Menstrual pain is very common and unfortunately leads to significantly decreased quality of life during that time of the month. I have struggled with it for all of my menstruating life but throughout my training at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine I learned tons of tips for decreasing the pain, as well as decreasing the likelihood of getting the pain in the first place. For me, I know I have a hormonal imbalance that I need to correct before my pain will improve completely but I use all of the tips listed below to make it more manageable each month.
The tips below are general advice to help you feel better NOW! But please always remember that not all natural treatments are safe for everyone. I recommend that you speak to your healthcare provider before trying any of these suggestions.
Ginger Capsules: Ginger is a wonderful herb that is often associated with calming digestive upset, such as diarrhea and nausea. Women commonly experience some digestive upset during their period so ginger will help calm these symptoms, as well as address your period pain! Magical, right?! Ginger is a strong anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic herb. Together, these actions will work wonders to improve your menstrual pain and decrease the cramping sensation. Make sure to start taking the ginger a few days before your period to get the maximum benefit.
Magnesium: Magnesium is an amazing mineral that supports hundreds of reactions in the body, including hormonal pathways. Therefore, magnesium can be helpful for supporting healthy hormone levels throughout your monthly cycle. During your period, it has a calming and muscle relaxing effect. This will help reduce muscle spasms in the uterus to reduce menstrual pain and cramping. Magnesium can be found in our diet in foods such as dark leafy green vegetables, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and beans. It is also high in dark chocolate!! So you know that chocolate craving you get with your period? Perhaps your body is craving magnesium?? To satisfy your craving, opt for 70% or higher dark chocolate to get some added magnesium 🙂
Hydrotherapy: Heat relaxes muscle spasms. Menstrual pain often occurs because your uterine muscles spasm and cause pain. You can use heat in the form of a hot water bottle on your abdomen or a warm bath. To add even more benefit to your warm bath, add Epsom salts!! They are relaxing because of the high magnesium content. As mentioned above, magnesium will improve muscle relaxation.
Acupuncture: When you think pain, think acupuncture! Did you know naturopathic doctors are trained in acupuncture? It is an amazing treatment for reducing pain of many different types. Did you know that sometimes in China they use acupuncture instead of anesthesia for medical procedures?? I’m not advocating you try that BUT it shows how effective it can be to reduce pain. During your period, acupuncture will improve blood flow throughout your body, including blood flow throughout your pelvic region to reduce the pain and spasms. During the other parts of your cycle, consider acupuncture to help treat the imbalances that could be causing your menstrual pain.
Exercise: Keep moving throughout your period! Light exercise will help take the focus off the pain and get blood flowing. Ever notice how pain seems to go away when you exercise? It is part of our sympathetic nervous system response or “fight or flight” response. It wouldn’t be helpful to have pain when fighting or flighting, right? Exercise releases endorphins (our internal pain-reliever) and reduces prostaglandins (which cause uterine contractions) to reduce pain. Focus on relaxing exercises, such as walking, yoga, stretching as opposed to intense exercise. Another benefit of exercise? It forces you to breathe! Didn’t you know that breathing solves all problems?!
Use all 5 of these tips and I would bet that even if your pain doesn’t go away, it will be greatly reduced! And remember: the key to getting rid of your cramps is to get to the root cause!! To do this, you need individualized support from a naturopathic doctor or other healthcare provider.
Do you suffer from monthly menstrual pain? Book a free 15 minute consult with me, Dr. Emily Casey, ND, to discuss your individual symptoms and I will let you know how we can work together!