Did you know that approximately 80% of women encounter period pain in the form of period cramps or body aches?1 You are not alone, ladies!
However, just because pain during your period is common, does not mean it should be considered normal.
Period pain varies and are different for everyone. Some women experience very mild cramps, while others can experience anywhere from moderate to severe pains – to the point it can stop them from getting out of bed.
Although your menstrual cycle can be like a roller coaster, it is a great indicator of if your body is healthy or not. Think about it like an alarm. If your body is healthy, then there is no alarm (steady and calm periods). However, if your body is unhealthy, the body’s natural response is to alarm you that something is going on and is not quite right. That alarm your body is trying to hint to you are those discomforting or abnormal period pains.
Period cramps or pain can be a sign telling you that your body may be experiencing any stress, nutrition deficiencies, hormone imbalances (e.g., too much estrogen/estrogen dominance, too little progesterone, thyroid imbalances, adrenal imbalances), uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, adenomyosis, or even a full body systemic inflammation (e.g, endometriosis).2
There are many factors that can cause and contribute to those aching period pains. Some of which include: poor diet quality, gut health, environmental toxins, thyroid health, inflammation, medications, liver health, and stress!
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How to Stop Cramps and Pain During Your Period
When we get our time of month, progesterone is low and prostaglandins are high, which can lead to those period pains and decreased energy. Prostaglandins are released to help break down the uterine lining when pregnancy has not occurred. Because our uterine muscle contracts to shed the lining and releases prostaglandins, sometimes excess prostaglandins are created.
This can also be the cause of period pains and irregular bowel movements. When we experience annoying and painful PMS symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, acne, breast tenderness, bloating, period poops (constipation/diarrhea), irritability/mood swings, cramps, and cravings this is all related to the hormone shifts that are occurring.
I already know the first thing that pops into your head, “Why do we have to be punished by nature every month for not being pregnant?”
In this article, I have some great tips and tricks for you for things you can do to start feeling better during your period.
Let’s talk about the best solutions to reduce pain during your menstrual period once and for all.
Nutrition & Diet
What you consume will indeed impact how your body will react and feel, especially during your menstrual cycle. Women need essential nutrients for a healthy hormone balance, which we can get from eating a nutrient dense diet.
Incorporate colorful fruits and veggies
As I like to say, eat the rainbow. Consuming lots of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet provides you with high amounts of antioxidants, polyphenols, and phytonutrients, which help you combat inflammation in your body.
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, arugula, and brussels sprouts are also so helpful for natural liver detoxification. They help detoxify excess estrogen or environmental toxins that can make your period pains worse.
Focus on healthy fats
Incorporating essential omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can help combat any inflammation and reduce prostaglandins that can be causing pain. Try to maintain a high omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of at least 2:1. Great sources of healthy fats are avocados, eggs, seeds (flax, chia, hemp), salmon, nuts, and nut butters.
Feed the gut with fiber and prebiotics
Consider fiber and prebiotics your gut’s best friend. An unhealthy gut can most definitely contribute to several PMS symptoms. Including a good amount of fiber, between 25-35 grams per day and prebiotics in your diet can help keep your gut and hormones healthy. Not only do they feed a healthy gut flora, but they also aid in digestion, detoxification, and estrogen metabolism.
Try including foods high in fiber and prebiotics such as: whole grains (oats, whole grain bread, flax seeds, barley, lentils, quinoa, brown rice), fruits (apples & pears with skin, berries, bananas, and oranges), and dark colored veggies (carrots, beets, chicory root, and broccoli).
Avoid inflammatory foods and food sensitivities
Inflammatory foods and food sensitivities can make those period pains worse! Especially with the bloating and discomfort.
At your ability, try to limit foods containing vegetable oils, added sugars, alcohol, trans fat and saturated fats, and processed foods. Especially for those who have food sensitivities, whether it be gluten, dairy, eggs, or soy (remember that sensitivities vary and are based on the individual).
However, only restrict what you need to – I know those period cravings can make you go crazy and it’s totally normal. It’s alright to treat yourself sometimes! Don’t think you have to be restricted, our hormones are shifting and you need energy. You can also opt for healthier swaps. I personally am always craving chocolate, so I like to swap in a dark chocolate. I find that it can actually help satisfy my cravings and help with the pain.
Keep blood sugar levels balanced
We want to make sure we try to keep our blood sugar levels at a healthy balance and prevent insulin resistance from developing. A great way to tackle balancing blood sugar is by keeping meal timing consistent and making sure you get those 3 meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) throughout the day. Skipping meals can end up causing more harm by affecting your insulin production and unbalancing your blood sugar levels.
Breakfast is commonly skipped, but they’re not lying when they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Think about it, it’s the first form of fuel your body gets and it helps you keep going all day.
For an ideal breakfast, pair up complex carbs, like whole grains, with fat and/or protein. Other ways to start your morning off right is to be sure to get a good night of sleep, and try to keep stress levels low. Stable blood sugar helps stabilize hormones and prevent aggravating period pains.
Consume sources of protein
Make sure you are getting enough protein. Protein helps ensure you get enough of the essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals your body needs. Especially iron, zinc, and B vitamins.
Not consuming enough protein can impact the balance and regulation of your hormones and can worsen pain. Lean meats (chicken, beef, turkey), eggs, greek yogurt, fish, beans, lentils, and nuts/seeds are great sources of protein.
Herbs, spices, and warm herbal teas
Incorporating spices, herbs, and teas provide amazing beneficial properties that can help sooth the period pains and help heavy periods by reducing prostaglandins and decreasing inflammation! Try cooking or topping off your meals with turmeric (contains curcumin), garlic, fennel, ginger, rosemary, celery, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves. They add some great flavor to your meals.
Sipping on warm teas are my absolute favorite in relieving period pains. Green, ginger, peppermint, and dandelion root tea are amazing teas for relief. Not only do teas stimulate bowel movements for those suffering from period constipation, but coffee can too. Teas can help you increase your fluid intake, which is essential, but don’t forget to drink water as well.
Supplements can be a great solution for period pains. They can help you ensure getting the adequate amount of nutrients you need, as nutrient deficiencies can be a root cause of painful periods. They also provide anti-inflammatory benefits, reducing prostaglandins, and can provide pain relief during that time of month.
- Fish oil or omega-3s
Decrease Stress Levels
I know keeping stress at a minimum is a lot to ask, we all unfortunately deal with some sort of stress whether it be emotional, physical, mental, or environmental. However, keeping stress at a minimum is so important for our overall well-being and health. Too much stress can be a cause for period pains since it impacts our cortisol levels.
What should I do to decrease my stress levels? Well, there’s a number of things you can do and I am here to share them with you!
- Sleep and go into sloth mode. During that time of the month don’t overdo it. If you need to, it’s more than okay to just be a big sloth, especially on your period. Add a warm pouch of water on bloated or cramping areas to help soothe the pain. A good night of sleep is also crucial to get you energized and going for the next day.
- Go on walks, listen to music, do yoga, incorporate some physical activity, and do things you enjoy. Keeping your body moving and stretching, but not overdoing it can help aid those period pains.
- Acknowledge things you are grateful for. Sometimes these aren’t things we constantly think of, but it can help us appreciate what we have been given in life. Share kindness towards others, it will make you feel good about yourself.
- Try adaptogens for support – ashwagandha, maca, reishi mushroom, and holy basil are my favorites that you can try.
Before making any major changes and taking supplements for support, it is important to run it across a health professional.
Sometimes period pains can be a key indicator of something wrong going on in your body needing medical attention and finding the root cause. Some common medical conditions that may cause period pains include, hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, estrogen dominance, and adenomyosis.
Overall, the best ways to ease menstrual pain involves eating an anti-inflammatory diet, making sure you consume plenty of micronutrients, and decreasing your stress levels.
Incorporating all that you’ve learned from this blog post can help you conquer away those annoying period pains.
- Women’s Health Concern. (2019, November). Period pain. Women’s Health Concern. Retrieved from https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/period-pain/
- Lara Briden, ND. (2017). Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods (2ND ed.) [eBOOK]. Lara Briden.