Menstrual pain can be debilitating for many women causing them to have to step away from commitments that they would otherwise enjoy. But why is this natural process so painful for so many? Read on for what you can do to reduce menstrual pain naturally.
What Causes Menstrual Pain
Not all women experience menstrual pain but those who have higher levels of prostaglandins released during a period often experience higher pain levels. Prostaglandins are the main cause for menstrual pain. Shortly after a period begins prostaglandins are released causing the uterus muscles to cramp. These hormones are produced by the endometrial cells of the uterus and are released during the uterus wall breakdown. It’s not just the uterus that can be affected, prostaglandins can even enter the blood stream causing muscle cramps, spasms, nausea and headaches. Your body will decide just how much of this hormone will be released based upon genes, diet and stress levels and the good news is that two of those factors are in your control.
What you eat can make a great big difference to how your body feels during your period. Foods high in arachidonic acid have been shown to increase the production of prostaglandins and inflammation in general. Foods highest in arachidonic acid are animal products which include meat, dairy and eggs. Even minimizing animal products for two weeks prior to menstruation can substantially reduce arachidonic acid and pain. When I switched to a whole foods vegan diet I found that the pain I experienced went down from I need to go to hospital bad to two Paracetamol and that is a huge difference.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) found that a low-fat, high-fiber diet can significantly reduce estrogen levels.
You can’t go wrong by adding more vegetables and fruits to your diet. High fiber, whole plant foods are anti-inflammatory and help the body eliminate excess estrogen. The PCRM also recommends keeping added oils to a minimum or eliminating them altogether to help reduce inflammation. I find whole food fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds to be a great alternative to processed oils for keeping some healthy fats in my diet. If you’re wondering what to cook check out Straight Up Food, for whole food, vegan recipes with no added oils.
Herbs & Supplements
Black Cohosh or cramp bark is an American wild flower originally used by Native Americans to help provide relief from PMS, menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms. Black Cohosh is antispasmodic and can help regulate periods due to the natural phytoestrogens it contains. For more information on Black Cohosh can read more at Women Living Naturally. Ask your naturopath for recommendations and the right dosage for you (not to be taken during pregnancy).
Supplements that can be very effective for inflammatory pain and period pain include the following:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
Ask your pharmacist for the correct dosage for menstrual pain.
Small changes before, during and after menstruation should not be overlooked in regards to minimizing menstrual pain. Mild to moderate exercise can offer relief, with yoga most frequently recommended. Exercise can reduce stress and anxiety which left untreated can raise levels of inflammation in the body. Meditation and mindfulness exercises can offer temporary relief during pain but are most beneficial when practiced regularly as they too reduce stress levels in the body.