5 Ways Herbalists Have Immensely Helped Me

Many of you know the story of how a crazy autoimmune disease I was diagnosed with was just the result of a gluten intolerance. I found out this monumental piece of information with the help of an herbalist when I was 21.

No one I knew had ever seen an herbalist and I’m not sure why I felt driven to find one. Maybe it was because I was facing a life of chemo. Maybe because I was in chronic pain. Or maybe it was just something bigger telling me that this wasn’t the end of my journey.

I’ve worked with two herbalists since the one I originally saw moved away. Here’s how these women have immensely helped me improve my health and quality of life with some simple suggestions!

Note: I am not a doctor. Please take the following information from my experience only. This information is not intended to provide medical guidance.

Discovering the Cause of My Autoimmune Disease (Hint: It was Gluten)

When I was 21, I was told by a well-known doctor in a city near me that I would most likely be on chemotherapy for the rest of my life. Although I felt like I wanted to give up hope at that time, I ended up pursuing another option—finding a natural treatment for my autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

Through an herb shop about an hour away from me, I located an herbalist who agreed to see me. During my second visit with her, she told me that she thought gluten was causing my illness. I thought she was crazy. I hardly knew what gluten was.

She turned out to be right. A protein named gluten was causing my immune system to attack all my muscles and my skin. Within a week of going gluten-free, all my autoimmune symptoms disappeared and I was able to stop taking all of my medication. That was seven years ago.

The fact that I spent over four years on detrimental pharmaceutical medications, gained 30 pounds, and felt sick all the time was all undone by a woman who knew that food could make us sick. Her simple but profound knowledge dramatically changed my life for the better.

Without discovering that root cause of my illness, I would likely still be on all those medications today and still feel terrible. My quality of life would have been compromised all because doctors are still grasping the idea that food can cause such severe illnesses.

Saying Goodbye to My Crazy-Bad Menstrual Cramps

I have more or less always had bad menstrual cramps. They aren’t consistent, though. Some months are absolutely terrible. Other months aren’t bad at all. Trust me, I’ve yet to find a pattern (although I have a few theories after trying to figure it out for the last 16 years).

When I began working with an herbalist to learn more about the Fertility Awareness Method, we also worked on addressing the cause of my crazy bad cramps. The solutions she suggested have helped me to remain mostly pain-free during my period today.

Through drinking a ginger infusion, taking magnesium glycinate, and taking omega-3 supplements, my menstrual cramps have majorly improved. In the last seven months, I have only had one episode of bad pain thanks to her suggestions.

Since, unfortunately, I’ll be having a period for a long time, her help has enabled me to not feel like I want to die just because I am a woman.

Helping Me Realize Fats Are Not Bad

I have yet to have an herbalist not recommend fat to me (except, of course, the horrible kinds like trans fats).

Saturated fat such as animal fat and coconut oil as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as avocados and olive oil are all part of a healthy body. Yes, people will argue against this. I’m not getting involved in that discussion here. I’m here to say that my herbalists helped me realize that fats are not bad—in fact, they’re pretty essential.

Through their help, I’ve been getting more fats from all types of sources (except for Twinkies) and have more energy and better skin!

Implementing a Natural Method of Birth Control

The Fertility Awareness Method has been an enriching experience for me and my husband. I would have never been able to learn the method as intimately as I have without my herbalist.

The method enables my husband and I to forgo conventional methods of birth control, many of them toxic, and simply track my cycle via taking my basal body temperature (BBT) and monitoring my cervical fluid to know when I’m fertile and avoid intercourse on those days.

Implementing a natural method of birth control has allowed me to honor my body and also choose a conscious form of contraception that doesn’t rely on toxic pharmaceuticals. This is a huge benefit for someone who doesn’t want kids (cough, that’s me).

Allowing Me to Realize Food Is Medicine

Before I began working with herbalists, I didn’t understand how much food impacts our health. Food is everything to our health. What you put in your body, the supplements you take, whether you choose to smoke and drink, all have huge effects on our systems.

Perhaps this is the most important gift herbalists have given me, being able to realize that I have so many chances to put either medicine or poison into my body. By choosing the foods that I feel are best for me, I choose medicine (by medicine obviously meaning plants and grass-fed, free-range meat).

Whether it’s probiotics or herbs, food and supplements are a powerful form of medicine, one that I feel grateful to have tapped into with the help of a professional.

Working with an Herbalist

I would absolutely recommend working with an herbalist if you’re facing any health issues that do not yet have an identified root cause. In many instances, conventional doctors are only trained to treat our symptoms, not the cause of our illnesses.

Even for people who believe they have discovered the root cause of their illness or symptoms, an herbalist can help you better manage your health. I’m so grateful to have worked with my herbalists to be as healthy as I am today!

Why We Need to Say No to Pharmaceutical Birth Control

I’m going to be honest here—I do not, nor have I ever, taken birth control pills.

I just haven’t had a need for them. I chose to abstain from sex during my teenage years. As I got older and realized the impact that pharmaceutical medications have on our bodies, I couldn’t help but wonder—why would people take these pills?

I guess having to take a pill every day isn’t nearly as bad as carrying an unwanted child for nine months. When you put it that way, it seems blissfully simple.

Let’s not forget the fact that many women go on birth control not to avoid pregnancy, but rather to control difficult or heavy periods. Some women even get prescribed birth control simply because they have premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which consists of symptoms women commonly experience before their menstrual cycle starts.

Regardless of why women choose to go on birth control—some at terribly young ages—a need has arisen to question why.

There are safer, more natural methods to birth control. I’m not against birth control. What I am against is the pharmaceutical companies profiting from the harm we women are doing to our bodies by taking these pills every day.

So let’s talk about why we need to say no to pharmaceutical birth control.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. The content contained in this blog post is for educational purposes only. 

A Brief History of Birth Control Pills

The need for birth control goes back centuries. Pulling out (also called the withdrawal method) is one of the oldest methods of birth control.

Pharmaceutical birth control can trace its roots back to Mexico. A chemist by the name of Carl Djerassi in Mexico created birth control by synthesizing compounds from Mexican Wild Yam (which is one of the herbal methods for natural birth control that we’ll discuss later).

The year was 1951 and chemists at pharmaceutical companies were looking for a way to provide birth control to women—but in a synthetic version that they could patent and profit off of. Since people cannot patent nature, no profit was to be made on the natural, Mexican Wild Yam version of birth control. Djerassi could have been credited with the invention of the birth control pill if he’d had the means to test and distribute this product.

In 1952, a pharmaceutical company with the means Djerassi lacked created synthetic progesterone, which hits the market as the pill Enovid in 1960. Despite the fact that women experienced side effects of depression, stroke, cancer, and blood clots, the pill was still deemed safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). By 1970, several more pharmaceutical companies had FDA-approved birth control drugs on the market to get their share of the profit.

It seemed like a miracle—but for whom? The pharmaceutical companies that profited from what’s now a $2.8 billion dollar industry, or the women who no longer had to worry about getting pregnant?

The Risks of Pharmaceutical Birth Control

The side effects of birth control continued to reveal themselves over the years.

Pharmaceutical birth control has been shown to increase the risk of breast, cervical, and liver cancer (it’s been shown to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer, so hey—increase your risk for three or more cancers while decreasing your risk for one, woo hoo!) It has also been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, which is the leading cause of death among women in America.

Hormonal oral contraception has also been linked to:

  • Migraines
  • Infertility
  • Decreased bone density
  • Yeast infections (candida overgrowth, which has a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms)
  • Blood clotting
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Mood disorders
  • And more!

In addition to this, birth control pills produce waste that affects the environment. What this means is that hormones are ending up in our ecosystems, therefore altering life as we know it.

Covering Up Symptoms Rather Than Addressing the Problem

Women’s bodies change when they’re on the pill. We no longer ovulate because our body is tricked into thinking that we’re already pregnant. When we stop taking the pills, we’re supposed to get our period and menstruate as normal.

Birth control pills often cover up symptoms that women commonly experience before and during their period—for instance, acne, mood swings, and painful menstrual cramps. These medicines do not address the root cause of these problems. Our bodies are trying to tell us something when we experience symptoms such as this. For instance, consider:

  • Acne is usually a result of a food intolerance or a lack of fresh foods and omega-3s in the diet. A poor diet can also lead to bad menstrual cramps!
  • Muscle cramping can be a symptom of magnesium deficiency. Simply by getting more magnesium along with calcium and vitamin D in your diet can help prevent painful periods.
  • Poor pelvic circulation was found to be the cause of my painful cramping, and some intensive periods of ginger tea and the right dose and type of magnesium cleared that right up.

What Can We Do?

Say no to pharmaceutical birth control. Say no to a billion-dollar industry that’s increasing our risk for certain types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and hormonal problems. Say no to animal testing. Say yes to alternative methods!

If we’re taking the pill as a contraceptive

We have so many other choices! From the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) to Neem oil, Mexican Wild Yam, Queen Anne’s Lace, Slippery Elm Bark, and more, the herbal methods we can choose from are numerous.

My partner and I use the Fertility Awareness Method, which took some time and training from a professional herbalist to learn. It’s important to learn what method works best for you. Like any method of birth control, nothing is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, so it’s important to be informed and diligent about what you choose.

If you choose to go with a natural method, working with an experienced herbalist can help ensure the best chances of pregnancy prevention success. I would absolutely not recommend Googling these things and trying them on your own, especially if you are not ready for a child.

If we’re taking the pill to reduce period symptoms

Diet can alleviate many of these symptoms, as can proper nutrient intake. Everyone should have the right to eat healthily and know their body. We have the ability to get tested and know if we’re deficient in any nutrients and take the proper steps to correct it. We have the right to a healthy body and healthy choices.

Regardless of what symptoms you’re experiencing surrounding your menstrual cycle, work with a professional to discover and address the root cause of the problem. Attempting to find a solution on your own can work, but it typically takes a lot more time, effort, and money. Working with an herbalist or other natural doctors can help you stop your period pain, reduce your symptoms, and help you feel better during your cycles!

Do we need another reason to say no to harmful contraceptive pills that are man-made? Why not just use the natural substances and eliminate the harmful side effects? With a little more knowledge about our bodies as well as the plants that can help us, we can better understand our choices for pregnancy prevention. Let’s say no to pharmaceutical birth control and save our bodies and our environment!

10 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea (And What Finally Worked for Me)

lavender-1519933_640

Ok seriously, how many of you suffer from dysmenorrhea?

I’m going to warn you that before you read further, things are gonna get a little personal in this post. So if you don’t like reading about periods or women’s bodies make you uncomfortable, you can leave.

All good? Good.

Dysmenorrhea is the condition of experiencing insanely painful menstrual cramps. My periods have always been relatively bad, but lately, they’ve been really awful. Two periods ago I had the worst period of my life and honestly would have rather died than dealt with that. It was that bad.

Here’s a list of ridiculous things that have happened during my dysmenorrhea-infused periods:

  1. Age 13: Walking down the hall in middle school to the nurse’s office, nearly passing out from the pain.
  2. Age 15: Got picked up from high school by one of my aunts. Walked inside and made four parallel cuts on my left arm with a knife. It didn’t hurt as bad as the cramps.
  3. Age 21: In the bathtub throwing up oatmeal. My brother had to come over to give me some medication. I couldn’t move.
  4. Age 22: On the floor of the women’s bathroom at Penn State with my face pressed into that small space behind the toilet, moaning. Girl asks, “Are you ok?”
  5.  Age 25: In the bathroom throwing up chili, ended up in the bathtub with a knife.
  6. Age 26: Throwing up in the car while my fiance drives us home, scratching myself with a big knife, almost passing out from the pain. Screaming.

These are just the bad ones I remember. There have been countless other times over the last 14 years since I’ve had my period. My dysmenorrhea usually involves a bathtub, a knife, and vomit.

Sounds fun, right? God, I love being a woman. I really do.

With that in mind, I was inspired to create this list of things I’ve tried when it comes to cures for dysmenorrhea. So here’s what works and here’s what doesn’t.

A side note: I am not an herbalist or a nutritionist. The information contained in this post is for educational purposes only. 

 

10 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea

 

1. Cramp Bark

You can find cramp bark in capsules or just buy a big bag of it from Mountain Rose Herbs. It tastes disgusting, but you drink it as a tea (or can take the capsules or use a tincture) to help with painful cramping.

Cramp bark can be taken in the days leading up to your period and can be taken the day of. I have also taken the capsules but have not tried the tincture.

The tea is extremely bitter. Whatever you do, don’t make it too strong!

2. White Willow Bark and Boswellia

This combination actually works pretty well. These are two herbs that are taken together to produce a “Motrin-like effect” on the body. The problem is, you need to take them the morning you get your period. By the time your period starts, it’s too late. At least this has been my experience.

I drink white willow bark tea and take boswellia capsules. I used to take white willow capsules, but then I couldn’t find any that didn’t contain gelatin. So I switched to the tea. Just like cramp bark, this tea is bitter, but it’s not as bad as cramp bark in my opinion.

Get the capsules or the tea and take a few hours before you get your period. This combination can work for other forms of pain as well—I’ve used for headaches and migraines with excellent results!

3. Hot Things: Bath and Heating Pad

In order to stimulate circulation, some people suggest applying a hot compress and then a cold one to your stomach area during your period. I have had mixed results with this method.

What I have had success with is taking a hot bath and then crawling into bed with a heating pad. The heat seems to help the cramps and just helps me to feel better.

Problem is, I don’t always have direct access to a bathtub. Which is why I now work from home and can take as many bloody baths as I want (pun intended). Told you this was going to get graphic. Or wait, I said personal. Same difference.

4. Coconut Oil and Lavender Massage

This one is interesting: research shows that this actually can help and is one of the best cures for dysmenorrhea!

Just get some lavender essential oil and coconut oil (or your carrier oil of choice) and massage your lower stomach. After 20 minutes, it’s supposed to help you feel better.

You can also just straight up huff lavender essential oil while experiencing painful cramping and it’ll help you feel better! Smelling lavender seems to help me more than the massage, actually.

5. Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)

My doc suggested I take this stuff throughout the month to lessen the severity of my periods. I don’t feel that it has helped all that much and I eventually stopped taking it. You should take it pretty regularly to experience results.

The dose is between 500-1,500 milligrams a daily. I take 1,000 milligrams. Easy with capsules. They provide essential fatty acids that are also great for skin and hormone regulation. Find some organic vegan ones like Deva Vegan Evening Primrose Oil.

6. Magnesium and Calcium

You’re probably deficient in magnesium and calcium.

Taking these supplements a few days before your period (some people may need to take them throughout the month to see results) and the day of your period can help reduce cramping greatly.

Everyone is different and everyone’s body will tolerate these supplements differently. Talk to your doc!

(Below: see an update to this post because the right dose and form of magnesium has really helped me out!)

7. Masturbation and Sex

Oh dear, this is the part where I said it would get personal, right?

Masturbation works, but I’ve had short-term results with this method. Not enough to actually stop the cramping for good. Sex can work.  The problem with this method is that you don’t really feel that turned on when you’re in extreme pain. But if you’re desperate…

It works!

8. Deep Breathing

Tried this during my last one too with positive results. I’ve been really into Eckhart Tolle and presence lately. Staying present has helped my dysmenorrhea greatly. Practice deep breathing, stay present in the moment, and understand that you are not your mind or body. It helps!

9. Exercising

This is a big one and regular exercise is definitely one of the best cures for dysmenorrhea. I promise. Get out there and do some cardio: this is what has worked the best for me, specifically running. You don’t need to overdo it, just go for a run a couple times a week.

10. The Menstrual Cup

If you’re still using tampons, you need to stop now. Those death sticks contain a known carcinogen called dioxin. And you’re sticking it up your vag! Seriously???

I used tampons for years (it still makes me cringe to think about that) before finally switching to the menstrual cup and cloth cotton reusable pads. I will never go back.

The menstrual cup can help alleviate your period cramps and relax your vagina a little. Don’t believe me? Give it a try, punk.

On the other hand, some herbalists think that blocking the flow of the blood with a tampon or menstrual cup can actually cause severe cramping. I’ve found that this is not the case with me, but it’s definitely worth experimenting with to see if this makes a difference for you.

If you’re already using the menstrual cup and it leaks, check out my guide to stop that thing from leaking!

 

5 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea I Have Tried Without Success

 

1. Licorice Root

Licorice is supposedly great for many things, especially helping to regulate hormones and helping during your period. I did not have success with this herb (I love licorice root tea though!)

2. White Peony Root

Tried white peony root (which is anti-spasmodic) without success. I have heard that using licorice root in combination with white peony root can help greatly with painful uterine spasms that sufferers of dysmenorrhea commonly experience. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. I’ll likely give it another try though.

3. Cayenne Pepper Tea

Straight up. Didn’t work. I’ve heard hot peppers are great for pain. Didn’t work for me. Plus it was disgusting!

4. Yoga

I love yoga, but unfortunately, it hasn’t so far helped me when it comes to cures for dysmenorrhea.

5. Eating Warm Foods and Spices

I had an herbalist suggest to me that I stop eating raw foods and drinking raw smoothies to help with my dysmenorrhea. She suggested eating cooked foods the majority of the time with an emphasis on warming spices such as ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon, especially on the days leading up to your period. I’ve tried this without success, unfortunately.

 

4 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea I Have Not Yet Tried

 

These are things I haven’t tried, some of them I don’t plan on trying but others I do!

1. Birth Control

I have never been on birth control or tried birth control. Nor do I want to be. That stuff is unnatural and messes your body up. I’d rather suffer from painful cramping than use this shit when it comes to cures for dysmenorrhea.

2. Calendula Flowers

These are anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory. I use calendula flowers regularly but have not yet applied them to cures for dysmenorrhea. Have you tried them? I should try them next time to see if they work. The tea is much milder than cramp bark or white willow bark!

3. Valerian

I haven’t tried valerian, but I’ve heard it works. Unfortunately, valerian is also known for making you very sleepy. It’s an excellent anti-anxiety remedy as well as excellent for insomnia. Problem is, some people (ahem, me) get super sleepy on this herb and can’t really function during the day. Not that I can function on the day I get my period anyway.

Valerian tea also smells like stinky feet. It’s rather awful. But it could work as a cure for your dysmenorrhea!

4. Healthy Diet

My diet is already healthy, thank you very much. Before I get my period I love potato chips and sugar. Really hard to not indulge. Maybe one of these days I’ll make veggie smoothies for a week before I get my period and see if that helps as a natural cure for dysmenorrhea.

 

Update: What Finally Worked for Me

 

After years of suffering from dysmenorrhea, I finally began working with an herbalist who really helped me out.

Together, we discovered a pattern: on the first day of menstruation for a few hours, I would be getting these insane cramps, but not bleeding. She suggested perhaps my pelvic circulation was poor and my body was trying really hard to expel the uterine blood and tissue, but couldn’t.

So this is what helped:

  • Ginger. Boil 1 tbsp. of dried organic ginger root in 3 cups of water for 10 minutes. Strain the ginger out and drink the tea throughout the day. This really helps pelvic circulation! If you get tired of the ginger tea (I got really tired of it after a while), you can take Gaia Herbs Ginger Supreme 2 capsules a day.
  • Magnesium. Turns out, your body can’t really absorb magnesium citrate, which is why many people experience diarrhea at high levels of magnesium citrate. My herbalist suggested I take magnesium glycinate, 400mg in the morning and 400mg in the evening for a total of 800mg every day. I do this throughout the month and it really seems to have helped.
  • Breathing. The right kind of breathing actually saved me from one intense episode of menstrual cramps. Breathe in through your nose, then out through your mouth. Remember to keep doing it. I was amazed at how much it helped!

These are the things I have tried for months with success so I’m convinced they work! Of course, I’m probably jinxing myself by updating this post.

 

A Note on Omega-3s

 

I have also been taking lots more omega-3s (EPA and DHA from fish) in the form of fermented cod liver oil and omega-3 supplements.

I did a lot of research and discovered that these types of essential fatty acids are different from the kind you get from vegan sources such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, avocados, etc. Your body can convert these vegan sources into EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate has been shown to be poor. Your best bet is to get them from fish if you’re not vegan.

Also, omega-3 supplements have been shown to be as effective as Ibuprofen in research about painful menstrual cramps.

 

I really hope this post helps some of you looking for cures for dysmenorrhea. It’s an awful condition that makes life particularly difficult. Getting your period is bad enough as it is, suffering from dysmenorrhea certainly doesn’t make it any easier.

I would also really recommend working with a natural health professional, such as an herbalist who specializes in women’s health. I’ve found out all the above tips from 14 years of getting my period, but you could save yourself a lot of pain and trouble simply by working with someone who can help you discover what’s causing your pain and how to make it stop.

What do you think of these natural cures for dysmenorrhea? Have you tried any? Are there some I didn’t list that work for you? I wanna know!

 

HELP! My Menstrual Cup Is Leaking! Your Total Guide to Stop It

Your menstrual cup is leaking?! I know these things are adorable, but they can be frustrating too! Here’s my guide to getting that thing to stop leaking once and for all.

MC Green

It seems that many of you liked my post about the menstrual cup which is great because menstrual cups are amazing.

They can feel intimidating at first—but they’re totally worth it for three badass reasons:

Honestly, it took quite a while for me to get the hang of mine (I’m talking years). For a while, I thought I just wasn’t ever going to get it.

During this time I compiled a list that I keep in my bathroom with the cup for when I have trouble with it (which isn’t often at all now).

I’d like to share this list of twelve items with my fellow females in case some of you are having trouble like I was. Here’s what to do if your menstrual cup is leaking!

1. Check The Seal

When your menstrual cup is leaking, that means the seal has not been created properly.

There needs to be a seal created between the lip of the cup and your vaginal wall. When this seal is created, your menstrual cup should not move easily (you can usually test the seal by grabbing the stem and giving it a good tug to see if it readily moves) and it should not leak. No matter what.

The only way the seal can get messed up once created is by pooing (sorry, people who poo with their menstrual cup in) and pinching the base of the cup. The latter is the action you will do when you are ready to remove the menstrual cup/empty it to break the seal.

But how do we create the seal?

2. Find The Right Fold

There are SO many different folds out there! The “C” fold is supposed to be the most popular, but I’ve found that many women don’t like this fold. I myself don’t like it anymore. I use the “7” fold and the “punch-down” fold. I like the 7 fold better. It’s easy to find out how to do these folds; Google them!

Fold preference really just depends on what works for you. Some women prefer different folds based on their size, or comfort, or what creates the seal best. For me, it’s all about creating the seal. What’s the point of using the bleeding thing if your menstrual cup is leaking?!

Other folds include the origami fold, squiggle fold, diamond fold, and the labia fold. Experiment and find which one is for you!

3. WHERE’S MY CERVIX?!

I promise it’s not that hard, but you really do need to find your cervix if your menstrual cup is leaking.

Supposedly it feels firm and squishy, like the tip of your nose (and yeah, it actually does feel like that). Some women have higher cervixes, some have lower. The cervix is the entrance to your womb, so it’s in your vagina. Stick your finger up there and find it.

It took me a little while to realize that my cervix was actually angled a little to the left, and this has made a huge difference in helping my menstrual cup not to leak. Some women need longer stems on their cups and some need shorter, just depending on where your cervix is. Some women cut off the stem of their menstrual cup because they don’t need it. It’s all about your body and what works for you. But you do need to know where it is.

The menstrual cup should sit just below your cervix. If it’s in too high, this messes up the flow and your menstrual cup won’t work like it’s supposed to. If it’s too low, the seal won’t work.

And, here’s the killer—your cervix can actually move during menstruation. So you won’t just have to find it once but several times during your period. Get to know its position during your cycle!

4. Rotate the Cup

After you do your cute little fold and your menstrual cup pops open inside you, some women suggest giving the cup one full rotation to create the seal (and then pull down slightly) if your menstrual cup is leaking.

5. Pull the Cup Down

Some people suggest pulling the cup down (especially after rotating) to allow it to settle into its best position after it pops open inside you. I’ve found this to be very helpful when creating my seal!

Just pull it down maybe an inch or so, don’t pull the thing out. The pull is more like a gentle but firm tug to make sure the cup is in place.

6. Consider the Material of the Cup

Most cups are made out of silicone. Mine is made out of silicone as well.

So the deal with silicone is that it can be rather soft. This is cool because it makes the cup moldable to your unique vaginal wall in order to create the seal. It’s not cool because its softness can prevent your menstrual cup from properly popping open when it’s inside of you due to its softness.

So what to do? If your menstrual cup is leaking, take it out. Then, before insertion, run the menstrual cup under cold water to help firm up the silicone molecules. It’s actually not too bad inserting a cold cup, and you do need to insert it right after you run it under cold water.

This is a good thing to try if you have tight muscles down there and are having problems with getting your cup to open all the way.

How do you know if your menstrual cup is open all the way?

7. Feel that It’s Open

Running your finger along the edge of the menstrual cup can help you know if your cup is properly open. If your menstrual cup is leaking, chances are it didn’t pop open right. If you feel that it’s not properly open, this is a good time to do the rotation. Or…

8. Do Kegels

You smart ladies all know what these are right? If you don’t, I suggest you get your butt over to Google right now and find out. You need to be doing these, especially if you like to run and/or have children so that your vagina doesn’t fall out (this can happen!).

Kegels are basically just exercises that you do to strengthen your muscles down there. They are very simple. All you do is act like you are holding your pee. So for example, when you pee, just stop peeing. In the middle of it. Do this two times or so and you’re good to go. Eventually, you can learn to do them without peeing.

How can they help you when your menstrual cup is leaking?

They can help you by creating the seal (and, as we’ve discussed, the seal is critical). If you fold your cup and insert it and it doesn’t pop open all the way, or even if it does, you can do kegels to help create the seal. It does feel a little weird doing these exercises while the cup is inside of you (it basically feels like you are trying to push the menstrual cup out of you), but I’ve found that they really help when creating the seal or if you’re having problems with your cup opening all the way.

Kegels also help when you are trying to get the menstrual cup out. If you have it in there good, it might be hard to get out depending on its position. This is where the “pushing it out” feeling comes in handy.

9. Open Your Mouth

This is a weird one, but it works—keeping your mouth open while inserting/getting your cup in properly can help relax your muscles down there, therefore allowing the cup to open naturally and situate itself in the proper position. This one has helped me a lot!

10. Squat

Just as the size and fold of your cup matters as well as the position of your cervix, so does the position YOU are in when inserting your menstrual cup.

I’ve found that different cups come with different instructions for insertion. Some women insert the cup while sitting on the toilet, others while standing, some while squatting.

I’m here to tell you that if your menstrual cup is leaking, you might want to consider changing your position when you insert the cup. In my personal experience, squatting works the best. I never insert my cup any other way.

I started squatting to check my cervix when I started using the fertility awareness method, and I’ve found that this is just a way better position to find my cervix and insert the cup.

Every woman is different so find what works for you, but definitely give squatting a try if your menstrual cup is leaking!

11. Get the Right Size

There are different sizes and shapes of the cups. You need to pick the one that is best for you.

The guidelines that the menstrual cup websites have for sizes seem to be accurate. Mostly I feel that it is personal preference about which cup works best for you, and unfortunately, sometimes this just has to happen with trial and error. Reading reviews is helpful also! If you’re not sure about the size, contact the company and talk to them about it.

12. Contact the Company

If you’ve literally tried everything and your cup is still leaking—don’t give up! Contact the company that made your cup. Tell them what’s going on. They will help you!

I finally had to do this when I was on my fourth menstrual cup, the Lunette, and broke down and contacted the company. I should have done this sooner, because four menstrual cups later… seriously?!

The customer care people at Lunette were incredibly nice, understanding, and kept working with me and asking questions until we had the problem figured out (it was a combination of my cervix being to the left and the cup being too small… those sizes aren’t for everyone! Just because you’re 25 and haven’t given birth vaginally doesn’t mean you need the bigger size and vice versa. These are just guidelines. You’ll only know by trial and error which cup works for you!)

So What Works for Me?

After trying The Keeper and The Lady Cup (both sizes), I use the larger size of the Lunette and have been very successful with this cup.

Here’s my routine for inserting my cup without leaking:

  1. Wash my hands and my cup with Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, rinsing thoroughly
  2. Squat
  3. Check where my cervix is
  4. Fold the cup (I use the “7” fold)
  5. Open my mouth
  6. Insert the cup angled back towards my rectum but also towards my cervix (my cervix is angled to the left)
  7. Let the cup go (I can usually hear it “pop” open; this sound can help you know if the seal is there)
  8. Rotate the cup
  9. Pull the cup down
  10. Do 2-3 kegels
  11. Give it another tug to make sure it’s good

All done!

I know it sounds confusing and complicated… trust me, one day, you’ll find what works for you!

Other Resources

Bottom line: if your menstrual cup is leaking, it’s not working. I hope this list helps. If you’re still confused, there’s this great video by this British girl (woman? She looks so young!) that will give you some more visual help. She is really awesome!

Good luck! 🙂

Your Introduction to the Menstrual Cup

Welcome to your introduction to the menstrual cup. It’s about to get real.

Did you know that feminine care product brands such as Playtex, Kotex, and Tampax test on animals?

I know what you’re thinking—how the hell do they test tampons on animals???

Actually, they test the amount of bleach on animals. What, you didn’t think those white tampons and pads were actually natural, did you? That they came from trees all nice and white? No, sorry. Those mothers were bleached. And you are shoving them up your vag.

I know, right?

Tampons also contain a known carcinogen byproduct, increase your risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and your risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome, a serious illness which a model recently lost a leg to.

Get rid of those chemicals! There are natural brands of tampons and pads that you can buy if you really want to, including organic cotton ones.

But I don’t use tampons and pads anymore, not since I found out about the menstrual cup.

What Exactly Is the Menstrual Cup?

Some of you may already know what a menstrual cup is. I had no idea what it was until I started looking up alternatives to conventional pads and tampons.

The deal is, it’s a small cup that you insert into your vagina that catches your flow rather than absorbing it. Some say this helps to ease cramps. The cup, when inserted properly, should not leak at all.

Fascinating, right? My first menstrual cup was The Keeper, which is made of natural rubber latex.

It Fits Better Than Tampons

Menstrual cups come in different sizes. You may think this looks large, but it’s actually quite small and not difficult to insert after a couple tries (you fold before insertion).

Sizes vary by age, whether or not you have given birth, and personal preference. This menstrual cup is the smaller size for women who have not given birth vaginally. Unfortunately, this cup didn’t work for me. I could not get it to stop leaking and the stem was really long. Some women trim the stems depending on how long they need them to be.

The position of the menstrual cup will be slightly different in every woman’s body. When I was first looking at menstrual cups, I thought, “I’m going to be the most natural hippie ever and not shove silicone into my body, so I’m getting the natural rubber.”

I used this menstrual cup for almost six months and just never got the hang of it. They say that it takes women an average of three periods to master the menstrual cup. For some women, it only takes one. For some, it could take longer (ahem, me).

The menstrual cup requires you to become familiar with your female anatomy. This was great for me because I had no clue what was really up down there. It’s great to be knowledgeable about your body so that you can better care for it.

You Can Pick the Material You Want

After finding out that the natural rubber latex just wasn’t working, I got my second menstrual cup, which was the LadyCup.

The LadyCup is made of medical grade silicone. These cups are much more comfortable to insert and get in and out of your body in my experience. They come in cute colors and the stems are shorter and have grips on the stem, which helps a lot when removing.

As you can see, they have air holes to create the seal. There needs to be a seal created in order for the menstrual cup to work.

For the LadyCup, I got the bigger size because it’s based on age. The menstrual cup needs to be inserted in a specific way and there are a ton of tips and folds that you can do to get it to work properly.

Whether you choose to go totally natural or get a silicone cup, it’s for sure healthier than tampons. I actually went through two more menstrual cups (a smaller LadyCup and finally the Lunette) before finding my perfect fit.

It Takes Time to Get Used To

I’ve been on my adventure with the menstrual cup for several months now and it’s been a fascinating, albeit frustrating, one.

It takes time to get the hang of this but when it works, it’s like magic. Here are just a few benefits of using the menstrual cup:

  • You insert it and you’re good to go for 12 hours
  • You can run, swim, pee, poo, do whatever you need to do with it in
  • When it’s in properly, you don’t feel a thing.
  • It’s more eco-friendly
  • No more trips to the store for tampons!

Didn’t tampons and pads take time to get used to? The menstrual cup will too. You will love it once it works and you’ll definitely love not exposing your vagina to carcinogenic substances.

How to Clean Your Cup

When your cup is full or if it’s leaking, it’s time to take it out and reinsert it.

But let me stop you before you do this.

First, you need to wash your hands. I like using a castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s. If you don’t wash your hands, you’re putting yourself at risk for a UTI (yes, I got a UTI from not washing my menstrual cup my first summer using it).

After emptying the cup, you need to wash the cup. I don’t care if you just put that thing in, wash it again. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off any soap residue. Then, just reinsert. It’s that easy.

It’s really important that your hands are clean before you have any contact with your menstrual cup, so don’t neglect this step!

Not Liking the Cup?

Ok, I get it. Putting a tiny cup in your vagina is just not for everyone. Here are some alternatives to the menstrual cup:

Get reusable cloth pads. You can wash and reuse these. I ordered cloth pads as a backup on days when I don’t feel like messing with the cup or when my flow is lighter. Flannel is actually a great material to use as it’s absorbent or you can go for organic cotton or bamboo.

Try natural tampons and pads. These would include unbleached fibers. They’re easier to deal with if you’re not invested in the menstrual cup, but wasteful for long-term use, as the average woman has her period for something like 40 years and will use nearly 12,000 tampons.

Check out sea sponge tampons. These are pretty cool. I myself haven’t tried them, but Bree (this really cool girl on YouTube who is something like a menstrual cup guru) has and did a video on them, click on the link to check it out.

Don’t Give Up Too Soon!

If you’re having problems getting your cup not to leak, I would encourage you to check out my guide for getting your menstrual cup to stop leaking. Bree also did a video on that which is super neat and helpful if you want the short (or a more visual) version.

Don’t give up on your menstrual cup! You can do this. Contact the company that made your cup—after going through four menstrual cups, Lunette finally helped me find my perfect fit. You might have to do some experimenting to find what works for you.

Trust me, all this effort will totally be worth it in the end!

The Verdict

I really love menstrual cups even though they can be frustrating when getting used to them. They give me a way to avoid animal testing, be more in touch with my body, and be friendly to the earth.

So ladies… happy menstrual cup shopping. There are so many different brands to consider! I do hope you’ll give this a try, as it’s safer for your body, there is no known risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, and it’s so much more convenient for you and the planet.

Cost wise, the cups run anywhere from $20-$40 and last for 10 years. Can you buy boxes and boxes of tampons and pads for $40 in ten years? DOUBT IT.

Embrace your womanhood and check out the menstrual cup; you can pick your favorite color, have it shipped to your door, and get familiar with your body all in the privacy of your own home. What have you got to lose?