1

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Cold exposure and menstrual cycle

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 22, 2011 at 7:05 PM

hi everyone One of the greatest thing that i tried since i started paleo is cold exposure and cold showers , the hormetic effect is just amazing . My sister also want's to try it but she is afraid that cold exposure is not healthy for women's menstrual cycle and it can cause damage to the ovaries. Do you know of any relevant research ? Does any girl out there has any experience on cold exposure ? Thank you

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on November 24, 2011
at 12:55 AM

@Melissa: I live in Florida. Just walking outside is like walking into a sauna, lol! In the summer, I'm lucky if it gets down to 80 at night :(

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 24, 2011
at 12:15 AM

The so-called normal ranges for hormones is so wide that maybe where one falls within this range -- say barely hanging in or at the upper end -- would impact how exercise and stress impacts. Some would feel invigorated while others crash and burn. Sorry not scientific -- just thoughts. Thyroid function comes to mind as well -- sex hormones impact thyroid. Stress lowers thyroid function. A woman at low end of normal may be more susceptible to stress near/during menses.

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 24, 2011
at 12:09 AM

Google effect of exercise on untrained women. Exercise can impact hormones in women and it's often not a positive impact. PMS alleviation through exercise is vague -- what kind of PMS? What kind of exercise. I'd love to see a study where a woman with PMS characterized by fatigue and bloating feels better doing HIT and then alternating sauna and then ice baths...

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 24, 2011
at 12:05 AM

Google hormonal dysfunction and female athletes. There's an interesting free podcast of interview with gyno Michael Fox at Dr. Su's site. Interesting stuff about early athletics and detrimental effects on female hormones later in life; ramifications of fetal hormonal environment causing narrowing of the female pelvis -- etc worth a listen.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 23, 2011
at 09:38 PM

You should hit the sauna :) Seriously, I always had issues with cold until I started the sauna routine. I don't think people would be able to thrive in the arctic if it were not for the sauna. In Finland, women even would have their children in the sauna until quite recently.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 23, 2011
at 09:26 PM

"Nobody bats an eye when 20something year old women want fertility drugs or IVF" Yeah and I'm sure it's not because they exercised during their period or exposed themselves to cold. Most of these 20-year olds with fertility problems have PCOS, which has nothing to do with either thing. I am a big fan of traditions, but when we have so many, how do we decide what is right? I think we have to talk in the more universal language of science.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 23, 2011
at 09:23 PM

So do you have any studies that show that you need to take it easy before and after your menses? Because there are studies that show that exercise during menses alleviates PMS.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 23, 2011
at 09:21 PM

Well at this point, the Inuit eat garbage and still manage to reproduce.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on November 23, 2011
at 02:25 PM

For instance, I'm freezing right now and it's 75F in my office. Yes, I'm wearing a hoodie in 75F air conditioning!

6883f4a377f2db44c6a04585e316ff71

(25)

on November 22, 2011
at 10:08 PM

Thank you for all your answers . I should have said that i am asking advise for a person that doesn't always follow a healthy diet and lifestyle and occasionally suffers from allergies . I am sure that traditional Inuit women are able to handle stressors like cold exposure without any negative consequences but does this mean that the same is true for someone with less than optimal health ?

6883f4a377f2db44c6a04585e316ff71

(25)

on November 22, 2011
at 10:06 PM

Thank you for all your answers . I should have said that i am asking advise for a person that doesn't always follow a healthy diet and lifestyle and occasionally suffers from allergies . I am sure that traditional Inuit women are able to handle stressors without any negative consequences but does this mean that the same is true for someone with less than optimal health ?

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 22, 2011
at 08:30 PM

Where is any evidence that Inuit or Siberian women were purposely exposing themselves to the cold? Are those heavy layers and furs they wear just for show? I think exposing oneself to cold for hormetic effect is fine but not right before or during menses.

2f931662684a7747be36255c8b486228

(1049)

on November 22, 2011
at 08:18 PM

Yes as well as all the Fins, Germans and Austrians who roll in the snow after a hot sauna.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 22, 2011
at 07:50 PM

If this were true the Inuit and Siberians would already be extinct

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3 Answers

7
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 23, 2011
at 12:52 AM

I lived up in Scandinavia and never observed any cold-related menstrual cycle traditions. The Finns and Saami people I knew used the sauna constantly, even woman who were heavily pregnant, and of course the sauna tradition involved either a cold pool or running out in the snow naked after the sweat. I (and all the other women) would have loved it if cold impaired our fertility considering all the time we spent with naked hot sweaty men.

During menstrual periods, it is thought to remove excess water and promote strength.

I guess that's the problem with all the traditional medicine a lot of people in paleo are into. In the end, since it's based on very different traditions, it becomes another form of tribalistic rivalry. I am quite biased towards the ancient Nordic traditions rather than the Chinese medicine that is so popular in the West now. Luckily, the Finns have invested quite heavily in researching the sauna and ice swimming and have never found that these traditions affect women's fertility, but it may affect men's sperm counts (though the studies are conflicting).

In Arctic unmodernized conditions, the cold is a constant presence. Even wrapped in furs, it changes the body. Biomarkers of arctic people in winter reflect this, particularly levels of thyroid hormones. Yet they remain fertile.

This morning I had my period and felt a little off, but I swam in the cold Atlantic ocean and felt much better.

3
1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on November 23, 2011
at 03:03 AM

In my experience, I tend to get cold easily for the days preceding my period. The LAST thing I would want to do is make myself even colder when I'm already miserable.

That strikes me as being counterintuitive.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on November 23, 2011
at 02:25 PM

For instance, I'm freezing right now and it's 75F in my office. Yes, I'm wearing a hoodie in 75F air conditioning!

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 23, 2011
at 09:38 PM

You should hit the sauna :) Seriously, I always had issues with cold until I started the sauna routine. I don't think people would be able to thrive in the arctic if it were not for the sauna. In Finland, women even would have their children in the sauna until quite recently.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on November 24, 2011
at 12:55 AM

@Melissa: I live in Florida. Just walking outside is like walking into a sauna, lol! In the summer, I'm lucky if it gets down to 80 at night :(

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 24, 2011
at 12:15 AM

The so-called normal ranges for hormones is so wide that maybe where one falls within this range -- say barely hanging in or at the upper end -- would impact how exercise and stress impacts. Some would feel invigorated while others crash and burn. Sorry not scientific -- just thoughts. Thyroid function comes to mind as well -- sex hormones impact thyroid. Stress lowers thyroid function. A woman at low end of normal may be more susceptible to stress near/during menses.

3
27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 22, 2011
at 08:23 PM

This will be unpopular but I do not think it is healthy for a woman to undergo undue mental or physical stress right before or during the menstrual period. By undue physical stress I would include purposely exposing oneself to extremely cold temps or exercising strenuously(operative word "strenuously"). I know the feminists out there will protest and say female athletes perform just as well during menses as not but just because one can't doesn't mean one should or that it is healthy in the longrun. The luteal phase defects and hormone dysfunction from this early in life can negatively impact future fertility as well as creating a less than optimal hormonal balance. I believe many of the hormonal imbalances women face during peri and menopause as well as the fertility issues seen in younger and younger women have everything to do with our lifestyles -- too much or wrong kind of exercise with no concern for menstrual cycle -- chronic stress -- substance abuse -- lack of restorative sleep -- ignoring optimal circadium rhythms -- many things other than simply poor diet. In Chinese medicine, a woman is to take it easy right before and during menses. This is not sexist -- it's because the body is under stress (hormonal fluctuations) and to further deplete the body by purposely exposing it to additional stress is not good. Women do not recover from stresses the same way men do. Our stress hormones stay elevated longer. Unfortunately, our society makes it difficult for women to honor their biological differences. We're supposed to "have it all." Yeah, all the diseases traditionally thought of as male diseases plus hormonal dysfunction...We're in a strange place. Nobody bats an eye when 20something year old women want fertility drugs or IVF...Back to the question -- I think the "polar bear activities" are perfectly fine so long as not right before or during menses.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 23, 2011
at 09:23 PM

So do you have any studies that show that you need to take it easy before and after your menses? Because there are studies that show that exercise during menses alleviates PMS.

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 24, 2011
at 12:09 AM

Google effect of exercise on untrained women. Exercise can impact hormones in women and it's often not a positive impact. PMS alleviation through exercise is vague -- what kind of PMS? What kind of exercise. I'd love to see a study where a woman with PMS characterized by fatigue and bloating feels better doing HIT and then alternating sauna and then ice baths...

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 23, 2011
at 09:26 PM

"Nobody bats an eye when 20something year old women want fertility drugs or IVF" Yeah and I'm sure it's not because they exercised during their period or exposed themselves to cold. Most of these 20-year olds with fertility problems have PCOS, which has nothing to do with either thing. I am a big fan of traditions, but when we have so many, how do we decide what is right? I think we have to talk in the more universal language of science.

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 24, 2011
at 12:05 AM

Google hormonal dysfunction and female athletes. There's an interesting free podcast of interview with gyno Michael Fox at Dr. Su's site. Interesting stuff about early athletics and detrimental effects on female hormones later in life; ramifications of fetal hormonal environment causing narrowing of the female pelvis -- etc worth a listen.

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