How to take care of yourself during your period, Taiwan version

Here are the tips I get from my Taiwanese friends about how to be as comfortable as possible when you’re having your period:

  1. Avoid cold foods and beverages like they are deadly.

When I tell Americans this, they laugh. What does cold water have to do with your uterus? But I swear by this tip now. For me, avoiding ice-cold beverages or anything straight out of the fridge in the days leading up to and during my period really minimizes cramps. I still feel uncomfortable and bloated, but I don’t need to take ibuprofen by the handful.

2. Avoid spicy foods.

The wisdom behind this is that women should generally avoid foods that are too warming because they run colder than men. For me, I’ve not experienced any correlation between spicy foods and cramps, so I don’t worry about it. Maybe try it if you’re looking for new, natural ways to minimize the days of discomfort that is having your period.

3. Drink black sugar tea.

Black sugar isn’t a big thing in the U.S. just yet, but it’s huge in Japan and Taiwan. I can’t find a ton of information on it in English, but I think it’s like less processed sugar sold in super-dense cubes. You can eat it like candy or dissolve it in hot water and drink it as a “tea”. I haven’t found it to have any magical pain-relieving properties, but it’s damn tasty, especially with ginger. Here’s a recipe for black sugar tea with ginger.

[No one I’ve talked to here has heard of using ginger to relieve period pain, but I’ve read about it elsewhere and there are plenty of resources online saying it could help. But my friends here do think that black sugar and ginger tea is very warming in winter and soothing when you have a cold.]

4. Don’t drink alcohol.

This one is funny to me because my Taiwanese friends who don’t drink much insist that you should avoid drinking alcohol during your period, but my friends who drink regularly say it’s fine to drink alcohol, just skip the ice. If you don’t want to abstain during while you’re on the rag, try your having your cocktails or beer at room temperature. (And let me know how much you like that.)

5. Drink 四物湯 (four-ingredient soup) after your period.

This is a Chinese medicinal soup that you drink to fortify yourself after your period. It’s made  with chicken, salt, and Chinese medicinal herbs: angelica root, Chinese foxglove, white dahlia root, and chuan xiong. In case that list sounds intimidating to you (it does to me!), you can do what everyone here does (and what I did): use a prepared spice packet from the store. (Here is some more information about Chinese herbal soup ingredients.) I don’t know if this helps at all, but the last time I made it, soup was so good I drank the whole pot, by myself, over two days.

[Psss: You can buy the herb packet from Amazon. <–This is not an affiliate link.]

For me, the best advice has been to avoid cold drinks and coffee. The past three months, I have taken the recommended dose of ibuprofen the first day of my period and that’s it. Every month before that, the pain was so intense, I felt nauseous. I was taking almost twelve pills a day for the first two or three days just to be able to get out of bed and get to work. But for health reasons, I cut back on coffee and started drinking green tea and matcha. Since then, the pain has faded right down to a manageable discomfort. And if I am smart enough to stay away from iced tea and cold beer before and during my period, the discomfort is negligible.

What do you do to minimize your discomfort during your period? Any interesting tips from different places?

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