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Are Your Feminine Products Creating PMS Pain?

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You are concerned about what you eat, but each month, millions of women use feminine products found at grocery stores manufactured from plastic, chemicals, and through harsh processes that can leach into the body. Take a look at some of the common risks associated with commercial hygiene products below. You may be surprised at how dangerous they can be.

Many women wanting to live cleaner, healthier lifestyles do whatever they can do alleviate the symptoms of PMS by increasing the intake of vitamins like vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin B6; as well as other supplements like magnesium, iron, chasteberry, licorice, and dong quai.

However, once a period starts, even the most natural-minded women still unquestionably use traditional feminine products sold at the grocery store. This could be one of the biggest health mistakes you can make.

The average tampon contains a variety of chemicals and toxic ingredients that a natural-minded woman would never consider putting in her mouth, yet unquestioningly uses near other sensitive areas of the body during a period. In addition to studies that show the potential damage of feminine hygiene products, the use of these traditional products may actually be making your PMS symptoms worse.

How Hygiene Products Damage Your Body

Skin is the largest, thinnest organ in the body. In most places, the skin is at most, 1/10th of an inch away from the bloodstream. This means that toxins that are absorbed by the skin can quickly enter your body without you even noticing. This issue becomes even more apparent in the vaginal canal, where the skin barrier is extremely thin and permeable.

Many of the items used on your skin absorb into the bloodstream and anything that can be leached out of a sanitary pad or tampon travels directly to the bloodstream.

According to Dr. Susan Treiser, MD., the skin around the vaginal area is some of the most permeable skin in the body. This means that anything used around that area is directly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Ingredients of Traditional Feminine Products

According to the FDA, tampons are classified as Class II Medical Devices. The FDA allows medical devices to be manufactured without an ingredient label on the packaging. The FDA regulates tampons under medical devices due to the numerous cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) associated with the use of tampons in the 1970s and 1980s. The FDA changed the label on tampons during this time to require tampon manufacturers to warn consumers about the risks associated with tampon use.

Since 1982, all tampon boxes have carried warning labels about the risks of TSS. Sanitary pads are also regulated by the FDA and are classified as medical devices. Although the products are both regulated by the FDA for safety, their status as medical devices means that companies do not have to disclose the ingredients in the products nor the manufacturing process.

Through extensive research, author of “Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart” Andrea Donsky uncovered the difficulty of identifying the ingredients in traditional feminine products. Donsky contacted Procter & Gamble directly to ask what was in their tampons and pads and was given only two of the ingredients- foam and Infinicel, an absorbable material containing scary-sounding ingredients identified by iResolve, a personal care advocacy agency.

iResolve identified the ingredients in PG sanitary pads as:

  • 2-Ethylhexyl acrylate
  • Divinyl benzene
  • Polymeric foam
  • Calcium chloride
  • Fragrance

According to the group, the main ingredients are basically salt and oil, which are then bleached white.

Research conducted by Donsky uncovered that each sanitary pad contains about as much plastic as four plastic grocery bags. If a woman uses 4 pads a day for 5 days, she will have used as much plastic as 80 grocery bags with just one period. In a year, she will have used as much plastic as around 1000 grocery bags.

Most tampons are manufactured from rayon, cellulose, cotton, or viscose; and contain synthetic fragrances, bleach, and chemicals designed to boost the absorption of moisture.

The Health Risks of Feminine Hygiene Products

According to research from Donsky and others, the ingredients in feminine products have the potential to react poorly in the body and could lead to dangerous health conditions. Some of the possible health risks are outlined below:

Increased risk for Heart Disease

Plastics like BPA and BPS are linked with an increased risk for heart disease and even diabetes. Sanitary pads and tampons both often contain BPA or BPS.

Increased risk for Birth Defects

The use of BPA and BPS are linked with an increased risk of birth defects and miscarriages in both animal and human studies.

Increased Risk for Cancer

A common plastic ingredient in feminine products, BPA, is linked with an increased risk for developing breast cancer or prostate cancer. Most sanitary pads contain some amount of BPA plastic, and many tampon applicators are made from BPA plastic. Additionally, bleached feminine products give off disinfection-by-products (DBPs) such as dioxin and trihalomethane. These DBPs have been linked to abnormal cell growth through the body.

Risk of Organ Damage

Studies show that phthalate DEHP is particularly damaging to the organs. Studies show that this chemical added to make plastic more flexible can damage the kidneys, liver, entire hormone system, and entire reproductive system. Chlorine by-products are also linked with the potential for fertility problems and birth defects.

Risk of Infection

When the body is blocked with plastics and other unnatural materials (like tampons), it reacts in unhealthy ways. If the body is not allowed to function properly, it may not be able to fight off yeast, bacteria, and other infections that commonly affect the vaginal area. This could potentially increase your risk of developing infections like UTIs and yeast infections.

Reduced Immunity

Some studies have linked DBPs with a lowered immune system.

A Word on Toxic Shock Syndrome

When tampons first began to be sold, many women suffered from Toxic Shock Syndrome. TSS is a known risk from the use of tampons and is associated with an increased risk for exposure to Staphylococcus aureus (staph) or group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria.

TSS usually occurs when a tampon has been left in the vagina for too long, or when a tampon is used that is too thick for the current amount of flow. It is believed that the fibers from dry tampons can remain in the vaginal canal and trigger the growth of dangerous bacteria which causes TSS. The use of tampons could also create small tears in the vaginal canal, allowing dangerous bacteria to enter the bloodstream unchecked.

Signs of TSS
  • Sudden fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rash on palms of hands and soles of feet
  • Redness in eyes, mouth, or throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Seizures

If you have any of these symptoms after using tampons consult with a health professional right away.

The best way to minimize risk is to avoid the use of tampons at all. You can also minimize risk by using cardboard applicators, changing the tampon every 4-6 hours, choosing the lowest absorbency possible, and wearing pads overnight.

PMS and Feminine Products

Some of the pain and discomfort that women experience during their periods may not be a sign of PMS at all, but rather, could be a reaction to the chemicals and other ingredients in commercial feminine products. Hundreds of women who have made the switch to cloth pads or menstrual cups have reported feeling less bloated, irritable, and achy; and more pain-free.

These women report that the absence of chemicals, synthetic ingredients, and foreign bodies during their periods alleviates many of the “natural” PMS symptoms they had come to expect.

Although no scientific study to date has examined the possibility of tampons or synthetic sanitary pads as the cause of PMS symptoms, hundreds of anecdotal stories online point to this theory as a possibility. In 2011, the “Journal of Women’s Health” published a study of 406 women comparing the use of a menstrual cup with traditional tampons or sanitary pads. 37 percent of women preferred the use of the cup to tampons and an additional 34 percent rated the cup as equal to tampons.

The researchers found that the use of a menstrual cup does not alter the bacteria or yeast levels inside the vaginal canal, preventing it from leading to conditions like UTIs, yeast infections, or TSS. The women stated that the cup was less irritating, more comfortable, prevented dryness, and fit in better with daily activities.

Other Alternatives to Conventional Feminine Products
  • Organic cotton tampons
  • Cloth pads
  • Organic cotton disposable pads

Will Changing Sanitary Products Eliminate All PMS Symptoms?

Not all PMS symptoms are a result of the type of products you use to manage your flow. In fact, studies show that vitamin deficiencies are one of the main causes of PMS symptoms. If you suffer from mood swings, irritability, cramps, and other painful symptoms even after switching to healthier feminine products, you may have a vitamin deficiency.

Add the following nutrients to your diet either in food or supplement form:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Chasteberry
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Dong quai
  • Vitamin E
  • Iron
  • Licorice

Prevent PMS with Healthy Feminine Products

It hardly seems possible, but you can cut down on the pain and suffering experienced before and during your period by switching to safer hygiene products. Many women have seen great results by using a silicone menstrual cup or by using cloth pads to control their flow.

If you are unwilling to become quite that natural, however, you may find the use of organic, sustainable sanitary products and tampons healthier and safer. You will have less exposure to dangerous chemicals that can have devastating effects on the body and reduce painful cramps and aches commonly associated with PMS.

Additionally, cutting down on the use of disposable, plastic sanitary products will help make the world a better place- one month at a time.





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