Half of the American population—some 150 million women—will menstruate over the course of approximately forty years of their life. You can do the math (but here's some help: that's roughly 17,000 pads or tampons per woman per lifetime). That equals a lot of feminine products either ending up in landfills or being flushed into our water waste systems. But the waste isn't even our biggest concern. Cotton—a fiber commonly used in feminine products—is the most heavily sprayed commercial crop, bombarded with all sorts of pesticides and fungicides, and then we go and put that near (or in) our most sensitive parts? What?
Pesticide exposure is linked to a number of health problems, including infertility. Pads with plastic adhesives and overlays can contain BPA, a toxin also linked to infertility among a number of serious health issues. And let's not forget that some of those household feminine hygiene brands are owned by corporations who not only test products on animals, but they are also responsible for damaging environmental practices.
So what natural options are there, and do they work?
First of all, yes, natural products work as well, or even better than conventional options. There are disposable pads and tampons, just like you're used to, made from organic ingredients, and some are even biodegradable. Look for Naturcare and Seventh Generation brands in your local health food store, especially if you are a tampon user.
The Diva Cup is a BPA-free silicone capture device that fits somewhat like a tampon, except you just empty it out once it's full and reuse. You can also opt for reusable napkins such as Glad Rags, which you wear like a regular pad, rinse out and wash for repeat use. Our ancestors, and some cultures around the world today still use methods like this, by wearing thick fabrics to catch the flow and being in tune enough with their bodies to know when the next release is coming so they can be ready.
It's also important to note that cultures honor and revere this cycle. It seems we here in America treat it like any old disease or nuisance—even taking birth control pills that can stop us from being the women we are. To that I say… let it flow.
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