More than 50 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 25 are affected by painful periods (dysmenorrhoea).
It is caused by an excess of an inflammatory substance called prostaglandin F, produced by the lining of the uterus (endometrium), which makes the smooth muscle of the uterus contract, causing painful abdominal cramps.
The chief symptom of dysmenorrhoea is pelvic pain which may radiate into the groin and even down the thighs. The pelvic pain may be accompanied by backache, vomiting, diarrhoea, and headache.
Most women take a painkiller or two for cramps, but for some the pain is so severe, bed is the only option. The natural treatment for period cramps is very effective, and reduces reliance on painkillers.
- Endometriosis is a common cause. See Endometriosis.
- Check with your doctor if you suspect pelvic infection.
- Lower back problems may trigger abdominal pain.
- Stress is a major contributor to period pain.
- A lack of exercise and sitting at a desk a lot will exacerbate the problem.
What To Do
Many of the following recommendations will only be effective if taken throughout the month, not just when pain strikes.
- The inflammatory prostaglandins are derived from fats in our diet, in particular the saturated fats. Avoid meat and dairy products. Increase foods that contain the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins; fish, nuts and seeds, especially linseeds.
- Avoid salt.
- Avoid coffee for two weeks before the period.
Herbs and Supplements
- Drink ginger, cinnamon or chamomile tea, to relieve muscle spasm.
- Magnesium is the miracle mineral for cramping anywhere in the body, including the uterine muscle and its blood vessels. Take 200 mg 3 times daily the week before your period is due, preferably in a tablet which contains B6, as B6 helps magnesium into cells that need its calming touch.
- Take a women’s formula multivitamin, one daily for Days 1-14 of your menstrual cycle, then two daily (breakfast and lunch) until menstruation. (Day 1 is the day your period begins.)
- Take 500 iu vitamin E daily the entire month. Studies have shown a 70 per cent improvement in women who suffer period cramps.
- Take 4 g of EPO every day together with one tablespoon of cold pressed linseed oil. These supply the much needed anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
- Herbs are excellent for menstrual cramps. Favourites include the aptly named cramp bark, black haw, wild yam, vitex agnus castus, valerian and passionflower. Take herbs two weeks prior to the period.
- A ginger compress is good if cramping is severe. Wring out a hot wet handtowel, place a handful of grated ginger (which has been covered with boiling water, cooled slightly, then drained) on one half, cover with the other half of the towel. Place on your stomach. Carefully wrap plastic wrap around your hips and waist. Lie on your back, knees over a pillow, with a hot water bottle and a dry towel covering the compress.
- Have a hot bath with two handfuls of Epsom salts and five drops of lavender oil.
- Stretching out the belly helps. Lie on your back with a pillow under your knees and your arms above your head.
- Develop a regular exercise program. Belly dancing is particularly helpful.
- Check with an osteopath if your back needs help, as this may increase period cramping.
- Deep breathing helps. Lie on a bed or the floor, knees bent, feet flat on the floor about 30 cm away from your bottom. Place both hands on your belly, palms down, fingers facing each other. Close your eyes and slowly breathe in and out through your nose. When you have a rhythm, allow your belly to rise on the in-breath and fall on the out-breath. Don’t force it; after a little while this breathing will feel calming and comfortable, and relieve the muscle spasm.
- Don’t use tampons. A foreign object in the vagina may exacerbate lower pelvic spasm. Use pads till the pain abates.
At a glance
- Good food
- Fish, ginger, cinnamon, nuts and seeds.
- Food to avoid
- Coffee, animal products, salt.
- Remedies to begin
- Magnesium, herbs, EPO, linseed oil, ginger compress.
- Exercise, deep breathing.
- Does your life have too many rules and regulations?