Natural remedies for period pain … are you ready for this? Today, we going to discuss some safe and natural ways to deal with that annoying relative that your “monthly visitor” often brings along with her. You know who I’m talking about, don’t you – Menstrual Cramps. Ain’t she a bitch!
We’re going to deal with this is three stages, in case you’re in a hurry and need to go straight to the part that you need right now.
1. Why period pain occurs
2. Natural remedies for period pain
3. Lifestyle and nutritional choices to help minimize period pain.
So let’s do it!
1. What is Period Pain? Why Does it Happen?
To fully appreciate how natural remedies for period pain can benefit you, we first need to understand where the pain comes from. Period pain is caused by contractions in the uterus. During each menstrual period, if there is no sperm to fertilize the egg, the uterus contracts to expel its lining. This process is driven by the release of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins.
These uterine contractions cause much of the pain felt during period pain. The contractions inhibit blood flow to the lining of the uterus. If the uterus contracts too strongly, it can press against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissue of the uterus. Like any regular cramp, such as in your leg, the cause is the same – a muscle (in this case, uterine muscle) briefly loses its supply of oxygen. Your body lets you know that something is wrong – in the form of pain.
Conventional remedies for period pain include pain medication and hormonal birth control (“the pill”) but these are synthetic solutions and override the normal hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian hormonal axis to prevent ovulation. In other words: very unnatural. Take a look at the list of side effects that comes with each package of birth control pills. How safe do they seem now?
Long term use of hormonal birth control leaves individuals wide open for potentially major problems including infertility, cancer, stroke, blood clots, etc.
2. Natural Remedies for Period Pain
Our primary aim with the solutions that you are about to read, is to increase blood flow to the uterine muscles, because this is where the source of your problem lies. After this, we will consider some good lifestyle choices.
Maca Root – A tuber in the radish family that has a history of boosting hormone production and libido. Many women notice less PMS, increased fertility, and improved skin while men notice increased sperm production, libido and better sleep. Maca is also high in minerals and essential fatty acids, making it great for hormones.
Maca root is available in powder form (least expensive option) or in capsules. It should be discontinued during pregnancy. The effects of Maca are somewhat cumulative, so the best results are seen after 3-5 weeks of taking Maca regularly.
Magnesium – Magnesium supports hundreds of reactions in the body and often contributes to better sleep (which is great for hormones!). There are several effective ways that you can take Magnesium:
In powder form with a product like Natural Calm so that you can vary your dose and work up slowly,
Ionic liquid form can be added to food and drinks and dose can be worked up slowly,
Transdermal, meaning that you use Magnesium oil applied to the skin, which then absorbs into your body. This is often the most effective option for those with damaged digestive tract or severe deficiency. Magnesium often greatly helps both PMS symptoms and menstrual cramping.
Take calcium with the magnesium for added benefit. Although it can take time for you to see a noticeable effect. Research also suggest that getting 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day can help lessen many menstrual symptoms. Raw milk is a great source of minerals – and also useful in helping your body absorb minerals.
Vitamin D – This is a pre-hormone which is supportive of hormone function. Best obtained from the sun if possible, or from a D3 supplement or Fermented Cod Liver Oil (what I do in the winter). Make sure not to get too much, and optimally, get Serum Vitamin D levels checked to monitor levels.
Fermented Cod Liver Oil – Provides many of the necessary building blocks for hormone production including Vitamins A, D, and K. It also is a great source of Omega-3s and beneficial fats.
Gelatin is a great source of calcium, magnesium and phosphate. It supports hormone production and digestive health and helps sooth inflammation, especially in joints.
Vitex/Chaste Tree Berry – Nourishes the pituitary gland and helps lengthen the luteal phase. It lowers prolactin and raises progesterone. For some women, this alone will improve symptoms.
Natural Progesterone Cream – this is one of the best natural remedies for period pain because PMS and menstrual troubles are often linked to specific hormone imbalances. Especially for those with short cycles or short second phase of their cycle (ovulation through start of menses), progesterone can be the issue.
I’ve seen people add only natural progesterone cream and see symptoms greatly reduce. If you do use progesterone cream, do you own research, make sure you have a good brand that is soy-free and only use for the second half of your cycle (ovulation through menses).
Red Raspberry Leaf – A well know fertility herb that is also helpful in reducing PMS and cramping. It has a high nutrient profile and is especially high in calcium and is a uterine tonic. It is available in capsule form, but makes an excellent hot or cold tea.
Drink Plenty of Fluids – here are a few beverages you could try. Keeping hydrated with plenty of water is a good place to start. Drinking water actually prevents the body from retaining water, and it also prevents bloating. Warm or hot water is known to increase blood flow to the skin and also helps in relaxing cramped muscles. So increase your consumption of foods like cucumbers, celery and berries for their high water content.
But some experts have a few other ideas, aside from plain water. You could add some of the abovementioned herbs to teas or infusions, or you could try mugwort vinegar, which has helped many women dealing with cramps and pain.
NOTE: Make sure to check with your doctor or health care professional before taking any new supplements, especially if you are on medications or contraceptives.
3. Lifestyle and Nutritional Choices to Help Minimize Period Pain
Our final section on natural remedies for period pain moves away from “supplements” oils and herbs, to some practical suggestions about the kind of foods you eat and the way you live.
(a) Avoid Large Amounts of Polyunsaturated Omega-6 Fats
Our bodies are simply not meant to consume these man-made fats found in vegetable oils.
About 97% of the fat in the human body is saturated and monounsaturated fat, with only 3 % Polyunsaturated fats. Half of that three percent is Omega-3 fats, (the other half is Omega-6 fats) and that balance needs to be there. Vegetable oils contain very high levels of polyunsaturated fats, and these oils have replaced many of the saturated fats in our diets since the 1950s.
The body needs fats for rebuilding cells and hormone production, but it has to use the building blocks we give it. When we give it a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats instead of the ratios it needs, it has no choice but to incorporate these fats into our cells during cell repair and creation.
The problem is that polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and oxidize easily in the body (if they haven’t already oxidized during processing or by light exposure while sitting on the grocery store shelf). These oxidized fats cause inflammation and mutation in cells.
When these oils are incorporated into cells in reproductive tissue, some evidence suggests that this can spur problems like endometriosis and PCOS. In short, the body is made up of saturated and monounsaturated fats, and it needs these for optimal health.
Bottom line: Don’t eat fats like Vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine, shortening or other chemically altered fats. Choose fats like coconut oil, real butter, olive oil (don’t heat!) and animal fats (tallow, lard) from healthy sources instead and eat lots of high Omega-3 fish.
(b) Eat enough of the right kinds of fats:
Eating fats like quality organic meats, butter, tallow, coconut oil, ghee, olive oil, etc can help boost proper hormone production. While the wrong kinds of fats (see above) can interfere with hormone production, eating enough of the proper fats can really help!
Coconut Oil is amazing for hormone health. It provides the necessary building blocks for hormone production, can assist weight loss, reduce inflammation, and even has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
If you really need hormone help, aim to consume 1/4 cup of added coconut oil a day. My favorite way is to blend into coffee or tea.
(c) Avoid Chemicals in Food
Toxins found in processed foods, pesticides, plastics, household chemicals and even mattresses can contain hormone disrupting chemicals that mimic hormones in the body and keep the body from producing real hormones. Things like hormonal birth control can (obviously) do the same thing.
If you have hormone imbalance or are struggling to get pregnant, avoiding these toxins is very important! Cook in glass or non-coated metal pans (no non-stick or teflon!) and avoid heating or storing foods in plastic. Find organic produce and meat whenever possible and don’t use chemical pesticides or cleaners.
(d) Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Foods like grains, dairy and vegetable oils can create inflammation in the body and can exacerbate hormonal problems. The degree that these foods will affect the body varies by person, but I have seen several cases where severe hormonal symptoms were resolved by just adopting a grain free and dairy free diet.
Especially for the first few months, focusing on foods like homemade bone broths, soups, grass fed meats, and healthy fats (butter, coconut oil, tallow, ghee, etc) will help the body rebuild and reduce inflammation.
If you have hormone imbalance, intense extended exercise can actually make the problem worse in the short term. Sleep is actually more important, at least during the balancing phase, so focus on relaxing exercises like walking or swimming and avoid the extended running, cardio and exercise videos, for now.
Due to its blood sugar balancing and lymph stimulating effects, the T-Tapp system is helpful for some women and is a low-impact exercise that can be very effective.
Other Foods to avoid:
- Phytoestrogens like soy
- Processed foods
Other environmental factors
While eating the wrong kind of foods may be the biggest contributor towards menstrual issues, other environmental factors can definitely add to the problem.
You may find relief from eliminating the following:
- Stress – as much as possible. Don’t stress about eliminating stress, okay?
- Toxic cosmetics or cleaning products – So many of commercial personal care products are actually messing with women’s hormones. Learning how to make your own beauty products may be a huge step for a truly natural menstrual cramp remedy.
- Plastics, canned food (most cans are lined with BPA), etc.
- Toxic tampons and pads (Many people say their cramps went away after using a menstrual cup, like these.)
And consider doing the following:
- Sleep in darkness
- Earthing (Both sleeping in darkness and Earthing can help decrease stress and inflammation and lower cortisol levels.)
- Get some sunshine (The sun is important for vitamin D which is critical in helping your body absorb minerals – a crucial menstrual cramp remedy).
Remember, the goal with these natural remedies for period pain, is to get your body (and your hormones) back to a balanced state. Despite the fact that many assume that menstrual cramps are just part of life, our bodies are designed to function without pain. Pain is always an indication that something needs attention.