Can traveling affect the female cycle?


Can traveling affect the female cycle?

Most women know that travel, especially across time zones, upsets their bodies, but did you know that travel can cause menstrual cycle irregularities? According to , this is mainly due to the fact that traveling can affect your inner clock, which often leads to sleep deprivation and can increase the risk of illness. It can also lead to increased stress and anxiety. All of these things can unbalance your natural hormone levels and disrupt your menstrual cycle.

Circadian rhythm
Often referred to as the “body clock,” the circadian rhythm is a cycle (of about 24 hours and 15 minutes) that affects your body’s natural instincts about sleeping, waking up, and eating (among many other things). It also plays a role in regulating your body’s hormonal fluctuations, including the key hormones involved in menstruation and how your body changes in response to light-dark intervals (e.g. night and day).

Dramatic deviations from the amount of light the body is used to is a major cause of jet lag and can affect the timing of hormone release. Additionally, travel and jet lag often lead to lack of sleep (especially when traveling eastbound and/or across multiple time zones), which can upset your normal physiological balance.

Travel-related stress and anxiety
Any type of travel can affect two of your primary hormones – melatonin (sleep) and cortisol (stress) – and this can affect your menstrual cycle. The symptoms of jet lag (which include trouble sleeping, loss of concentration, fatigue, disorientation, decreased alertness, and gastrointestinal upset/digestion issues) can act as additional stressors on the body and cause additional psychological stress as well.

READ MORE:  10 reasons why whole grains are particularly healthy

Worry and anxiety, as a result of symptoms of jet lag or the insecurity of traveling, can affect the HPA axis, which is the feedback system responsible for the hormonal fluctuations associated with menstruation. Therefore, to avoid the effects that traveling can have on your menstrual cycle, you should think about things that will help you relieve the stress, especially if you are a nervous traveler.

travel sickness
Travel-related illnesses are another factor that can cause irregular menstrual cycles. Long-haul travelers in particular are more susceptible to contracting an airborne virus because they are in a confined space with more people for a longer period of time.

New environments and new climates can also bring additional challenges to your immune system. When you fight a virus, your body uses a lot of energy and resources, and as a result, processes like menstruation can fall by the wayside. So, when your immune system works harder when you travel, this physiological stress on the body can contribute to disruptions in the menstrual cycle.

A disrupted cycle or even a missed period around travel time is usually insignificant relative to overall menstrual health. While not ideal, it is common and often occurs when traveling across multiple time zones. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts when it comes to adjusting to the physiological imbalances that cause irregularities in your cycle. However, getting enough sleep, eating balanced and regular meals, and a little exercise can help get your body back on schedule. When possible, some exposure to bright light early in the day in the new time zone can be extremely beneficial in helping your body adjust.

READ MORE:  On-off relationships are detrimental to your mental health

Once your body clock has adjusted to the new environment, your menstrual cycle should re-synchronize shortly thereafter. Remember that as a rule of thumb it takes one day to change your body clock by one hour. So if you travel from Germany to New York, it will take about five days for your circadian rhythm to reset. Don’t underestimate the stress this shifting process can put on your body.

Share this post

READ MORE:  10 reasons why whole grains are particularly healthy