Menstrual cramps are the worst; there is no doubt about it. It can have you doubled up in pain, on the floor, in the fetal position. It even stops some of us from going to work, going to school and just doing everyday tasks. Painkillers can be used for period pain, but there is only so much they can do. I personally don’t find them very effective at all. Natural pain relief for period pain is a great way to go because there are no side effects and some remedies can really get to the root of the problem.
What causes menstrual cramps?
Menstruation pain describes the horrible cramping sensation you feel in your lower stomach during your period. It can sometimes affect your lower back and the top of your legs. The medical name for a painful period is dysmenorrhoea.
Primary dysmenorrhoea is period pain without any underlying gynecological cause. This is the period pain that most women will get. Long story short, during your period, the inner lining of your uterus (womb) prepares itself for possible fertilization. However, if fertilization does not occur then your uterus expels its lining.
To help the process of shedding the lining, your body releases a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin. Prostaglandins cause uterine contractions and restrict blood flow, which is the cramping sensation you feel during your period. Women who have really painful periods are said to have a higher level of prostaglandins.
Secondary dysmenorrhoea is period pain caused by an underlying condition. This may include:
If you think you have an underlying condition then you should see your primary healthcare provider.
Applying Heat to Pain
I think heat is one of the best natural remedies for period pain. You’re probably aware of this one, but applying heat to your lower abdomen during menstruation can do the world of good. Heat will help to relieve cramping by relaxing muscles while improving blood flow.
In an article on Sciencedaily.com, they state that applying heat to pain ‘switches on heat receptors located at the site of injury. These heat receptors in turn block the effect of chemical messengers that cause pain to be detected by the body’. So, if you haven’t tried heat before then you should definitely give it a go. There are different heat sources you can use, such as:
- an old favorite, a hot water bottle
- a natural heat rub, like Tiger Balm
- a heat spray, like J.R. Watkins Natural Pain Relieving Liniment Spray
- heat therapy patches
- a warm towel
If you want natural pain relief for period pain then you should consider ginger. Ginger is an amazing natural remedy for various ailments. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to alleviate nausea, help with digestive issues and reduce pain and inflammation.
In relation to period pain, ginger has antispasmodic properties that can help to soothe muscles and ease cramping. Additionally, ginger is said to have similar effects as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) in that it has the ability to prevent the production of prostaglandins, the hormone-like substance that is responsible for your muscles contracting during menstruation.
You can make ginger tea very easily:
- bring to boil 2 tbsp of ginger with 1 cup water
- turn down the heat a little and leave for about 20 minutes – or longer for a stronger taste
- pour into a cup using a strainer
- sweeten with honey to taste
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for our health, so much so that it plays an integral role in the functioning of at least 300 enzymes within the body. Many of us are actually deficient in magnesium. To make it worse, during your period, the level of magnesium in your body decreases.
Many women have found taking magnesium helps to reduce their cramps. There is evidence to back this up as magnesium does act as a muscle relaxant and, therefore, can help to ease the pain. Many studies have also proven the effectiveness of magnesium as a natural pain relief for period pain.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that you should take 360 mg of magnesium daily for 3 days, starting on the day before menstruation. There are also magnesium sprays you can get that will get directly to the pain.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 is something that we all need more of. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that your body cannot make itself but are needed for you to be healthy. Luckily, by eating the right foods you can obtain the omega-3 you need. This essential fatty acid can be found in:
- dark green leafy vegetables: Chinese Broccoli, broccoli, and spinach
- fish: salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, tuna, trout, sea bass
- chia seeds, dried
- flaxseeds & flaxseed oil
- cod liver oil
- to see an extensive list click here
Omega-3 fatty acids help with period pain as they contain anti-inflammatory properties. It is suggested that this can help to lower the amount of prostaglandins that your body produces during menstruation, which, in theory, should greatly reduce cramping and pain.
When the sugar cane plant is refined to make white sugar, blackstrap molasses is the byproduct left over from the process. It doesn’t seem like something that should be good for you, but it is actually packed full of nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin B6, selenium and more.
Surprisingly, there isn’t a great deal of information or studies on the effectiveness of blackstrap molasses for period pain. It’s surprising because there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests that blackstrap molasses actually works.
The nutrients contained in blackstrap molasses make a good herbal remedy for period pain as they can soothe the uterine muscles and prevent blood clots. The fact that blackstrap molasses contains iron is a bonus as iron tends to be lower during menstruation, which can leave you feeling rundown.
Blackstrap molasses can be taken on its own. You can try 1 or 2 tsp daily, starting a few days before your period and continuing until it finishes. It can also be added to warm water or a cup of milk. There are three types of molasses (known as black treacle in the UK): sulfured, sulfured and blackstrap. Be sure to get blackstrap as it has the most nutrients.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a plant that is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a popular herb as it can be used for various complaints, such as anxiety, indigestion, loss of appetite, to increase the flow of urine and more! Yarrow can help with menstrual cramps as it reduces inflammation and soothe spasms. As well as helping with pain, it is said that yarrow can lessen the amount of bleeding.
If you want to try yarrow, then you can make yarrow tea by adding 1 tsp of dried yarrow to a cup of boiling water. Leave it to steep for at least 10 minutes and sweeten with honey if you need to. Instead of dried yarrow you can use the leaves. Yarrow can also be taken as a liquid extract. It’s probably a good idea to begin taking yarrow a few days before your period begins and continue for the duration.
It’s all in the name with this one. Cramp bark, known by its botanical name Viburnum opulus, is a flowering plant that is native to central Asia, Europe, and northern Africa. Cramp bark contains antispasmodic properties, which is why it’s used as a muscle relaxant for an array of ailments, including a holistic treatment for menstrual cramps.
Cramp bark is often taken with black haw, which is another herb that helps to relax uterine muscles. Like most remedies, this is better taken a few days before your period starts and then for the duration.
Raspberry Leaf Tea
Raspberry leaves come from the raspberry plant and have long been used as a natural remedy for so many things.
Raspberry leaf tea is usually a herb recommended for pregnant women as it is said to tone the muscles in the uterus, which can help with contractions during labor – making them more effective.
Furthermore, raspberry leaf tea also soothes the uterine muscles and helps them to relax. You can make your own raspberry leaf tea, but it is probably easier to buy pre-made tea bags (organic is best).
Avoid Wearing Tight Clothes
I don’t think most of us would want to wear tight clothes during our period anyway, but if you do, it may be time to consider a change. Wearing tight clothes around your abdomen will create extra pressure that will just exacerbate discomfort, especially if you are feeling a bit bloated, which is very likely during your period. It’s like how you would feel after a big meal while wearing super tight jeans.
Exercise is a really good natural pain relief for period pain. I get that exercising during your period is the last thing that you would ever want to do, but it can actually make you feel a lot better.
Exercise helps the menstrual pain as it releases beta-endorphins. When released, beta-endorphins act as natural pain relief and leave you feeling really good. Additionally, it can reduce the level of prostaglandins that are produced during menstruation.
You don’t have to be crazy, a brisk walk will do wonders. Yoga is said to be really effective as a natural period pain remedy. It can help to strengthen your abdominal muscles and encourage blood flow.
Consider Using Something Other Than Tampons
So, while there is no scientific proof linking tampons to menstrual cramps, there is so much anecdotal evidence out there that it may actually be true. Tampons may make cramps worse. If you’ve worn tampons most of your adult life, this could be a hard pill to swallow. You may want to test out alternatives for yourself to see if it makes a difference.
Limit Caffeine Intake
There are mixed feelings about this one. However, drinking caffeinated beverages during your period could actually make you feel worse. Firstly, caffeine is a stimulant that can increase tension, which is the opposite of what you want during your period. It is also said to constrict blood vessels and this will only aggravate menstrual cramps.
As well as caffeinated drinks, like coffee and soda, you should also avoid chocolate as that contains caffeine too.
And Finally… Relax!
When the pain gets bad, relax. Whether it’s watching a movie, your favorite TV show or just curling up with a good book. Take your mind off your discomfort and chill out. This will keep you distracted and help your body relax, which could actually help to reduce cramping.
What natural remedies do you use during your period?