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July 21, 2021
Nausea, fatigue, body aches...sounds like the flu, right? Try again. In a plot-twist (almost) as inconceivable as Joey Tribbiani’s brain transplant onDays of Our Lives, the culprit responsible for these symptoms is *actually* the flu’s evil Mediterranean cousin*: period flu.
‘Period flu’ is a colloquially-conspired term used to describe the influenza-like symptoms many people experience before their period. While not recognised as a formal medical diagnosis, its symptoms are felt by many, as noted by Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr Nicole Stamatopoulos, “I do have women who I see that describe fatigue, aches and pains and just generally not feeling great.”
The symptoms of period flu are vast but consistent with symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), such as:
...It’s just a really wonderful chorus of bodily pain, we can’t wait for the motion picture adaptation: ‘My Uterus is killing meSoftly ‘ to be released.
Until then, we decided to make our own story, one that asks: what does it all mean???
According to Dr Stamatopoulos, period flu is closely related to the hormonal shifts our body’s experience during menstruation. While not linked to the influenza virus, (nor is there any evidence to suggest our immune systems are involved), our body mimics similar symptoms.
“I would expect that these symptoms are related to the rapid fall in hormones as your period is about to start. Menstruation is an inflammatory process with the contracting of the uterus and the release of chemicals. These are the same chemicals that are released when you get an infection and may therefore make your body have a similar response.” Dr Stamatopoulos notes.
Because we r ALL unique™ (Also - hormones, again).
“Everyone’s immune system is different. Medical conditions, smoking, obesity, nutrition and stress all impact someone’s immune system. I suspect that these factors, hormone changes and inflammation and their interactions have a role to play,” says Dr Stamatopoulos.
Prior to your menstrual cycle, Prostaglandins (hormone-like fatty acids) are produced to help your uterus shed its lining. When excess prostaglandins make their way into your bloodstream, a range of period symptoms take place, from cramps to gas and period poop - yes, we know you know.
Cyclic changes in your sex hormones (mainly estrogen), can cause tiredness, breast tenderness and mood swings, while chemical changes in your brain, such as fluctuations in serotonin and other chemicals related to mood states, may also trigger some PMS symptoms, including those associated with, (you guessed it): period flu.
Even our lifestyle choices in the lead up to our menstrual cycle can influence the severity of our body’s symptoms. Eating more sugar (looking at you Caramilk), can increase inflammation while water retention can cause joint pain, which is to say - everything’s relative.
If you’re reading this information for the first time and see yourself reflected in these words, speak to your GP. Conversations around our health are important ones to be had. Please, please, pleaseeeee don’t put them off - a 10 minute consultation can mean the difference between getting by and getting on with your life.
As for relief-options, Dr Stamatopoulos has a few suggestions, “Agnus castus is a natural reproductive health product that may assist with PMS symptoms including period-flu symptoms. Maintaining good nutrition, smoking cessation and reducing stress levels are also ways to improve general health and may minimise symptoms.”
So there you have it folks: eat your greens, see your doctor and be gentle with yourself. Periods can be messy but they don’t need to be suffered in silence.
*Mediterranean background included purely for dramatic/exotic effect.
About the writer
Anastasia is a writer and producer based in Naarm/Melbourne. The former Copywriter of Frank Body, Anastasia has gone on to write for a range of agencies and brands including Dame Products, The Company Your Keep, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and The Red Tales Podcast. More recently, Anastasia has completed her masters in Producing at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) where she produced a range of ambitious shorts including The Soft Skinned and Go with Grace. She is looking forward to combining her love of language and image for the screen. In her spare time, she loves to go to the cinema, travel, and fight over RuPaul's Drag Race.
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