It’s that time of the month again. Time to grab the heating pad, the ibuprofen, possibly call in sick to work and curl up on the couch with your favorite Netflix series.
Period pain. What causes it and why do some women have more painful periods than other women? It’s one of the top things I work on with my clients.
Period pain is one of the top reasons why women miss work, second only to sick kids.
Normal period pain, also known as primary dysmenorrhea, responds well to natural remedies and it doesn’t prevent you from going to work or school, and it is related only to your period. This is common period pain, and not caused by an underlying issue and is not severe pain that comes with secondary amenorrhea. Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by a condition like endometriosis or adenomyosis. It’s estimated that 90% of reproductive age women suffer from painful periods. What’s up with that? Let’s start with prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that are released in your uterus and peak with the start of menstruation. Prostaglandins are inflammatory and can trigger the following:
An inflammatory response which causes more pain
Pain receptor nerves to be more sensitive
The constriction and dilation of blood vessels which suffocates endometrial tissue
The constriction causes uterine contractions and women with more prostaglandins will likely have more painful periods due to stronger, more painful contractions
Diarrhea. While prostaglandins cause contractions of the uterus, they also cause the smooth muscle in the intestines which can trigger diarrhea
While prostaglandins sound like the enemy they are a necessary part of a healthy menstrual cycle.
I’m in my 40’s now and my period has definitely changed over time, with the ebb and flow of life, stress, having kids, moving all the time, uterine fibroids, really all the things. I’ve tried most of the recommendations that I mention below, or I’ve learned about them from friends and colleagues who have used them. Please listen to your body, do your research and talk to your health care provider.
Natural Remedies for Period Pain
Lifestyle & Diet
Cut Cow Dairy – There is mounting evidence that avoiding cow dairy helps lessen menstrual cramps. Cow dairy is inflammatory and an increase in inflammation can cause more painful cramps. When I stopped consuming cow dairy my cramps and general inflammation decreased. Cow dairy contains a protein called A1C that can increase inflammation in women. It is not found in goat (which is why you’ll see goat cheese in my recipes) or sheep dairy. I generally recommend eliminating cow dairy all together due to the inflammatory response it triggers for so many women.
Histamine Intolerance – If you have too much of histamine, which is quite inflammatory, you may also experience period pain. In addition to being inflammatory, histamine also increases estrogen. Painful periods and PMS symptoms are both associated with histamine intolerance. Histamine intolerance can cause or worsen headaches, hives, nasal congestion (me with wine😢), brain fog, and insomnia.
Magnesium – Magnesium is an amazing mineral for period pain. Studies have shown that it reduces period pain by relaxing the uterus and reducing prostaglandins. It also helps with PMS symptoms. You can take magnesium throughout your cycle and then take more during your period if you have acute pain. I recommend magnesium glycinate which is the easiest to absorb. The recommended dose is 400mgs per day, though you can increase the amount over time. With magnesium remember to start low and go slow as it can cause diarrhea. I like Jigsaw Health MagSRT (combo of mag, B vitamins, and Folate) and Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Glycinate. Topical magnesium cream is another option. And for an easy and relaxing way to get more magnesium take an Epsom salt bath.
Zinc – helps prevent period pain by decreasing prostaglandins and inflammation. I take it as a way to boost my immune system and as a bonus to prevent period pain. 30 mg per day with food. I took it on an empty stomach the first time, big mistake as it causes nausea.
Fish Oil – The Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help to reduce period pain, by reducing inflammation and prostaglandins. I use and recommend Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega which is 1280 mg per dose.
Turmeric – is great for reducing inflammation and is helpful for multiple period problems including period pain. I take it every day throughout my cycle and like Smarter Nutrition Curcumin
You don’t have to take all the supplements, these are a guide for you to chose what works best for you and your body.
Tonics, Balms & Oils
manage your period pain with essential oils
de lune Pain Tonic – I have used de lune tonic for my own period pain and I recommend it to my clients regularly. One client who can’t take NSAIDs swears by de lune. The tonic is made from cramp bark (ironic, right), magnesium, and ginger. The company uses certified organic herbs and organic apple cider vinegar. I love that de lune gives 10% back to women’s health research and believes in empowering women to make the best choices for their own bodies.
Holy Sponge Our Lady of Mercy Cramp Balm – Some people may be skeptical of a topical ointment that works for cramps, but Our Lady of Mercy Cramp Balm does just that. Made from the following wild-crafted and organic ingredients: ginger, rosehips, raspberry leaves, arnica, cramp bark, shea butter, beeswax, essential oils, and coconut oil infused with motherwort, this balm is great because you can carry it in your purse, it’s all natural and it works.
Essential Oils – clary sage, peppermint, lavender, geranium, cypress, and rose are all great options for helping with PMS symptoms and/or menstrual pain. Be on the lookout for a blog post soon on how amazing essential oils are for hormone balance.
CBD – where do I begin? CBD is amazing for so many different things, it really deserves its own blog post. I’ve been using CBD for two months now and it has worked wonders for my sleep issues, my anxious flying issues, as well as for sore muscles. I have friends who use it for painful periods and they report that their period pain is gone within a couple of cycles. The natural anti-inflammatory nature of CBD products makes them ideal for reducing headaches, menstrual cramps, and nausea. I personally use and recommend CV Sciences and Charlotte’s Web.
Note: You can not get high from CBD, it is hemp only, does not contain any THC and is legal everywhere. *THC is the psychoactive property in marijuana.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine modality that involves the use of very small needles to prick the skin at certain parts of the body at certain depths. I haven’t used acupuncture for menstrual cramps specifically, but I did use it as fertility treatment and credit acupuncture for getting pregnant with my eldest daughter. Acupuncture brings warm energy and consistent blood flow to the abdomen which can help menstrual cramps and may control the duration and severity of your cramps according to one study. How cool is that? I recommend acupuncture to all my clients with menstrual pain.
You now have a bunch of tried and true ways to help with your period pain. I’m always looking for new products, supplements, herbs, etc. to help with period pain, so I hope you find these alternatives to conventional painkillers helpful. Do you have a favorite way to alleviate your painful period? I love hearing from you, so comment below and let me know!
Be sure to share this post with any woman you think might benefit from it and share on social media.