All women experience menstrual cramps differently. For some, they may be a mild inconvenience lasting a couple of days, but for others they can cause severe throbbing, cramping pain that interferes with their everyday life. You may experience them just before or during your period, and the pain is caused by uterine contractions during your time of the month. Menstrual cramps may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, headaches and dizziness. If you’re struggling with period pain, take a look at our tips and remedies for menstrual cramps that actually work!
What Causes Menstrual Cramps?
When you have your period, your uterus contracts to help shed its lining, and these contractions are triggered by prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances. The contractions can cause pain and inflammation and higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more severe menstrual cramps.
There are certain factors as well as lifestyle habits that can cause more severe menstrual cramps. These factors include having a family history of painful periods; having irregular periods; having heavy bleeding with periods; never having had a baby; and being under the age of 20.
Lifestyle habits that can lead to more painful periods include smoking, eating inflammation-causing foods such as added sugars and refined and fried foods, and eating animal products and added oils, which increase estrogen in the body. If you experience menstrual discomfort, limit foods such as white bread and pasta, French fries, cookies, crackers, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. All these things increase inflammation and can worsen period pain.
Severe menstrual cramps can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
3 Tips to Prevent Menstrual Cramps
Exercise releases endorphins, reduces pain and helps you relax. It’s great for your body physically and mentally, and will help you feel better every day of the month (even when you’re on your period). Regular exercise keeps your body healthy all around.
2. Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
What you put into your body matters and there are certain foods you should and shouldn’t eat to keep your period cramps at bay. Stay away from refined, fried and processed foods as much as possible. Added sugar and salt also leads to inflammation, as do saturated fats and drinks like alcohol and coffee. Fill your diet with healthy foods like dark, leafy greens, fish, chicken, fruit, nuts, lentils, yogurt and tofu.
3. Up Your Magnesium
Magnesium is beneficial in many ways, including helping with sleep and relaxation, preventing migraines and reducing inflammation. You can opt for magnesium supplements, or you can also find high levels of magnesium in foods such as almonds, black beans, spinach, yogurt and peanut butter. During your period, magnesium will help ease the pain of cramps, making you feel better.
6 Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
1. Hot Bath with Epsom Salts
A hot bath will help soothe your cramps, as heat is an excellent muscle relaxant. Epsom salts are often used to help provide pain relief when people have muscle cramps or tension, so add some in your bath to help soothe your pain!
Yoga is one of the best ways to relax your body and can help ease period pain and discomfort. While any form of physical activity can help ease pain, when you’re experiencing severe cramps, the last thing you want to do is an intense workout. Yoga is a relaxing practice that can help relieve pain in the back, core and inner thigh area. It helps ease the nerves during menstruation, relaxing and calming the body to help you feel better.
3. Apply a Heating Pad
Heat is a great remedy to help your muscles relax. Applying a heating pad or hot water bottle to your abdomen will help lessen period pain. It relaxes the muscles of the uterus, increasing blood flow and easing pain. You can also get a similar effect by having a hot shower, making sure the water sprays at your abdomen area.
4. Dietary Supplements
There are certain dietary supplements that work to ease period pains. Omega 3 fatty acids such as fish oil help to lower inflammation, while vitamin B12 keeps your nerve and blood cells healthy. Vitamin D helps with a healthy immune system and also regulates your hormones, keeping your system stable and balanced. Calcium is also known for its PMS symptom-relieving properties, especially the relief of menstrual pain.
5. Drink Lots of Water
You’re more likely to have bad period cramps if you’re dehydrated, so drink lots of water throughout the day. You should aim for eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but you may need more if it’s hot out, if you’re exercising or if you feel thirsty.
6. Herbal Teas
Certain herbal teas help with menstrual cramps, easing the pain and symptoms that come along with them. Chamomile and ginger are full of anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce cramps by inhibiting prostaglandins. Fennel tea can help reduce period pain and cramping, and peppermint is great due to its muscle relaxant effects. Cinnamon tea can reduce the severity of menstrual cramp symptoms and dandelion tea helps detoxify and clear excess hormones in the body, preventing menstrual cramps and pain.
Menstrual cramps are far from enjoyable, but hopefully these tips and remedies provide you with ease from pain and discomfort.