Period Flu: Why You May Feel A Little Sick Around Your Menstrual Cycle

Getting our period each month brings with it discomfort, irritability, and other inconveniences that make our daily lives more difficult. Sometimes, the discomfort can be so intense that it may feel like we are coming down with something. Period Flu is not a technical medical term, but it is the best way to describe how many women feel around their menstrual cycle. In fact, 90% of women feel sick around the time of their period (via Healthline).


The questions that surround our health before and during our cycle are many. It seems that symptoms differ depending on the person. Every onset of your monthly period can seem like its own beast in terms of how it makes you feel. Some months we feel great and others give us pain and discomfort that lasts for two weeks. There are quite a few reasons you feel flu-like during your period, and there are ways to lessen the impacts on your day-to-day lives.

Minor symptoms of period flu

Depending on the month and the person, you may be experiencing symptoms that mirror the flu during your cycle. The severity depends on each person individually, but everyone agrees the period flu is less than ideal. Many women report feelings of nausea, cramping, headaches, backaches, and bloating. Some women report symptoms so severe as a mild fever. No matter your symptoms, feeling ill in these ways can really affect the way you are able to carry out your responsibilities and daily life.


Some women say that it impacts their digestion and report diarrhea, stomach cramping, and even nasal congestion. With all of these symptoms impacting you before or during your monthly cycle, it's no wonder many have named this time of the month the period flu. Because it is different for every woman and even different every month, it's hard to know why these symptoms appear the way they do.

Mild fever symptoms

When people start to realize their flu-like symptoms accompany their period, they may even notice a rise in temperature. Achiness, clammy hands, and inflammation pave the way for the feelings of flu. It may surprise some that it is commonplace to run a mild fever before the onset of your period — this is because of a chemical called prostaglandin that contracts the uterus causing cramps and raising your temperature.


Also, an increase in progesterone comes during ovulation time, and those hormonal fluctuations can produce a mild fever as well (via Women's Health Magazine). Although it doesn't raise it more than a few degrees, it's still enough to make you feel achy, give you tender breasts, and make you feel cold and clammy. These fevers usually come right before the onset of your period, and they can last a day or into when your cycle does come.

Causes of the period flu

Although there is little known about PMS and the period flu, most doctors and researchers agree that these uncomfortable symptoms are caused by hormonal fluctuations flaring up during your cycle. Because sex hormones like estrogen and serotonin fluctuate during your period, they may be causing fatigue-like symptoms because of how they interact with certain neurotransmitters (via Forbes). These neurotransmitters cause our body to react as if we are sick with the flu.


These same fluctuations bring about other gastrointestinal pains which can lead to sleepless nights. According to a 2014 study, women experience stomach pains and diarrhea because of the inflammation that comes from higher levels of hormones like prostaglandins. Higher intake of processed foods, sugar, and alcohol increased these feelings in women during their cycles. Because there is so much going on in your body before or after your period, your mood and comfort levels are inconsistent.

How long does it last

Period flu sufferers report that these feelings usually last no longer than two weeks. It's common for the nausea, diarrhea, and cramps to start after ovulation. Once a person gets their period, the symptoms lessen, and relief is usually reached. It's more common for young people to experience the more severe symptoms of period flu. The good news for older women is that there is no period flu once a woman goes through menopause. 


Although this does little to comfort those who are young and experiencing these symptoms, knowing that there is an ending time period for these flu-like symptoms helps, but dealing with these symptoms every month can be taxing. Some women feel it lasts longer, but they are confusing the period flu with PMS. The period flu and PMS are different conditions. PMS occurs in the week leading up to your period, and the period flu symptoms accompany our monthly flow. Both are uncomfortable and both go away when your period does.

How to treat it

In order to best treat your period flu, there are some things you can do to prevent the symptoms from becoming severe. You may need to look at how you are treating your body on a normal day and make some adjustments. Consider adding some light movement or exercise to your daily routine. Create less stress and a comfortable environment with meditation during this time of the month. In addition, make sure you are getting adequate sleep so that your body is able to repair itself and recover from your day.


In addition to taking care of your body's physical needs, consider the kind of food you are eating. If your diet is high in sugar or processed foods, your body will react negatively to that. Finally, over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen can work wonders. Consider taking them before you even start experiencing symptoms to get ahead of the flu.