As a mother of three daughters, I saw my fair share of the effects of menstrual cramping. Severe cramping most commonly occurs in teenagers and women in the childbearing years. In my daughters' cases, the pain became so intense that it caused vomiting, shakiness and passing out. Period cramping is an unpleasant interruption in any woman's life. Luckily, there are plenty of natural remedies for alleviating and preventing the pain of menstrual cramps. Here are some of the remedies that my daughters utilized through the years to lessen the pain.
First, lets chat about what causes menstrual cramps and how lifestyle and diet can make a difference for those who suffer from them. Menstrual cramps are the sensation that some women feel when the uterus, which is an organ with layers of criss-crossing muscle fibers, is contracting or "flexing" to remove the endometrial lining. Generally, the amount of pain associated with this muscle contraction is linked to two things: hormone imbalance or excess inflammation. In order to create easier cycles, you have to address both of these factors.
Eat With Your Cycle
I couldn't even begin to count my numerous clients over the years who have removed inflammatory foods (the most notorious being gluten and dairy) from their diets and suddenly their menstrual issues disappeared. Dairy is one of the most significant culprits, because it both causes inflammation in the body AND increases the estrogen levels. You don't necessarily have to remove these foods from your diet entirely and permanently (although eating them sparingly at all times is a good idea). Just try removing them from your diet the week before you're supposed to start your cycle. Less inflammation and estrogen dominance = less cramps! Many women have extra cravings for sweet or salty foods during their menstrual cycle. If you feel your sweet tooth coming on, try some healthy alternatives to high-sugar foods like dark chocolate, berries, or a honey or stevia sweetened tea. If you are craving something salty, try nuts or beans/lentils. These foods have high levels of magnesium, protein, enzymes, and other vitamins and minerals that are effective in relieving PMS symptoms.
Move your body
Another contributor to menstrual pain is a result of our modern digital lifestyle. First, our posture. Our bodies were really not designed to spend all day rolled up over a computer or phone screen like a cooked shrimp. Our organs were designed to fit within an upright abdominal cavity like perfect puzzle pieces. It is important to take regular breaks for stretching and posture checks. Second, because many of us work on computers for a living, we're not as active as we should be. Regular exercise is proven to reduce or prevent menstrual pain in a couple of ways. First, when you exercise, your brain releases endorphins that block pain receptors in your brain, helping to stop pain signals from your cramping, contracting uterus. Second, being more active also helps maintain a healthier body weight, which is linked to lower estrogen levels, resulting in fewer cramps!
There are also a couple of formulas that we carry in our line of products that you can try for balancing hormones and alleviating menstrual pain:
Our Fem Ease formula was specifically created to ease menstrual issues in women of childbearing age, from irregular periods to menstrual cramps to miscarriage prevention. This formula is one of our customer favorites for a reason.
Evening Primrose Oil has a long history of use to help ease menstrual cramping caused by inflammatory hormones due to being a rich source of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), a prostaglandin which works as a natural anti-inflammatory. It may also help to reduce other symptoms like breast soreness, bloating, acne, irritability, foggy thinking, and more to help you beat your PMS blues.
If you've ever taken too much magnesium, you're well aware of it's relaxant properties. When taken during your cycle, chelated magnesium works to relax the contracting uterus and in turn, lessen the pain of menstrual cramping. Magnesium has also been shown to decrease other negative effects of PMS, such as fatigue and irritability. You can take a magnesium supplement such as the one we carry or add magnesium to your diet through nuts, legumes and seeds, dark green leafy veggies, dark chocolate, and fish.
Our Pain Ease supplement is a white willow and valerian root combination. A mix of the barks of many different willows is sometimes referred to as “nature’s aspirin”. White willow has been used to manage pain for centuries. The other ingredient found in Pain Ease, valerian root, has been shown to improve physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of PMS. This supplement is not only great for managing period cramps but is good for other types of pain as well.
I made this formula many years ago to help relieve my daughter’s menstrual pain. It contains cramp barb, an herb that is used specifically for relieving muscle cramps. It also contains an herb called black haw. Black haw contains high levels of magnesium, which is why it works so effectively for cramps. When I was practicing midwifery, this formula worked wonderfully for after-birth cramping as well.
Severely painful periods can be a frustrating and painful experience for many women in their childbearing years, but they don't always have to be! I hope these tips help get you back to your life faster.
If you or someone you know struggles with severe or dysregulated menstrual cycles, call our office at (435) 586-4854 to schedule an appointment for personalized dietary changes and supplement recommendations!