Thoughts on Health… Menstruation, Part II… natural solutions (and a Giveaway!)

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I love the moon!  I love being a girl… I find power in the moon and enjoy painting it.  I’m going to feature my moon-related paintings in this second blog post about “Moontimes”… this painting is The Castle Remains.  Giclee prints of all of these moontime paintings are availble in my shop… and one reader will win a print of my favorite moon painting of all… read on!

There are so many alternative ways of dealing with your period then using pesticide and bleach soaked conventional tampons and pads… and not only are they more environmentally friendly, they are better for your own body, too!

A good general estimate for lifetime tampon usage is roughly 12,000 tampons per woman.  That’s one woman.  Using tampons for roughly five days per cycle, for an average of 40 years of menstruation.

The cotton alone is not something we really want to put up inside our bodies to sit for long periods of time.   About 84 million POUNDS of pesticides are sprayed on the cotton grown in the US each YEAR… and typically the cotton grown here is GMO cotton.  That cotton is used in tampons and pads and is finding it’s way to direct contact with your mucosal membranes for hours and days on end.

Okay, as if that wasn’t disturbing enough, conventional tampons are not actually all cotton anyway… they add rayon fibers to increase absorption, chemical deodorants and fragrances, and other nasty synthetic compounds.

The rayon fibers are known to increase the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, as they in particular love to host the growth of bacteria.  When those fibers are sitting in your vaginal canal for hours, plastered up against your delicate porous mucosal membranes… well… literally the pesticides, chemical, and bacteria harbored on the typical tampon are throwing a disgusting little party in your body, and you are the guest of honor.  That’s why the tampon industry itself *must* recommend changing tampons at least every 8 hours… they know after 8 hours, that tampon is such a little time bomb of bacteria and chemical swamp that it need to get out of your body!  Do not wear tampons overnight, ladies!

Nighttime Frolic

Are you ready for more?  I haven’t even hit the worst part of it yet.  One of the worst parts about tampons is that the bleaching process creates dioxins, a horribly toxic substance.

To avoid this, the tampon industry developed a “non-bleach” bleaching process, called Elemental Chlorine Free (EFC) bleaching.  This process lowers, but does not eliminate, the amount of dioxins in tampons and pads.   They are still present in detectable amounts.

Given that dioxins accumulate and persist in human beings, and that their toxic side effects are disruption of enzymatic and hormone pathways, their presence leads to grave consequences.

First of all, they accumulate in fat and breast tissue, so their main modes of elimination are through breast milk and the placenta.  Yuck… dioxins are passed along to the fetus and the nursing baby.  Dioxins are a known human carcinogen, with teratogenic effects.  Meaning a known *human* (not laboratory rat) cancer causing substance proven to cause birth defects.  And we are putting our tampons where?  In our vagina, to sit pressed up against a super porous and absorptive mucosal membrane.

Pad usage is bad enough, as these cancer causing chemicals are pressed up against our mucosal membranes day after day after day, year after year after year… but tampons are worse.

Because not only are the tampons completely surrounded by said mucosal membranes, but the fibers in the tampon itself causes microtrauma and tears to the mucosal membranes every single time a tampon is inserted or removed, often even leaving fibers behind.

So now, through these micro-tears, the chemicals are having a direct line of entry to your blood and circulation.
The truth is that women who use conventional pads and tampons have direct exposure to dioxins… albeit at very very small doses.  But those small doses, around the clock, for almost a week every month, every month out of the year, for forty years straight is no small exposure.  Especially given that these dioxins are very slow to be excreted, they accumulate for during your entire lifetime.

Why, exactly, does a product intended to absorb and dispose of menstrual fluid need to be stark white and bleached in the first place?  I have no idea.

One obvious solution to that is to use organically grown, non-bleached cotton tampons and pads.  Certainly this is a step in the right direction.  This will reduce the chemical exposure to your body… yet not reduce the micro-trauma to your vagina or reduce the amount of waste produced by using these items.

Even if they are organic and unbleached, the pads and tampons have to go somewhere.  Megan Telpner has a fabulous blog post which includes a lot of the statistics mentioned here… and she gives away a free printable expose that she wrote on the tampon industry.  In it, she finds that in 1998, the estimated amount of menstrual products that ended up in sewers and landfills was 6.5 million tampons and 13.5 BILLION pads… plus all of their packaging.  Excuse me while I throw up a little bit into my mouth.  Nice also to see a statistic from the Center for Marine Conservation who stated that they collected over 170,000 tampon applicators from the United States coastal area that year alone.  You can print out your own free copy of her report from her blog here.

Hmmm… time to rethink things a bit.  Filling our bodies with chemicals and our oceans with refuse is a bit scary to me, especially when there are other options.

First Snowfall

The first option is cloth pads.  GladRags is probably one of the most popular brands… and they are awesome.  I have a stack of these waiting for my daughter to use the moment she gets her first period.

They feel like the softest, most comfy worn in t-shirt, warm and gentle, snapped onto your underwear.  They are colorful (hurray for no more stark white bleached things!) and washable and reusable.  Best of all, there is no tell-tale diaper sound of plastic and paper rustling around when you walk.  Nope, this is as soft (actually softer) then your underwear.  You can add extra inserts and get larger pads for overnight use.

I wish I had known about these as a teen.  Even when I started using tampons, I would have LOVED these for overnights.  Just rinse in the sink, hang up to dry, and reuse by night.  Once the entire period is done, at the end of the menstrual cycle, toss in the washing machine and you’ll be all set for next month.

There are lots of handmade versions of GladRags on Etsy… super soft and made from recycled fabrics and much more inexpensive… check them out!

But my personal favorite option is the Diva Cup.   I simply can not sing their praises enough.  I have been using mine for about three years straight now and love it more and more.  I have not purchased a single tampon or pad for three years… not one.  I have not had to throw away plastic wrappers, tampon applicators, or expose myself to cotton fibers, micro-trauma, or dioxins.

My favorite thing about the Diva cup is that it makes periods odor-free.  Since the menstrual fluid sits in the cup until you empty it out into the toilet, it does not come into contact with air, so there is no bacterial odor at all.  There is no messy blood soaked string, no gooey pad, nothing.  I literally forget I have my period except for the two times a day that I wash it out and reinsert it.  No odor and no risk whatsoever of Toxic Shock Syndrome makes this method an instant winner in my book.

A Diva Cup is a cup made out of super soft and smooth (read: no more micro-trauma to your mucosa) cup made out of medical grade silicone… you simply fold it up, slide it into your vagina, it will open up and sit collecting your menstrual fluid until you are ready to remove it.  You just flush away the menses, wash the Diva Cup in the sink, dry it, and reinsert.

My second favorite thing about the cup is that you can use it over night.  Because there is no risk at all of TSS, you can leave it safely in place for 12 hours.  Just empty it at whatever frequency you need to accommodate your flow.

Again, I literally forget I have my period, especially over night.  No pads, no leaking, no mess, no smell.  You use the same cup over and over and over… just wash and reinsert, no need to purchase more then one.  I simply boil the cup for a few minutes in between each period for my own peace of mind… this is optional.

Not only does the Diva Cup make my periods more comfortable, not only is it incredibly environmentally friendly, but it is the cheapest way to have a period.  One upfront cost (I’ve seen it cost anywhere from $19.99 to $30 at stores and on-line) saves you from purchasing LITERALLY thousands of tampons and pads.

The Diva Cup comes in two sizes, pre and post childbirth.  Because it is a bit wider when you pull it out, I don’t think I’d recommend a Diva Cup to someone who has never had sexual intercourse.  Certainly I’m recommending GladRags first to my own daughter, until she is ready to use a Diva Cup herself.

Because I love the Diva Cup sooooo much, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  If you have any questions about it at all, leave them for me in the comments section and I will be thrilled to answer them.

My very favorite… Nighttime Reunion!  Free giveaway open to anyone who leaves a comment below!

My last advice is to use an Everwoman Menstrual Calander to become more familiar with your cycle.  It is indispensable knowledge that is very empowering.  I first started tracking my period to figure out if I was having increase variation in my cycle… I thought perhaps I was heading into peri-menopause because I perceived my cycles to be irregular.  Nope.

Once I tracked them on the Calendar, I could see that they were very regular, and I also learned quite a bit more about myself then I had known before.  I found that I was wildly creative the week after my period, and that I had insomnia right before my period.  You see, the calendar has symbols for you to use to track your moods, creativity, sleep patterns, breast tenderness, energy level… anything you want to track, on top of your period.  It even lets you know when there is a full moon each month, which I loved.  I truly had my most creative times when my period fell on a week there was a full moon.  Awesome!

Thank you so much for reading this super long post.  As a thank you, I’d like to give-a-way a free print of my favorite moon inspired painting… Nighttime Reunion. Leave a comment below to be automatically entered to win!

The winner will be announced next Monday, on my last installment of the menstruation series.  Come back then to find out lots of useful info as I interview my hubby, Dr. Craig Koniver of Organic Medicine Now, about natural hormones and nutritional support for PMS and menopause.  xoxo

30 Responses to “Thoughts on Health… Menstruation, Part II… natural solutions (and a Giveaway!)”

  1. Danielle

    this couldn’t be a more “appropriate” post for me this morning. Last night (during Superbowl of all times) my friends and I sat around talking about the Instead menstrual cup. One was a longtime faithful user who had recently made the other a believer and they were trying to convince me. We actually passed one around the room (if you can imagine that scene with our husbands in the middle of it). Well, I came home with a sample and will be trying it out when the time comes!

  2. Aleka

    I LOVE that you are writing about what is often a subject not written about…and you write with such honesty, candor, and wisdom. It’s refreshing. I really had no idea about some of the statistics (jeez that’s a lot of tampons :) Two thumbs up for the diva cup and glad rags!!! Moon time for me is also a time of heightened intuitive knowing and clarity.
    Thanks for the series Laura!

  3. Stacey

    Great post! so much info I did not know. I want your moon print… pick me, Clara…. pick me!!!!!

  4. Gabrielle

    Thank very much for all this information……I also never looked into this….but had an natural aversion against “tampons”……10 years ago….lol
    It is so troubling that this chemical exposure, danger doesn’t even stop here in our most pirvate parts. It is so sad.
    You wrote a fabulous post and this should be made public, so that mothers, girls at least have the knowledge in order to decide which way they personally would want to go for them and their daughters……xoxoxox

  5. de

    Wow. Very enlightening. And scarey! Thanks for sharing this important information!

    I am a huge believer of the power of the moon myself. I love its symbolism and find myself drawn to anything that has to do with it. Thanks for the chance to win!

  6. michelle

    Wow, thanks for posting this information. I had forgotten all the stats on tampon use, but it was good to read it again, as I feel all women should know this, especially young girls who are just starting. I’ve been using the cup for 15 years now and can’t imagine ever going back to tampons. The glad rags are especially wonderful after having a baby! And I use them when my cycle is heavy, which isn’t very often anymore! I’m getting close to peri-menopause, so tracking my cycle every month is very important, since that is how we got #3!!! So thanks for posting this, as I will recommend this to all the women I know! Thanks for sharing!

    I love all of your moon paintings, especially nighttime frolic! I have always been super connected to the full moon, am deeply moved and energized by it. I can stay up almost all night on full moons! And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as my 3 girls are also energized by the moon! We call our little ones ‘the werewolves’!

  7. Kim Budash

    Hi:

    Itsme again, still reading and loving your blog and loving the birdhouse that I won!! Thanks for all the great information, you continue to be an inspiration in my day!! And I especially love, love, love all the moon paintings and would love to have just one. Thanks for the chance to win yet another wonderful item from your blog.

    Hugs,

    Kim

  8. Aurora Roesler

    Wow!!! I am in shock right now! It makes so much sense, but all too many of us just blindly follow what we are told to do and wow!! My mind is blown and I will DEFINITELY be looking into all of these things! I am a bit wierd about germs and sanitiation so I may have to buy a weeks worth of the GladRags or something and wash them all before reusing, but maybe I just need to learn a little more. Thanks for educating us Laura!

  9. Sherry Livingston

    Thank you for the great post. I’ve thought about trying the diva cup for a long time, but never got around to it. Now I’m feeling inspired! Thanks!

  10. Megan cliff

    Very interesting post. I’ve never heard of the diva cup or even the idea of a menstruation cup, but I will be definitely looking into it. Thanks!

  11. Stephie

    It is absolutely unbelievable that I have never heard of the Diva Cup before. Just goes to show that corporations with big money control the world. I will be going to get my Diva Cup tomorrow, and some GladRags to carry in my bag in case of surprise emergency. Thank you a hundred times!

  12. Susan

    Great information Laura – Thanks! When is the book on woman’s health coming out…..:)?

  13. Nicole

    Wonderful information. My daughter started menstruating nearly a year ago. She has decided she prefers to use tampons. I have suggested the Diva Cup only to be answered with, Eww! I feel better prepared to approach her again on this subject now that I know more about the damage she can be doing to her vagina and the waste she is creating: 12,000! that’s a lot of tampons. Thank you, Laura.

  14. Nicole

    Can you please explain a little further why you don’t suggest the Diva Cup for virgins?

    • laura

      Sure! Absolutely they *can* use a Diva cup, but if there is a hymen in place, I think the Diva cup might hurt as it passes through the more narrow opening. The Diva cup works but forming a cup up inside the vagina… you can fold it in half or fourths to insert it, and you can reach up and sort of compress it smaller when you pull it out, but it is still going to have a wider diameter then a tampon. For some girls, this isn’t going to be a problem at all, it depends on the hymen. Some hymens go across the opening (instead of just the sides) so that might be painful. Which might not be such a bad thing… if you can use the Diva cup once, you can use it forever. You could purchase one and play around with it, show it to her and show her the instructions… see what you think. I said I’d start my daughter on the Glad Rags, but honestly if she wants to move on to tampons, we will for sure be trying the Diva cup instead. I’d rather her hymen rupture and be done with it instead of put those toxic tampons inside her for years and years. Of course the ulimate decision is hers!!!! Let me know if you have any other questions!!! Thanks so much everyone for the awesome comments! xoxo, Laura

  15. Crunchy Beach Mama

    Loved this. I’ve been using mama cloth since my last baby and I’m loving it. It is made of soft minky that I get from a mama who makes them off Hyena Cart.

    I have never tried the Diva Cup but have heard great things. It’s on my list :)

  16. Alison Price

    Amazing information Dr. Laura. I have thought many times about the waste I am generating with tampons and pads but had no idea there was an alternative out there!!! I watched the video on the homepage of Diva Cup and it sounds fantastic. I’m going to give it a try. Thanks for the post!!!

  17. Alison Price

    By the way… for anyone in Charleston I just did a search on the Diva Cup website and both Earthfare and Wholefoods carry it.

    • Megan

      They were all sold out at Earthfare tonight! I am going to try Whole Foods in the morning.

  18. Sarah

    Thanks to the moms on Family Playtime, I also am a Glad Rags and Moon Cup (works better for me than the Diva Cup) convert. I also never would have known about charting your cycle before learning about the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which helped us get pregnant with our daughter!

    Thanks for such a great blog – you are so inspiring!

  19. Callie B

    Thanks for posting this article. I never even tried a tampon until last year, but had some negative experiences with it. I get extremely thirsty and feel really weird not too long after insertion. I thought it was just me, but it could have been a reaction to the chemicals.

    I have seen the Diva Cup in Whole Foods and thought that it was just a weird product. But, after reading your blog post, I think I will give it a try. I am a little concerned about possible messes, but will be brave and try it out.

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Patty

    Fascinating! Wish I had this information years ago. I am so glad to hear about your creative spurts and their connection to your cycle. I too am an artist, and have found what you said to be absolutely true. I also had the most beautiful, creative dreams at these times!

    I love reading your posts full of wisdom. Dr. Craig is lucky to have you i his life and so are we!!!

  21. Kate Pyne

    Very informative and honest…and scary! Thank you for writing with such honesty.

  22. Cindi

    I discovered the Diva cup years ago and highly recommend it to women who prefer internal protection over pads. My mom warned me against using tampons; I rebelled, thinking she was just old-fashioned. Imagine my surprise when I had “undertermined” fertility issues in my 30s, finally conceiving after 7 years of treatments. I can’t help but wonder how all the weird fibers/dioxins/deodorants/etc may have contributed.

    Now I’m trying to prepare for my 9 year old’s rapidly oncoming pubescence and find your posts very timely, especially since I can no longer share the experience with her. I required a hysterectomy three years ago for severe prolapse; it was a tough decision but it seemed like the most rational option at the time for someone “my age”. I used GladRags during my healing time and will definitely introduce them to my daughter when the time comes. My periods were always irregular and painful, so i can’t say I’ve missed them. But my uterus – yeah, I do miss that, and of course I’ve suffered the negative effects of a disrupted system. Your wonderful hubby has been a godsend, listening and working with me to create a new level of physical and emotional balance using natural supplements and hormones. I’m sorry I’ve never met you, but I’m glad to know you a little through your blog. You and Craig are the ultimate Dynamic Duo!

  23. Mary

    Thank you for sharing this information. I did not know about these alternatives and I will certainly share this with my daughters.

  24. Elaina

    Laura,

    I am 24 years old and read your blog, which I loved. Very informative, inspiring and motivating to try something new. I agree that using tampons or pads are such a waste of trash, but I never really heard of an alternative. Reading your blog opened my eyes and having my period the time I read it, I totally wanted to try the DivaCup. I ordered it online at vitacost.com (which is by the way one of the cheapest places to buy natural supplements) for only $23 which was the cheapest I could find and they delivered it to me the next day and I was able to try it right away…..I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. NO trash, I don’t have to cary around tampons, no plastic wraps, no mess, I don’t feel it what-so-ever, can’t even tell I have my period and the best thing……I can’t wait for summer time going to the beach…..I won’t have to be afraid that the stupid blue little string may show :-). Thanks so much for sharing this. You are truelly inspiring. I love you beautiful pictures, you are a great artist. Makes you want to follow your dreams as well.

    Have a wonderful day.
    Elaina

    • laura

      Thank you so much Elaina, for sharing your experience with it! And especially for sharing the link of where you bought the Diva cup… that is a fantastic price and so awesome that you got it delivered so quickly! Reading your experience will help so many others, and is the BEST testimony to my post! THANK YOU so much! xoxoxoxo

      • Elaina

        Your welcome. Here is something I want to share with you. It might be a good idea for a blog.

        Deodorants.

        Applied to the biggest organ, your skin. Your skin absorbs everything applied quickly and smuggles it into your body, cells etc. Whether good or bad. While we think it will supress our bodily odors, we harm it more than we think…..One of the ingredients in most deodorants….PARABEN….,which is already a concern for breast cancer and being applied so close to your breast….should be a big NO GO for ALL WOMEN. Also, alot of deodorants act as antiperspirants using aluminum salts to prevent sweat from leaving the body at the place of application. Aluminum is absorbed through the skin much easier than it is absorbed through oral ingestion, making prolonged use of deodorants a concern. Not only does it prevent a natural function of your body to sweat in order to get rid of “trash”, aluminum is known to be highly toxid and unhealthy (also try to find alternatives to aluminum foils).

        Here is an alternative….Weleda Deodorants (also cheaply available at vitacost.com). They are made from completely natural essential oils, smell heavenly and neutralizes your body oder instantly. It’s free of damaging paraben or antiperspirants. I have been using it for a while and can only recommend it to cherish your health, especially as a women. You can buy it in different flavors, Citrus, Wild Rose and Sage. They all smell awesome.

        Enjoy.
        Elaina

        • laura

          Thanks Elaina! I totally agree!!! No anti-perspirants at all! This is a topic I go into great detail about in my skin e-course… one of several skin related products that I dislike aggressively, and discuss alternative options. Thanks for highlighting this important issue! xoxo

  25. Star

    I have been doing an internet search on different menstrual product every couple of months after a horrible period mishap. Usually a heavy, change my super plus tampons every 2 hours kind of period. I finally switched to applicatorless tampons, but they aren’t cutting it for me either. I find they leak more than my old applicator ones. Even if you ignore all the toxins, I have to buy all the different sizes, and you still end up leaking or have the painful “dry” removal. This post couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. With everything I have read, I think I will be making the change soon.
    ~Star~