AN Island nutritionist has been offering free classes on period health – which she said would have ‘benefitted’ her when she was a teenager – to three secondary schools.
Jessica Pinel, a registered nutritionist with the Association for Nutritionists, certified health coach, and founder of Humankynd Nutrition, initially led the sessions on eating habits during periods with adults.
‘But when I was talking about my experiences with period symptoms as a teenager, I realised that if I had been given this type of education at school, it would have really benefitted me and prevented some of those nasty symptoms from happening,’ she said.
In her own time, she expanded the classes to three schools for free – JCG, Hautlieu, and Highlands College. Miss Pinel said: ‘In the sessions I get the girls to reflect on what sort of period symptoms they experience; we speak about them, and I give them evidenced-based nutrition tips that can support with each of the symptoms.
‘We speak about different foods they can include or minimise the intake of to reduce these symptoms.
‘These can include period pain, blood loss, bloating, mood swings, cravings and acne.’
While she leads the sessions for free at the moment, Miss Pinel said that if more schools were interested in the programme she would pursue sponsorship to expand.
She continued: ‘There has definitely been a change in the culture around periods. When the teachers were speaking to the girls about certain things, there was a change in the stigma associated with words like bleeding.
‘In the class, I ask if anyone tracks their cycle, and around 50% do, which is so interesting. My generation is not even at that level yet.
‘What I would like to see is people with conditions like endometriosis, PMS [premenstrual syndrome] or PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome], given extra support. I know of some jurisdictions where extra sick leave is legislated.’
Lisa Williamson, a teacher at JCG, said the response from students had been ‘really positive’.
Miss Williamson said that a free period product scheme, launched earlier this year, was helping to reduce period stigma in the Island.
‘There is greater awareness of what teenage girls are going through and mindfulness around that,’ she explained.
‘There has definitely been a really a positive shift in the openness and attitudes of our students when talking about period health and symptoms over the last couple of years. I find it a refreshing difference from when I was a student.’