Why do my legs swell when I am about to have my period?


Dear Agnes,
Oedema, is the swelling of the body due to excess fluid trapped in the tissues.

The swelling commonly occurs in the hands, arms, ankles, legs and feet like in your case. Women may notice swelling of their feet during menstruation or a few days before.
This occurs due to fluid retention related to a fall in the levels of the sex hormone progesterone which happens towards menstruation.
Salt being the major cause, oedema can be prevented by increasing water and other fluids intake which will help to flush out extra salt from the body. You should also reduce your intake of salty foods such as chips. Taking garlic or fruits such as pineapple which cause one to pass lots of urine apart from regular exercise such as walking, can also help reduce the swelling. Socks which have tight bands atop can also cause swelling of the feet while support socks without tight bands can be helpful.
Massaging and elevating the legs while sitting or in bed may also help reduce the swelling. If none of the above work, you need to consult your doctor who may rule out other causes of oedema including blood clots which can lead to worse problems.

Tit bits
• Reduce your intake of salty foods such as chips. • Increase your intake of water and other fluids.This will help to flush out extra salt from the body. • Take garlic or fruits such as pineapple which will cause you to pass lots of urine.
• Massaging and elevating the legs while sitting or in bed may also help reduce the swelling.

I crave cassava and groundnuts before my period starts. Why?

Dear Enid,
Many women especially in their late 20’s or early 30’s may suffer from a variety of symptoms, including mood swings, pain in the breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression dubbed Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). These symptoms may begin around two weeks before the period and usually decline once the period starts but in a few, they may still go on up to four days after a period has begun.
Periods are not mere bleeding but they involve the body’s chemical messengers called hormones. The fall in female sexual hormones when a woman does not get pregnant after shedding an egg leads to periods as well as increased hunger which may be helped by the most satisfying foods available in one’s locality and in your case cassava and groundnuts.

As the hormones fall, the stress hormone (cortisol) increases and the feel-good hormone Serotonin falls around period time, this triggers a crave for carbohydrates (cassava) and fat to combat cortisol and raise serotonin whose production depends on carbohydrates or fats.
Another possible reason for period food cravings is a change in the body’s response to insulin in the period associated with menstruation. Then one may have alterations in blood sugar triggering a crave for sugary or starchy foods. Also, women who feel low, irritable and stressed before and during the period, may turn to enjoyable starchy or fatty foods to make them feel better.
There are also cultural and social factors at play.

So, women in rural areas may crave cassava and ground nuts while those in town will crave chips, chicken and chocolate.
Eating a balanced diet with healthy carbohydrates (eliminating processed foods and caffeine) while exercising, not missing meals, increasing the intake of fibre and protein can help stabilise blood-sugar levels and combat craves.

I am HIV positive while my wife is HIV negative. We still enjoy sex by me withdrawing before ejaculation. Can this lead to HIV in her?

Dear John,
Discordant couples are advised to use condoms properly and always to prevent transmission of HIV infection during sex with those without the condition.
Semen is laden with HIV germs as well as other body fluids. So, if a person without HIV infection is exposed to the body fluids they risk catching the condition.
Sex fluids (semen, precum and vaginal fluids) and blood particularly can transmit the infection.

Fluids produced by the penis before ejaculation called precum (for lubrication and neutralising vaginal acidity to protect sperms) have HIV germs so that even with withdrawal there is still a risk of transmission of HIV and other STDs.
Precum of the first round usually has no sperms to cause pregnancy but if one has engaged in sextual intercourse and not passed urine after they may have sperms in precum to cause pregnancy.
So, withdrawal may not lead to pregnancy but will not protect one against HIV and other STIs.

Whereas one may not feel happy to use a condom, it is necessary in your case to prevent infecting your partner. You need more sexual counselling.

After sex, I accidentally wore a woman’s knickers. Could I have got an STD?

Dear Lameck,
It is undesirable to share undergarments whether they are clean or not. That said, much as you fear you may have contracted an STD, STDS such as venereal warts cannot be prevented by using condoms.
This, of course, is apart from not using the condom properly given your likely state of mind that made you wear a woman’s pair of knickers.
Wearing another person’s used knickers puts you at risk of resistant bacteria such as E.Coli and viruses such as herpes simplex, and fungal infections apart from pubic lice.