I'm quickly going to preface this, because you should hear about the kind of content that's out there when you do a search for "traveling while menstrual." Truth be told, most of the articles that I came across when investigating this topic (purely out of curiosity) concluded with "Have fun! If you're enjoying yourself, the cramps will fade away!"
I preach positivity, but I also preach realness and I think that we can all agree as women that it's damn hard to have "fun" when you're on your period.
Menstrual woes can be brutal. Take it from a veteran over here battling the travel / menstrual / endometrial shit show. I love traveling, it's what allows me to thrive. But let me tell you, traveling while menstrual is certainly not fun. But we have to do what we can with what we have. And after many travel defeats in feeling less than prepared for whatever my ovaries decide to do, I thought it was time to start a real conversation and share what I've found helps to ease my cycle woes (naturally, of course) while on the go. What we eat, what we wear (or don't wear), herbs + supplementation as support, every little bit helps.
Airports are a junk yard of high sugar, high sodium, preservative-filled snacks that can actually worsen symptoms of PMS, which is why I hardly even bother anymore. I've learned my lesson and come prepared with a small army of edibles and snacks to slide into my carry-on. And of course, a slightly larger army of organic, toxic-free tampons.
The goal is to not make the process stressful and bring every single supplement, etc etc to the point that your carry-on bag begins to feel like a holistic swimming pool beneath your pair of Converse sneakers and scarves that serve as blankets. It'll come with time in understanding what best suits you and your needs (we all have our things), but the below is what I've found to be the high + mighty saving graces for easing my hormonal symptoms when laying in a bed with a heating pad is just not an option.
You want snacks that are full of protein + healthy fats. Having these readily available helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels (key for hormones), especially if you have a longer trip ahead of you. Most airport selections are are meh and most protein bars contain additives and soy (and soy = estrogen). If I was lucky enough to live right by a Moon Juice Shop, I'd go wild with their travel-friendly snacks. But I don't, so again, we do what we can with what we have.
Nut Butter | Bring individual packs of coconut butter, almond butter and cashew butter. I prefer Artisana Organics, but find Justin's in most airports. They are quick and satisfying, a smooth operator for taming your insides when those quick hunger pangs strike.
Trail Mix | Sounds obvious and cliche, but I always seem to crave crunchy + variety when I travel. Preferably low in sugar/sodium, raw and sprouted if possible (easier to digest). Tackle the bulk bin section at Whole Foods (or any place near you that has a bulk section) and fill up on your favorite ingredients to suit your flavor preferences (spicy cashews! dark chocolate covered almonds! raw pepitas! dried mango! coconut chips! you get the point.)
And drink plenty of water, always.
Sidenote: this doesn't suggest to not eat meals on the go, but simply covers easy, nourishing snacks because meals are a whole other thing.
SUPPLEMENTS + HERBS
Build yourself a little travel apothecary of the more important supplements and herbs that will help keep your system regulated and on track for smooth(er) sailing. These have honestly made the biggest difference for me. When I forget to bring them along, I can tell.
Magnesium | For sleep + regularity. Why? Because most of us get backed up when traveling, and clogged pathways of elimination means a clogged liver, which means toxic + estrogenic buildup that may re-enter your bloodstream. Take 1-2 at night before bed and thank yourself for what should be the best poop of your life the next morning.
Ashwagandha | I swear by this vital Ayurvedic herb for calming the nervous system, as I feel my cortisol levels rise any time I'm traveling, no matter where to. I've found that it helps to tame the symptoms of PMS and decrease pain and inflammation (in the pelvic area). I prefer Sun Potion, however you can find this herb in tincture form (and under 2oz) at your local health food store. Travel trick: get steamed coconut or almond milk from a coffee shop and add a full dropper (or tsp amount in powder form).
Remember, we're human, and sometimes we have to resort to the bottle of Advil. I prefer not to and usually don't, but sometimes that's just the way it goes.
Lavender + Clary Sage | This is a potent combination of oils that are a quick and natural solution to cramps and pain. The small bottles work well for carry-on. Pre-flight, dab a little on your wrists and behind your ears. You can also duck out in the bathroom stall and blend the oils together in your hands and rub clockwise over your belly. At least you'll smell nice and maybe even make everyone else around you calm.
This is also a good thing to do once you land, along with propping your legs against a wall to let the blood flow in the opposite direction (which helps to re-direct the stagnant energy that builds up from sitting for hours + good for hormonal balance).
THINX | If you haven't heard of them, it's time to come out from that rock you've been hiding under. I admit that I haven't tried their period-proof underwear yet, but it's only a matter of time before they becomes a staple in my travel routine. Why? Because you don't have to worry about bleeding through or taking care of business in those tiny plane bathrooms.
Comfortable + Loose | Over fashionable, always. The last thing that I, personally, want to do when I'm bloated is put on a pair of tight jeans with that silver button digging into my uterus while I'm strapped in for a few hours. Do as you please, but you'll thank yourself for packing at least a few comfortable options.
And if you can go without it (especially my fellow small-chested ladies), go without the damn bra, will you? Wearing a bra for extended periods of time constricts blood flow, and if no one else can really notice, well then who cares? Let those babies free. It's liberating.
And remember ladies, HAVE FUN! (Ohhh come on, I had to.)
Here's to hoping these little secrets bring you comfort and ease the next time you've got the menstrual woes and are on the go.