5 Ways to Ease Your Menstrual Pain

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.

there-is-always-something-to-be-thankful-for-3

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!

Advertisements

Three Bloat Busting Secrets

Bloating sucks! Most of us have experienced that uncomfortable bloated sensation that leaves you feeling heavy, grumpy, and unlike your usual awesome self. Bloating is a common symptom of celiac disease so I have a lot of experience with this feeling and how to combat it. I know how frustrating it can be to suddenly look like you’re 5 months pregnant and have no idea what caused it. So why does this happen and what can you do about it? Read on for my THREE BLOAT BUSTING SECRETS!!bloating

#1: Find your food sensitivities….and actually avoid them.

I’ve noticed that many people have a very accurate gut feeling (pun intended 😉 ) about which food(s) triggers their bloating or other digestive symptoms. However, the thought of avoiding this trigger is often overwhelming. I totally get this feeling and have been there many times! Gluten has become easy for me to avoid because I know that I have to avoid it or I’ll feel sick and do major damage to my body. Dairy on the other hand…this one is much harder! I LOVE dairy but I know it doesn’t always sit well with me. After a lot of indecision, I eventually decided to do a trial of no dairy. I did it for a few weeks and felt so much better that I decided to continue eliminating it for a few months. It was challenging but worth it. After avoiding dairy completely for a period of time, I now find that I’m okay when I eat small amounts, as long as I’m careful not to eat too much too often. This is common because your gut often needs a chance to heal before it can tolerate that food again. It definitely takes some organization, extra work, and willpower at first but I promise you’ll be happier knowing your triggers and you’ll get used to the dietary changes over time. Look on the bright side: it gives you the perfect chance to experiment with different foods and new recipes!

If you don’t have that gut feeling about your trigger, or if you’ve tried eliminating certain foods and nothing has worked, the most effective way to determine food sensitivities is to do an elimination diet. Talk to your naturopath about this option so that the diet can be properly tailored to your specific symptoms! Basically, you will eliminate common food allergens for 3-6 weeks and then slowly and systematically add them back into your diet. Your symptoms should diminish or completely resolve in the 3-6 week elimination phase so it will be easy to identify your food trigger when you add it back. Taking the time to properly do this elimination diet is the best way to effectively determine your food sensitivities!

#2: Lend a helping hand to your digestive tract.

Bloating is a sign that your digestive system isn’t functioning optimally and you likely aren’t absorbing and digesting your food properly. There are many methods that can be used to improve your digestion. Here are just a few options:

Tincture of herbal bitters. The taste is not pleasant at all but it will definitely stimulate your appetite! The bitter flavour will naturally increase your digestive secretions (such as your stomach acid and digestive enzymes) to improve your digestive function.

Digestive enzyme supplement. Sometimes the body is unable to adequately build the enzymes required for proper digestion. Figuring out the root cause of this issue is the number one priority but, in the meantime, you can take a supplement to supply your body with the enzymes it needs. Taking a digestive enzyme supplement was essential to my healing process when I was first diagnosed with celiac.

Eat your fiber. But listen to your body and eat the RIGHT kind of fiber for you! When I was first diagnosed with celiac, I had to be very careful with my fiber sources. The wrong types can aggravate your bloating. Fiber improves stool size, stool shape, and intestinal transit time. Eliminating regularly is important for overall digestive function and decreasing bloating.

Drink your water. Many of us are dehydrated all the time! All of the cells in your body, including your digestive cells, need adequate water to function optimally. The best time to drink water is separately from meals. Too much water with a meal can dilute your digestive secretions and make digestion even more difficult.

Don’t forget your probiotics! Good bacteria is essential for good digestion! A lot of us are lacking proper good bacteria due to years of antibiotic use and poor diet. Like any supplement, it is important to use a high quality, professional brand of probiotics to make sure you’re getting the best source for your money. And before you think “But I get tons of probiotics every day in my morning yogurt”…NO…I strongly disagree. Eating sugar-filled, fruit flavoured, commercially sold yogurt does not count as a probiotic supplement. Eating plain yogurt is better, and making your own yogurt is EVEN better, but you are likely still not getting the therapeutic dose you need for healing your digestive system.

It is best to see a naturopathic doctor who can tailor your treatment plan for your individual digestive symptoms but, overall, anything that improves your body’s ability to digest your food more efficiently, will decrease the occurrence bloating.

#3: Blast those gas bubbles before they take over. 

Improperly digested food will ferment in your intestinal tract and lead to increased gas bubbles. This gas buildup in the intestines causes the distention that occurs with bloating. Decrease these gas bubbles and your bloating should improve. The best way that I’ve found to combat this is peppermint! It is magical herb (BUT beware if you have heartburn, it can aggravate it). Peppermint has a carminative action, meaning it helps prevent or relieve gas in the gastrointestinal tract. Peppermint can be taken in a number of ways – tea, tincture, and, what I have found to be the most effective, enteric coated pills. The best way to use peppermint is preventatively. If you get bloating every day, start your day off with a peppermint tea. Or if you’re having a big meal with foods that you know aggravate your bloating, have some peppermint tea with it. If you’re not a peppermint fan, there are many other herbs that have a carminative action, including anise, fennel, lemon balm, chamomile, and ginger. All of these herbs are wonderful digestive support! Taste a bunch of them and find your favourite 🙂

untitled-design

My best piece of advice? Find the root cause and give your body the time/space it needs to heal. 

These are all ways to get immediate bloating relief but it is likely your gut needs time and assistance to heal properly before you can really be bloat free. Bloating can be a symptom of multiple underlying pathologies so I highly recommend getting checked out by a healthcare professional to ensure you’re getting the proper treatment. Bloating can be a symptom of celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, food sensitivities, and many other digestive conditions. I have experience working with digestive conditions (personal and clinical) and would love to help you on your healing journey.

Come in for a FREE 15 MINUTE MEET AND GREET to learn how we can work together to get rid of your bloating!

Check out my Naturopathic Medicine page for more info!