A fellow writer had an apoplexy when I told her that this subject heading was my brainchild. “What are you supposed to do to be ‘green’? Sit on a stone??” At this point, both of us dissolved into hilarious laughter and spent the rest of the conversation telling each other gruesome stories of the days when using cloth was not elective… there wasn’t another option!
Today however, the story is a different one. Women have an array of sanitary products to chose from and we can chose to go back to cloth because most products available off-the-shelf are non-biodegradable. Menstruation is accompanied by considerable discomfort and has associated health issues. This article also seeks to find ways of dealing with all facets of our periods that are less aggressive both towards our environment and towards ourselves.
What is the concept of Green Menstruation?
Green Menstruation is a philosophy that attempts to manage a woman’s monthly period in an environmentally friendly manner. It deals with the use of alternative sanitary products, alternative and natural remedies for stomach cramps, back and leg pains, oedema, PMS and irregular periods.
The most widely used modern sanitary options are
- Sanitary pads
Issues with sanitary pads and tampons
- Production techniques: The production techniques of both pads and tampons have huge impact on human health, eco-system quality, and resource utilization. The impact on human health can be illustrated by looking at a small part of the production process of these products. The chlorine that is used to bleach the cotton is toxic to workers and may cause cancer. In addition to this, the vestigial chlorine in the pad or tampon may cause irritation to or allergies in the wearer. For an intensive research paper on the environmental impact of sanitary product production, see Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Sanitary Pads and Tampons
- Disposal: The largest issue with both pads and tampons is disposal. The average woman probably uses about 7000 sanitary pads in her lifetime. This is not a published statistic- it is one that I have just calculated based on the fact that a woman has her period for 30 years of her life, for a average of 60 days a year and uses an average of 4 pads a day. These pads and tampons go into landfills and since they are often made in part of non-biodegradable products like rayon they contaminate the soil and the aquifers as well as use up precious land.
- Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS):
- TSS is a disease associated with the use of tampons.
- It is caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium.
- The toxins that this bacterium produces cause fever, rigors, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle aches and rashes to start with, which rapidly deteriorate into extremely low blood pressure and a rapid breakdown of the body’s vital organs.
- 5% of all TSS cases are fatal.
- TSS affects between 1-2/100,000 women in the 15-44 age annually in the USA
- Statistic showed an 18% increase in the incidence of TSS in the USA from 2002 to 2003.
- TSS is also associated with the use of inter-uterine contraception devices, people who have had nasal surgery, and people who develop this infection after an operative procedure.
Greener sanitary options
Some manufacturers of greener products are listed below
- Cloth Sanitary Pads and Lunapads
- Momiji natural Cloth Pads
- Organic cotton pads
- Organic cotton tampons
- Menstrual cups as an alternative to tampons.
- Learn how to make your own sanitary pads.
Did You Know?
This is what we do
- Women in the USA put 11.3 billion "disposable" menstrual products per year into landfills or burn them.
- 500 years is the time that one "disposable" menstrual pad will take to partially biodegrade.
- An individual woman throws away about ten thousand paper pads or tampons in her lifetime.
- French nurses experimented with the first "disposable" menstrual products from cellulose surgical gauze during the First World War.
The law and sanitary products
- "Disposable" menstrual product manufacturers are not required by law to list the components of their products.
Manufacturers do this
- Slim "maxi" paper products contain synthetic gelling crystals to increase absorbency. Their safety is questionable and while there is an attempt to control this in baby diapers, no such movement is afoot for the regulation of sanitary products.
- "Disposable" menstrual products are not sterilized.
- Chlorine is used as bleach for paper pulp. 400-700 million pounds of toxins are dumped every year dumped into U.S. waterways.
- In World War 1, Chlorine was used as a weapon of war.
- Dioxins are a bi-product of the chlorine bleaching process. They do not break down and are also suspected to be carcinogenic.
- There is evidence to show that dioxins damage the liver and its functioning and also depress human immune systems.
- The process that uses chlorine to produce plastics, paints, dyes, bleaching agents, cleaning solvents, aerosols, deodorants, refrigerants, and wood preservatives also produce CFCs that deplete the ozone layer.
- An estimated two million seabirds and one hundred thousand marine mammals die annually from swallowing plastics including tampon applicators.
What can I do to make a difference?
- Consider greener options/ cloth pads. They are not as mucky as you imagine.
- Try menstrual cups instead of tampons.
- If you can afford it, pay the extra for the organic cotton products.If not, dont throw away your pads to contaminate the earth.... burn them
- Call the 1-800 number on "disposable" menstrual products and check to see whether they have been bleached at any stage of production with any chlorine.
- Avoid and campaign against gel-based pads.
- Avoid high absorbency tampons- they are the ones that most often carry the highest risk.
- Avoid plastics sanitary products in any form. Cardboard tampon applicators are available... use them!
Pre Menstrual Stress and menstrual pain- Natural remedies
While over the counter medication is available for relief from the discomfort of PMS and menstrual cramps, more and more women are electing to use natural remedies. In some cases, these remedies work better than a lot of prescription drugs.
- Following a vegetarian diet for two weeks before the onset of the period
- Reduction in the intake of salt reduces bloating and discomfort
- Exercise is said in a large number of cases to relieve stress and tension which is another cause of menstrual pain and also reduce PMS symptoms.
- Sexual activity reportedly decreases menstrual pain.
Primary source article: Menstrual disorders
You can learn to do this
- Yoga and meditation are excellent stress relief measures. Yoga in particular has particular asanas or therapeutic postures that help relieve menstrual pain.
- Juice Therapy: This is especially interesting. Celery and Fennel are said to contain phyto-oestrogens that mimic the oestrogen hormone and provide relief from pain. Juice Therapy advocates that a blend of apple, celery, fennel juice be used. Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain which is a muscle relaxant. This helps the easing of cramps as well.
You will need supervision with this
- Homeopathy also has some remedies for pain relief. Amongst them are Colocynthis 6X if pressure on the abdomen relieves the pain and Magnesia phosphorica 6X if heat relieves it.
You will need someone to do this for you
- Acupuncture, acupressure and reflexology apparently contribute significantly to pain relief.
- Chiropractor is also effective though findings indicate that it just may be a gentle massage that is an effective pain reliever.
Herbs and Supplements
- Evening Primrose oil is said to be efficacious against heavy periods, PMS symptoms and also menstrual pain. There is no scientific evidence to support this, however.
- Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects that help relieve the pain
- Increased intake of magnesium in the form of green leafy vegetables, nuts and whole grains helps the pain. It is important not to overdose with magnesium as that causes its own problems .
- Ginger is a heating herb and drinking a hot drink with ginger in it often helps.
- There is an old Indian remedy that involves drinking a glass of very hot milk with a lump of unrefined sugar or gur to relieve the pain.
- Ayurveda prescribes a remedy one tablespoon of aloe Vera gel with one pinch of black pepper taken after every meal one week before the onset of the period. This should be continued during the period if the cramps are very painful. The dosage is one dose every half-hour till the pain is relieved.
- Flower Essence Therapy helps both menstrual pain and PMS symptoms. Pomegranate essence is effective in this regard .
- An infusion of basil leaves in water also relieves the pain.
- For more detailed information about herbal remedies see Herbal Remedies for Menstruation
- See Chinese remedies
Since a complete picture is not available about the effects of herbal medication it is important to consult a medical practitioner before using them. Principle amongst the herbs that one must be careful about are Valerian and Black Cohosh
For facts about menstrual disorders read Menstrual Disorders: Fast Facts
- Menstruation Center
- Many Moons
- Momiji Natural Cloth Pads
- Menstrual disorders