Somewhere around the time when girls are taught the birds and the bees, they are also taught about Aunt Flo, the monthly companion that comes suddenly and marks the beginning of womanhood. While not intentional, well-meaning teachers, parents and health educators often provide incorrect information about about this rite of passage. Women’s health coach and fertility awareness educator, Berrion Berry, says common period-related symptoms are actually your body’s way of trying to get your attention to support it in a specific area. 

“Periods are normal, but pain, PMS and discomfort shouldn’t be,” Berry said. 

Here are four misconceptions about menstrual cycles and periods. 

Period Pain Is Normal

If you have dealt with period pain your whole life, then it might be jarring to learn that this actually is not normal. 

“We’re conditioned from an early age to believe that periods should be painful,” Berry said. “Let’s just set the record straight and clarify – periods are normal and pain and chronic discomfort whether physical or emotional should not be.”

For pain-free periods, Berry encourages women to prioritize feeling safe in their bodies. When you are not feeling safe in your body, cortisol goes into overdrive and causes increased inflammation. Other suggestions from Berry for a pain-free period include eating fermented foods. These help your gut and aid in estrogen metabolism, and increasing intake of vitamin D to lessen cramps.

You Will Be Bloated 

Berry emphasizes that many period symptoms, like bloating, are common, but not necessarily normal. 

“Common and normal are different,” she said. 

One way to combat bloating is by staying hydrated. Berry is a big fan of coconut water, which helps with hydration, maintaining physical strength and replenishing micronutrients and minerals. Another tool to combat bloating is regular exercise. Berry encourages women to workout in sync with their cycles.

Mood Swings Are a Symptom of a Monthly Period 

While many women can relate to being moody right before their period, Berry said the idea that PMS is “just the way things are” is not true. 

If you dig deeper into PMS, you’ll find that one cause could be the dip in estrogen that happens in the second half of the menstrual cycle. This directly impacts serotonin production. To combat mood swings, Berry encourages women to increase their intake of minerals, like magnesium. These stabilize blood sugar levels and that detoxify the body throughout the day. She also encourages women to increase the intake of progesterone boosting foods. Examples include avocado, sweet potatoes and nuts, in their diets. An adequate level of that hormone can help improve the mood.

Hormonal Acne Is the Norm

To regulate hormonal health, it’s essential to prioritize remineralizing the body and supplementing. This will look different for every woman. Berry especially encourages women of color to focus on getting enough magnesium and vitamin D. To specifically counteract hormonal acne outbreaks, Berry suggests green tea masks or having a cup of green tea twice a week.