you experience the week or days leading up to your period. You may have symptoms like: 

  • Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea
  • Breakouts
  • Mood swings or big emotions

PMS is usually quickly identifiable for most of us. We usually know our cycles and can predict which days we will feel a little more sensitive or expect a little breakout. PMS symptoms can be mild to severe, but mostly somewhere in between. Over-the-counter remedies can help you get relief from PMS symptoms. 

Period flu is different. Period flu often happens when you start your period. Unlike PMS, which usually stops once your period starts, you won’t get relief from having your period. Your symptoms will begin when you have your period, and they may not end until your period is over. 

Period flu symptoms are worsened because you’re actually on your period and may experience classic period symptoms like cramping and fatigue. 

What Are the Symptoms of Period Flu?

Period flu symptoms are so named because they are so similar to common flu-like symptoms. This is why you’ll sometimes find yourself wondering if you should visit the doctor when you start your period-you can even run a low-grade fever!

Symptoms of period flu are similar to the symptoms you might experience with PMS but are usually more severe and can include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea. You may even experience more gas (sorry) and stool that is a little different in texture than normal (sorry again). 

The two symptoms that really differentiate period flu from PMS are the presence of a low-grade fever and body aches. While you might have cramps during PMS, period flu sufferers may experience body aches and muscle soreness similar to the type you have when you’re getting sick with the flu. 

You may also experience a low-grade fever (below 100.1) and have chills. With PMS, it’s more likely that you’d experience hot flashes instead of chills.

When you have period flu, you’ll feel like you’re on the verge of getting sick. You’ll feel tired, drained of energy, and like your body is trying to fight off a bug. You’ll never feel quite as sick as you do when you have the actual flu, but you’ll continually feel bad until your period is over. 

What Causes Period Flu?

Period flu is caused by a fluctuation with your hormones and your body’s response to those fluctuations. Some women’s hormones seem to fluctuate without them ever noticing, but for most of us, there are side effects. Some of us have side effects that are far worse than others, and period flu can be a side effect. 

Two main factors can make you feel bad when you have your period. 

  1. Prostaglandins. Prostaglandins aren’t actually hormones, but they’re like hormones. They’re fatty acids that collect in the uterus and help shed its lining during your period. Before your period, your body produces a lot of these guys. 

    Excess prostaglandins can land in your bloodstream and travel all over your body, wreaking havoc on your stomach and intestines and causing an inflammatory response that makes you feel sick. 

  2. Estrogen. During your period, changes in estrogen levels can make you feel like a brick wall of fatigue has hit you. Even if you don’t feel sick, the rise and fall of your estrogen levels can make you feel like you don’t have any energy. 

These are the two main culprits behind period flu.

Pregnancy

If you’ve never experienced period flu in the past and there’s a chance you could be pregnant, grab a pregnancy test to be sure. The same symptoms that you may experience if you have period flu can resemble early signs of pregnancy. 

Treatments for Period Flu

When you get the period flu, there are several ways you can practice good self-care and get relief. Above all, be gentle with yourself. Period flu is absolutely real, and the symptoms you are having aren’t in your head. 

Over-the-Counter Medication

Everyone has their favorite over-the-counter medication, and you can definitely take yours when you have period flu. Pay attention to the side effects of these medications; some of them can cause stomach upset, making digestive issues worse. 

If you’re looking for a natural, holistic remedy, try calcium. Though there are numerous herbs and remedies that have been recommended for treating physical symptoms from your period, calcium has consistently proven to help reduce the severity of symptoms.  

Heating Patches

Relief from stomach aches and cramps can best be helped with the aid of heating pads and patches. Obviously, you can’t take your heating pad to work or school without getting a few weird looks, but you can take Rael’s heating patches no matter where you go. 

Our heating patches work by combining natural herbs that deliver gentle, soothing heat just where you need it most. Our patches are designed to attach to the inside of your underwear so they don’t irritate your skin with sticky adhesive. 

Rael’s heating patches give you hours of warm, discreet relief, so you can feel better and keep up with your day. 

Clean Up Your Diet

What you eat will help you feel better, faster. Consuming alcohol, caffeine, and sugar can make you feel sick and also worsen your symptoms. If you’re feeling especially queasy, try sticking to a bland diet (foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, and plain toast) until you’re feeling better. 

If you’re experiencing symptoms like diarrhea, make sure you’re staying hydrated. Being dehydrated can cause headaches and cramps worse and can make you feel sicker and more fatigued. You don’t need to consume a gallon of water a day, but try to drink enough to keep your urine clear. 

Practice Good Self Care

Self-care makes a huge difference when you have period flu. If you get period flu every month, try to plan your most comforting self-care routines during this time. Bubble baths, some simple yoga moves, stretching, medication to help reduce your stress levels all count as self-care remedies. 

If you have trouble relaxing, a Rael sheet mask can help. Not only will it hydrate your skin and help you deal with period-related blemishes, but it will also force you to take a moment to relax. 

It’s also a great time to make sure you have the right products on hand to take care of the other aspects of your period, like protecting from leaks and making sure your skin is on point. Rael’s period essentials package has everything you need to take care of yourself holistically while you’re feeling bad or even when you’re feeling fine. 

Get Rael

You can have a better period simply by knowing that the symptoms you are experiencing are real and valid. At Rael, we know that even though you might get the period flu, it’s nothing you can’t handle. We offer holistic and natural products, so you can still feel empowered by your period, no matter what it throws your way. 


Sources:

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic 

Prostaglandins | YourHormones.info 

Calcium carbonate and the premenstrual syndrome: effects on premenstrual and menstrual symptoms. Premenstrual Syndrome Study Group | PubMed
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